Bikes and buses
Yes that’s right, never there when you want them and then four at once. We’ve grouped this bike test (no promises to do it again!) as we feel that these bikes are a good ground for comparisons and are a suitable variety of carbon technology that’s currently available on the market.
So this week we’ll be publishing four carbon bike tests with a conclusion on Friday. It’s been a difficult test to pull together because all the bikes have different construction and they are all surprisingly different. One thing we’re certain of though, you can’t really say that a material has a particular ‘feel’ anymore… but we’ll save the conclusion for Friday… So what do we have in store?
Monday – Python
Tuesday – Parlee Z3
Wednesday – Wilier Le Roi
Thursday – Specialized Tarmac
Friday – The final judgement
OK so the Python fills the lower end of the spectrum of carbon super-bikes we have had in on test – however ride-wise the first impressions are pretty good.
Frame and fork
The weight of the frame is a very respectable 1.35KG, for a small size. Python’s are built with finest Toray T-700 carbon fibre material, normally used in the space industry because of its strength and stiffness. It looks well finished and consistent
Python have built it with a steepish 74.5° seat angle and a standard 73° head angle to ‘slow’ it down a bit. Carbon monocoques of these proportions are never going to be ultra comfortable and with the Python we found the racing pedigree is spot on. The Time+ fork is fully monocoque and no complaints at all, it’s direct and firm with a hint of give to help your hands.
The wheels on the Python are in-house Python branded all-carbon affairs. The front and rear wheels weigh 700g and 900g respectively, and center around aluminium hubs rolling on cartridge bearings. All well and good in theory but out on the road they didn’t offer much resistance to bumpy and potholed streets – we certainly skittered around town. There is also a maximum pressure for tyres of around 110PSI, which is OK if you want to run training tyres but some high performance race tyres take a little more and if you’re riding a Time Trial you’ll want to lean on the track pump a little more.
A recent discussion with a group of shop mechanics reveals that customers are trying to ride all-carbon race wheels like this year-round, and the result is a lot of worn out and some failed parts. You can’t push high end stuff like this too far. They just don’t like extreme weather. Having said that we had no problems with the Python wheels but changing them for a set of Ksyrium Elites made the Python a different, more comfortable bike and far more ‘Chuckable’ around corners and on our usual training rides.
Most of the finishing kit on the full bike is from the Trigon stable. It’s all good stuff too. The double ringed chainset is all-carbon, the Venus C7 High Modulus variety and are avialable in three arm lengths (170, 172.5 and 175mm) and either Octalink, ISIS or ISO-square interfaces. Perhaps a through axle option may be on top of most peoples wish lists as the BB/Crank of the moment, there will be one along very soon.
The stem/bars and seatpost/saddle are also full-carbon. The one-piece bars are whale-tail shaped and stem only weigh 360g, available in multiple widths and stem lengths. The tops are areo shaped and grooves on the underside keep cables tucked out of the way, and a bracket attaches to the centre of the bars and provide a useful platform for attaching a hrm or computer – a bit fussy but certainly have most things covered.
The seatpost is another aero designed product, weighs 206g and comes in two lengths; 250mm or 300mm. The saddle is crazy light. It’s a solid piece of carbon fibre, no padding and no flex through the titanium rails – we suggested an appointment with the doctor would be required after spending some time on it? We were right there.
The carbon extras add a load of appeal to the package for the weight savers out there, it got the bike down to a very respectable weight. Although we didn’t like the saddle and seatpost much, the bars (albeit a bit over-designed) were quite a hit with a few of the RCUK testers, the top section was really comfy and the bike was a lot more comfortable than the saddle would first suggest. These are personal choice issues that aren’t really bad marks as such – we just all have preferences.
For everyday riding it’s a bit like driving a Formula 1 car around London streets. This a race machine make no mistake. The wheels clatter and bounce off the ruts and bumps, so only on the smooth sanctity of Hillingdon Cycle circuit did the Python start to make sense.
OK so you are never going to be happy with a complete spec. and even a superbike has components that you may want to change. This is what makes buying expensive bikes so much fun. There are a few changes we’d make to the Python and the ride would be greatly improved. So we changed the wheels, saddle and seatpin and transformed the bike into a ride all day road bike rather than just a 1 hour crit bike. It’s worth the changes as the frame then comes into it’s own and the carbon benefits of supple handling and shock absorption became far more evident. In short – this bike grew on us.