That’s nice. What is it?
This has been a common refrain when the Guru Photon SL has been presented to riding buddies during our test. Without the benefit of a WorldTour team sponsorship or a high dollar marketing department, the Guru’s talent remains hidden from the masses. Make no mistake, however – it is talent we are talking about here.
We too felt at first that this Canadian interloper was perhaps a little anonymous for our tastes: clearly a class act, but without the aesthetic punch to stand out among a multitude of competitors, even at this rarefied end of the scale. Like many things in life, however, closer acquaintance has revealed the Photon’s true qualities.
Our initial thoughts, logged in the ‘first look’, were of an understated machine that shunned some of the fashion for oversized everything in exchange for comfort and, perhaps, a more conservative ‘if it ain’t broke…’ approach. Were we correct in our assumption?
Guru’s calling card is in continuing to offer a hand-built carbon chassis, achieved, ultimately, with a tube-to-tube construction, where the constituent parts are bonded together in a jig, rather than prised from a mould. This method allows the builder to offer custom geometry. We witnessed a similar process during our visit last year to Cyfac.
How did it affect our Photon SL? Our test machine was comfortably proportioned, with a 52cm top tube, a 49cm seat tube (centre-to-centre), and a 165mm headtube.
The Photon SL combined excellent handling with an aggressive sprint, the latter achieved largely due to the absence of any discernible flex from the bottom bracket. In fact, we found that under hard efforts the Photon SL surged forward with no conceivable loss of power whatsoever. At this juncture we must also mention that our concerns about the bottom bracket adaptor from our ‘first look’ proved unfounded. Our only gripe is aesthetic.
Making a bike that is light and stiff in the right places is one thing. This can sometimes result in a harsh ride that on longer days becomes tiresome. We’re happy to report that the Guru is also a very comfortable all-day companion, undoubtedly benefiting from the sensible tube gauges used in it’s construction.
The ride quality of the Photon SL’s frameset was far above the ordinary. The smoothness of the ride was its outstanding feature, and chimed with our experience of other high-end carbon frames, notably the LOOK 695SR and the Cyfac Absolu V2; the latter, as noted above, another machine made with a tube-to-tube construction, rather than a mould.
We won’t concentrate too heavily on the build of what is, after all, a custom machine, but we’ll cover off the basics. Shimano’s ever-reliable Ultegra Di2 electronic shifting performed as expected, the Reynolds Assault 46 clinchers were competent, and shod with soft, grippy Michelin Pro 4 rubber. The finishing kit – Richey’s functional WCS – and a Pro-Logo saddle, completed the bill.
The upshot? Our Photon came in at a UCI friendly 6.8kg (sans pedals) on the nose, and we thought that although the build was a sensible choice, for similar money (OK, maybe just £500 more), we could shave close on another kilo. The solidity of the build, however, allowed us to concentrate on the ride and what the potential purchaser is likely to get for his money.
There is much to like about the Guru Photon SL, chief of which is the phenomenally smooth ride quality and its ability to respond with meaty doses of acceleration when required.
Additionally, we think the fact that this bike is hand made in Montreal, where the various designers, technicians et al are on one site and not thousands of miles away from the people constructing the frame, has contributed towards an excellent final product, and one that is fully customizable to a buyer’s tastes.
We would only sound one note of caution and that is the march of change, we note with interest bikes such as the Look 695 Aerolight and others are pushing the integration of components ever further, and buyer’s seeking to invest the sums required to purchase the Guru, such developments will certainly be a consideration.