The 695SR, the ‘super rigid’ incarnation of LOOK’s flagship race bike, is the machine supplied to the Cofidis Pro Continental team. We’ve spent six weeks in its company, since taking our ‘first look‘. How did we get on?
Perhaps the LOOK 695 SR’s most impressive feature is the ride quality. It is extremely smooth. Carbon is light and, depending on its lay up, can be made inflexible. The skill of the modern builder is to make a frame stiff without inducing harshness. Attaining this difficult balance accounts for much of the value commanded by high-end frames.
From LOOK, the first manufacturer to place a carbon frame in the peloton, we expected no less, and this quality of smoothness has been a feature of at least two other frames of our acquaintance produced to the low volume, high value template typical of European carbon manufacture: Wilier’s Zero 7 and, more recently, the Cyfac Absolu V2. Perhaps this fundamental difference in ride quality is what separates European carbon frames from, dare we say it, those mass produced in the Far East.
It may also owe something to a design that sends a single carbon strand down one side of the top tube, around the headtube, and back to the junction with the seat tube, a technology known to LOOK as Continuous Fibre Design (CFD), hidden on the 659SR but visible beneath the carbon skin of the Cyfac. LOOK deploy the same technology in the rear triangle and the fork. The smoothness of the 695SR was most apparent on the rough surfaces of rural back roads.
Having dealt with the general, we’ll move to the specifics.
The 695 SR’s bottom bracket, a slimline affair compared to, say, Trek’s Madone 7, or the elephantine proportions of Cipollini’s RB1000, ably resisted the forces applied by our two test pilots (your correspondent and a rider who contested the PruTour series of televised, city centre criteriums in the late 1990s). Much of the power transfer we felt was owed to LOOK’s proprietary one piece crankset, the Zed2, which, as mentioned in our first look, revolves around a sizeable 65mm bearing. The ‘Trilob’ crank inserts to which the pedals attach, and which allow adjustment of the distance from BB centre to pedal axle (170mm, 172.5mm or 175mm), proved to be a doddle to remove, turn and reinsert.
Much trepidation surrounds integrated seat masts and their potential to scupper resale. LOOK have attempted to induce a degree of versatility by designing their two-piece, E-Post unit to accommodate simple plastic spacers. We called for additional spacers from LOOK’s UK distributor, Fisher Outdoor Leisure. Two 10mm units gave us a saddle height of 715mm on our ‘small’ frame. We’d like to see a 5mm spacer, which would have allowed Test Pilot Two (the faster one) to attain his preferred saddle height of 710mm. A word on the integrated seat mast: we considered it a significant contribution to the quality of the ride, providing a supremely stable base for the Fizik Arione saddle, and making us feel as if we were part of the bike rather than perched upon it.
The 695SR excelled in corners, particularly those taken downhill and at speed. It tracked superbly through long, flowing curves, inspiring the confidence to lean the bike further and pass through bends lower and faster. A regular test route will isolate specific areas of performance and on a certain eight per cent descent of twisting hairpins it outshone anything this correspondent has ridden this year. It must be a joy on Alpine descents.
Climbing performance is largely a function of low weight and the 695SR climbed as well as a machine with a claimed 900 gram frameset might be expected to: that is to say, effortlessly. The 1115 gram Zipp 202 wheelset made a significant contribution to our speed of ascent, but we’re confident that even training wheels would not unduly diminish the performance of a frame whose ability to transfer power we have already discussed. While on the wheelset, our dissatisfaction with the valve extender system (in essence, an elongated valve cap, necessitated by the 32mm rims) was about equal to our satisfaction with the frame. There’s perhaps enough material for a separate article, but suffice to say here that each time we prepared to take out to the 695SR, it was crouched on flat tyres.
We found ourselves in a minority in our admiration for the aesthetics of the C-Stem, a block of carbon gripping the handlebars declared ugly by almost all who saw it. Similarly, the Zipp SL bar divided opinion among test pilots One and Two. This correspondent liked the very compact drop, while Test Pilot Two said the definite curve prevented him from attaining a comfortable grip.
We hadn’t expected to ride a better bike this year than the excellent Scott Foil Team Issue. The LOOK 695SR is, in our opinion, superior, but, in fairness to Scott, the margin of superiority is narrower than the cost. Bicycles used by professionals aren’t readily associated with comfort, but the smoothness inherent in the 695SR’s ride quality makes it suitable for riders unlikely to benefit from pre and post-ride massage.
Our final point concerns the aesthetics. The LOOK 695SR is a beautiful bike, the more so for the black and gold colourway, which put us in mind of the JPS-liveried Lotus Formula One cars of the 1970s and ’80s. We gained some amusement from sitting a little distance from the 695SR at cafes and watching cyclists and non-cyclists alike stare as they passed; a head turner, then, in a literal sense.
The LOOK 695 SR i-Pack of frame, fork, E-Post, C-Stem, and ZED2 chainset costs £3799. The model tested sells for £6999 with Zipp 404 wheels.