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The Sensa Giulia Evo Disc Ultegra Carbon road bike has a bit of an old school racer firmness feel to it, married to a smooth, modern looking frameset, which in my eyes is a great combination. This is a very fast bike, its shape and deep-section wheels keeping your average speed up, and you are getting some top-end components for the money.
The Giulia has been in Sensa's line-up for quite a few years and is considered a very capable all-rounder/gran fondo machine. But this Evo model focuses on aerodynamics, which turns it into a very different bike altogether (though not to be confused with the Evo Aero version, which has a fully integrated bar/stem combo).
My first impressions of the Evo on a quick shakedown blat around was that I loved the performance but I was a little bit concerned about how I'd get on with the firm ride on longer routes with far from perfect roads.
Not only is there the stiffness and racy nature of the frame and fork, but it comes with 25mm tyres. Not many new bikes do these days, not even the high-performance ones.
It's no biggy, for me at least – I spend a lot of time on my own bike riding 25mm tyres – it's just that, out of the box, the Sensa felt firmer than most.
On those longer rides of three to four hours I found the Giulia never overstepped the mark into harshness or to suffer from much in the way of vibration, the carbon layup doing a decent job of muting that as much as possible.
It's actually quite a good long-distance machine. The performance achieved from all the aero touches meant I didn't feel as though I had to be 'on it', and could back off the effort a touch for a given speed, so I wasn't punishing my contact points as much.
If you do want to ride it flat out, though, the Giulia really won't disappoint. With huge amounts of stiffness coming from the lower half of the frame when you kick on the pedals, this thing really shifts.
At 8.47kg on the road.cc Scales of Truth, the Sensa isn't exactly a lightweight, and you'll notice that from a standing start, but aero bikes are more about cheating the wind when moving. And compared with other aero bikes with deep-section wheels, it's still competitive on weight.
Sprinting from a rolling start is impressive. There is no hint of flex at all, and it's the same when it comes to climbing. The Evo is one of those bikes that responds really well to out-of-the-saddle ascending.
Hitting a climb as hard as possible is a great laugh, and rocking the bike from side to side in the drops as I hauled the bike uphill made me feel like a climbing god, though it probably looked a lot different from the outside.
The front-end geometry creates a fast-handling machine which makes for a lot of fun on the downhills too.
The fork is stiff to match the frame, which means there is nothing in the way of understeer when hammering into corners hard, and it resists heavy braking forces too.
The quick steering sits just on the sensible side of twitchy, which means that if you're a confident descender you can really exploit the speed potential.
Even in the technical sections the Sensa just keeps on delivering, and I found it very confidence-inspiring when taking on challenging bends like chicanes and those that are off-camber.
To sum up the ride, I'd say it's more capable than a lot of true aero bikes in the bends without sacrificing the speed on the flats.
For the Giulia Evo, Sensa has used its Gen5 blend of carbon fibre which it says is versatile, lightweight and durable, perfect for frames with complex aero shapes.
It's a good-looking frame from my point of view, too. I like the angular design of the tube junctions, with the bright red paintjob really picking up on all of the contours.
The head tube and fork steerer are as you'd expect, tapered from 1 1/8in to 1 1/2in, increasing stiffness at the front end and also allowing for the profile of the down tube to be much larger where the two tubes mate.
The same happens at the bottom bracket thanks to the wide shell achieved by using internal bearing cups rather than external threaded ones that sit outboard of the frame.
All of the cabling and hoses run internally, and while it's not as neat as some of the latest bikes that run everything stealthily into the head tube from the headset spacers, the Sensa still looks neat and tidy.
The seat clamp is an internal wedge design with the bolt positioned under the seat/down tube junction. The aero section seatpost sits firmly in place without any slippage.
Sensa doesn't give any aero claims about the design of the frame, but it does say that it and the fork are optimised for 25mm tyres, hence why they come fitted as standard. It will accept up to 28mm, though, which I appreciate won't be large enough for some of you. Personally, I'd say that's plenty for this style of bike.
This being a race bike, don't expect a huge number of mounts either. You get a couple of bottle cage positions, but that's your lot. After all, what more do you need?
As for the rest, it's business as usual with flat mount brake calliper positions and 12mm thru-axles front and rear.
The Giulia Evo comes in five sizes of which we have the middle option, the medium/55cm.
This has an effective top tube length of 559mm, which is a fairish old jump from the small's 542mm, but not overly long for its relative size. The head tube length is 161mm and sits at an angle of 73 degrees, half a degree less than that of the seat tube.
The fork offset is a fairly typical 45mm while the chainstays are 410mm long. All of this adds up to a sub-metre wheelbase of 994mm, which helps keep the Giulia feeling nimble. Stack and reach figures are 570mm and 390mm respectively.
None of this is out of the ordinary for a bike of this style.
This model comes with a full Shimano Ultegra R8000 groupset (there is also an Ultegra Di2 model for an extra £900).
If you want the full details of this groupset then you can check out my review here, but just to cover the basics: Ultegra isn't really a groupset you can fault. Just a smidge away from offering the same shifting performance as the top flight Dura-Ace 9100, but for a lot less cash.
Sensa has gone for a 50/34-tooth crankset which is a little at odds with the bike's speed credentials, but paired to an 11-28T cassette it should give plenty of gears for the majority of us at either end of the scale, unless you live in a very hilly place.
Ultegra also accounts for the braking, with R8070 callipers and 160mm rotors.
The braking quality is excellent. I'm a big fan of Shimano's modulation – it's always very smooth and slightly less on/off than SRAM's, though there's very little in it really.
As for the rest of the kit, it is mostly Supra-branded, Sensa's in-house component brand: an aluminium alloy Speed Line stem and handlebar alongside a Carbon Aero seatpost.
As with most handlebars these days, the Speed Line has quite a shallow drop so the riding position when using the lower part of the bar isn't too extreme. If you want something a bit more bling for the cockpit there's that Evo Aero model I mentioned earlier, which uses a fully integrated bar/stem combo.
The saddle is a Selle San Marco Concor, and it's one I like, with its minimal design and firm padding. I've ridden on various Concor models over the years and have always got on well with them. They're durable too.
It's great to see that Sensa has managed to spec a set of Supra RFC 50 Elite Carbon Disc wheels for this kind of money.
They are 50mm deep, with a 19mm inner width and 28mm outside, which works well with the 25mm tyres and should with 28mm as well. They are also tubeless ready.
The build consists of Supra-branded hubs, Sapim CX Delta Black spokes (24 at the front, 28 at the rear) and Sapim Brass Secure nipples.
Quoted weights are 690g for the front and 860g for the rear, which is pretty good for their depth and width.
Out on the road they ride well. Stiffness is perfectly acceptable and, most importantly, they make a swooshy sound as they roll along!
Throughout testing I had no issues with them in terms of durability, and I'd be in no hurry to swap them out for anything else.
I can't complain about the Schwalbe One Performance tyres either. Grippy and fast rolling, they are the perfect companion to the Giulia. They're pretty durable, too, in my experience – I've covered loads of miles on them over many years on different bikes.
The Giulia Evo has an RRP of £3,949 but is only available in the UK through Merlin Cycles, which has it discounted permanently to £3,099, so that's what I'm basing my thoughts on.
That is the same price as the similarly specced Vitus ZX 1 Evo CRS Ultegra, although that does come with a rather snazzy set of Reynolds AR58/62 DB wheels and a Prime aero carbon handlebar. The Vitus offers an excellent ride quality too; it's a bit more forgiving than the Sensa without sacrificing any stiffness.
Whenever I have to compare road bikes with an aero edge, I have to mention the Orro Venturi STC, not just because of its ride quality and performance, but also how well specced it is.
The Sensa doesn't match it on ride comfort overall, but it doesn't do badly on the price front. The Orro comes in two Ultegra builds; the standard one is £2,699.99 which includes a full Ultegra groupset, alloy Fulcrum Racing 400DB wheels and an FSA cockpit. The Tailor Made version gets the same groupset but a set of 40mm-deep Fulcrum Airbeat carbon wheels and a fully integrated BlkTec carbon bar/stem combination, for £3,599.99. The Evo Aero version of the Giulia I mentioned earlier with the integrated carbon cockpit is £3,357, so about on a par.
On the whole, the Giulia Evo is a very enjoyable bike to ride. The Vitus and Orro mentioned above have a slight edge in terms of comfort, though that's not to say the Evo is at all uncomfortable... It's a very fast machine that can be ridden for any length of time.
Good value aero road bike that delivers on performance and specification
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sensa Giulia Evo Disc Ultegra Carbon Road Bike
Size tested: 55
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Wheels: Supra RFC 50 Elite Carbon Disc - 700c
Tyres: Schwalbe One Performance - 700x25mm
Gear Levers: Shimano Ultegra R8000 - 11 Speed
Front Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra R8000
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Ultegra R8000
Chainset: Shimano Ultegra R8000 - 34/50T
Cassette: Shimano Ultegra R8000 - 11/28T
Chain: Shimano - 11 Speed
Pedals: Not included
Saddle: San Marco Concor
Seatpost: Supra Carbon Aero
Handlebars: Supra Speed Line
Stem: Supra Speed Line
Brake Calipers: Shimano Ultegra R8070
Tell us what the bike is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Sensa says, "Creating a successor for the beloved Giulia is a hard challenge but Sensa have achieved this with the all-rounder which is the G3 keeping all that was already good, yet dropping weight, adding comfort and making it more aerodynamic creating a bike that's stiff enough to be a proper racer and yet still light enough to fly up those mountains. Stable to descend as fast as you dare, yet comfortable enough to finish any Gran Fondo. The geometry is suitable for comfortable riding up to racing. For each size the geometry and the tubing dimensions are optimized. It's optimized for 25mm tyres but it can take 28mm as well."
It is an aero bike that will also cope with other types of riding not just fast race stuff.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
There is an Evo Aero model which comes with a full carbon fibre cockpit, or sitting further up the range is an Ultegra Di2-equipped model.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The build quality looks to be good and the paint is especially impressive.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Frame: Monocoque G5 carbon fiber - Zero void curing - Aero Evo
Fork: Supra full carbon monocoque - Airflow Evo - Tapered 1.5
Sensa describes its Gen5 Carbon as a 'race proven mix of carbon fibre. Versatile lightweight and durable and perfect for frames with complex aero shapes'.
And claims its Zero Void Curing 'creates a smooth inner surface in the carbon tubes while keeping durability, but lee material mean for a lower weight'.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The geometry is exactly as I would have expected: steepish angles with a long top tube and short head tube.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
I've mentioned the stack and reach measurements in the main review; there is nothing out of the ordinary there.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
On the whole yes it's comfortable, though it is on the firm side.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
There is plenty of stiffness where it's needed.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Overall, efficiency is good. It's not the lightest bike out there, but it's only really noticeable from a standing start.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? On the quick side of neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The steering feels quick, which makes the Sensa a lot of fun in the bends.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I found the Selle San Marco Concor saddle a great shape for riding quickly.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The Shimano Ultegra chainset resists any flex when pedalling hard.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The 50/34T chainrings and 11-28T cassette give a good range of gear ratios for all kinds of terrain.
Very good – especially from a rolling start.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
You can't really fault the shifting and braking capabilities of this version of Ultegra.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
An all-round quality set of wheels, and it's good to see deep-section carbon wheels for this sort of money.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
Schwalbe's One tyres are grippy and roll very well.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
It's all decent kit for the money, and I used the shallow drops of the handlebar quite a bit.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It compares well with the Vitus ZX-1 and Orro Venturi STC, both excellent bikes that offer great value for money, so for the Sensa to be in the same ball park as these shows it's priced well.
Use this box to explain your overall score
There are bikes out there that offer a slightly more refined ride for similar money, but the Giulia is still an impressive performer; a very fast machine that can be ridden for any length of time.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!