Funny thing, but it seems that every time I've been shooting new model year bikes from Look at the Tour de France, I've been wet. Two years ago it was a very informal showing at the opening stage in Rotterdam. Under a steady rain, Arthur from Look had gathered a handful of journos over at the Cofidis team truck where the welcoming mechanic wouldn't let any of us get out of the rain and stand under the awning. So it was, we stood there, about four of us getting drenched as we listened to Arthur give us the lowdown on the awesome 695.
This was the first time the 695 was rolled out at the 2010 Tour in Rotterdam....yes, while the bikes stayed dry under the tarp, we stood in the rain to get our shots!
Two years later in Liege I'm once again dodging rain drops as I attempt to shoot photos of the equally impressive 675 in downtown Liege, Belgium. Wait, the 675. What about the 675?
Our first indication of an as yet unseen bike came when we walked up to the Mercure hotel and saw Look employees blindly (and vainly) trying to install bottle cages on the bikes which remained under the Look tarps.
Once inside the Hotel, Look CEO, Dominique Bergin gave a brief speech about Look's state of being and what the new 675 represented for the company. He touched on the company's rich history in the sport that began with the clipless pedal, the racing & Tour de France success with the La Vie Claire team and riders like Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond. He also seemed to enjoy making the point that even though 95% of all the bikes in the world are produced in China, the Chinese National team relies on Look for the team bikes used on the track.
"We wanted to make something special for this price point. We like to think of ourselves as "organized dreamers" and at times in the 675's development there was a real temptation to make changes, but in the end we stayed true to the original dream."
Underscoring the recent history of their bikes, Dominique told the room, "It is important for Look to develop unique products in our own facility," before adding that "integration is the goal of Look." Listening to Dominique speak about the importance of retaining control over their product design and manufacturing reminded me of the similar themes regularly touched on by Valentino Campagnolo. Whether told with a French or Italian accent, the notion held by some Euro companies of not venturing to Asia is one that remains hotly contested in the industry. The stance is honorable and important for sure, but many wonder how practical it is in these days of decreasing sales and profit margins.
Perhaps the most salient point that Dominique made was this, "We have stronger and bigger competitors and sometimes they are more organized...therefore, we choose to compete with innovation." Touche'.
There are two colorways available; the most standard red/black/white (top) and this "murdered out" (as the kids would say) black on black model with home neon yellow highlights. Without a doubt, the use of the integrated A-Stem that was borrowed from Look's equally svelte looking line of mountain bikes.
No doubt the dramatic look of the aluminum A-Stem plays a big part in the 675's aggressive profile. Between the taller head tube and reversible & adjustable stem, the 675 isn't relegated to anywhere near as radical of rider positioning as it appears. The frame/stem junction is just one area where the quality production values are easily visible.
One of the key areas of cost savings of the 675 versus the top line 695 race bike is that the 675 does not use Look's radical one-piece carbon Zed 2 crankset. For the 675 Look relies on a 86.5mm press fit bottom bracket. The Shimano Di2 spec'd bike runs the battery on the underside of the downtube.
Another novel (and proprietary) Look detail are the internal cable guides that are friendly to both electronic or mechanical cables. Not a major deal, but it is a typical example of Look's attention to details and avoids the molded cable guides that go vacant with the use of Di2 or EPS cables.
Just noticeable in front of the internal cable outlet is the flattened chainstay which along with the same treatment on the seatstays comprises what Look calls their "DCDC2" compliance design. The acronym stands for Dual Comfort/Dual Stiffness and Look says it provides a 25% increase in vertical compliance while simultaneously giving the rear end a bump in torsional stiffness.
The carbon fork runs through a tapered headtube and is claimed to weigh 350 grams. Frame weight for a medium size is said to be 1150 grams.The frame shaping is major plus in the 675's aesthetic.
Here's one inside line that was learned from the guys at Mavic, the Exalith coating and rim machining that caused both so many tuning headaches and earaches from their screeching has been improved to not only do away with the sound, but they are now saying that the braking performance has officially been improved. The aluminum rims lives?!
Here's the Team Cofidis Look 695.
Look is making the 675 available as either a frameset or complete with either mechanical or electronic Shimano Ultegra or DuraAce and SRAM Red. The entry level bike starts in the $4000 range with the DuraAce version hitting in the upper reaches of $8000.
And no, there was no mention made at the 675 launch of the still delayed appearance of the much talked about & anticipated Look Keo Power pedal that was first shown last fall at the trade shows and at Look's own factory tour earlier this year (see RBA May, 2012). For the time being at least, the 675 has done a commendable job taking our attention away from the pedal with it's built-in power meter.
For more info: Look Cycle
AND LEST WE FORGET FROM WHERE WE'VE COME....
Just as the bikes were being unveiled in Liege, this young lad rolled up on his replica bike from yesteryear...a good reminder that what with all sniveling by journos and bike geeks alike about how some bikes lack performance, rigidity, comfort and good looks, the bike industry has indeed come a long way over the years and probably deserves some appreciation for all that has evolved.