It’s a funny thing about the bike industry that, while very few of us would ever consider a $4000 bike inexpensive, a carbon bike spec’d with Shimano’s electronic Ultegra Di2 components is now deemed a “budget bike.” Still, while by no means considered a budget bike by most people’s standards, that doesn’t mean there’s not good value to be found. Like every other consumer product category recently enhanced with some kind of “future technology,” there is still a price to pay at the checkout counter if you want to be among the early adapters and have a piece of the future now. Although it’s been three years since Shimano first introduced their electronic drivetrain (and recall that the original Dura- Ace version was priced at $5000 for just the drivetrain)—and the new Ultegra version is their attempt at selling a more cost-conscious version—the collection of batteries, solenoids and wiring still isn’t as cheap as the old-fashioned cable-drawn shifters.
THE Di2 DIFFERENCE
Positioned between real “entry-level” price points and the mega-dollar prices of the fancy superbikes, the market for $4000 bikes still gets a lot of sales, but it has never received much clamor or attention…until now—and that’s all thanks to Shimano. There is no better example of trickle-down technology than Shimano’s second electronic group, the Ultegra Di2. What was once technology for those with only the deepest pockets is now available to a much wider market of battery-inclined cyclists. Although the Ultegra Di2 falls below the Dura-Ace Di2 group in status, the difference between the two is more in the numbers than actual shifting performance. The Ultegra Di2 derailleurs and shifters weigh about 150 grams more than Dura-Ace Di2’s, with the difference in weight coming primarily from the increased size of the servo, which results in larger derailleurs. Price-wise, the Ultegra Di2 (shifter and derailleurs) retails for about $900 less than the Dura-Ace Di2, but over $800 more than Ultegra’s mechanical version.
Currently, a battle is raging between most of the bike brands to offer up an Ultegra Di2-equipped bike at the most competitive price possible. And while the Ultegra parts have begun popping up on bikes in a variety of catalogs, there is one telling feature to look for to see which brand is really committed to the trend—are the frames wired specifically for the new style of cables? Here, the German brand Focus and America’s Jamis are just two brands who have entered the realm of entry-level modernity and have done so impressively with frames that are designed solely for internal wire routing.
FOCUS CAYO EVO 2.0
Within the Focus line, the Cayo Evo fits between the Izalco Pro, a ProTourdesigned race bike, and the Izalco Ergoride, an endurance-oriented bike. Borrowing traits from both bikes, the Cayo Evo receives performance geometry, mirroring the Izalco Pro’s, but it also contains features from the Ergoride that help it gain compliance. Those comfort features include the sloping top tube that tapers one-third in diameter by the time it meets the seat tube and a flat monostay that sprouts into wide and equally thin L.R.C.S. (Lateral Reinforced Comfort Seat stays) seat stays.
At the bottom bracket junction, the chainstays use a tall, rectangular shape to retain as much stiffness as possible, but then flattens to provide compliance at the rear wheel. The left chainstay is home to the Di2’s power source, which mounts just behind the bottom bracket via two hex bolts that thread into the frame— tidy and out of the way. The front end is all about stiffness, using a tapered 1 1/8- to 1 1/2-inch fork and a head tube with external ribbing to reduce lateral flex. Focus didn’t cut any corners when it came to equipping the Cayo Evo, the only Ultegra Di2-equipped bike in their line; it receives a full Ultegra group, including cranks (with the option of compact or standard gearing), brake calipers and a cassette. FSA’s Team Issue carbon seatpost and stem, along with Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels, have it tipping the scales at 17.3 pounds.
CAYO EVO 2.0 PARTS
Shifters: Shimano Ultegra Di2
Front derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2
Rear derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2
Brakes: Shimano Ultegra
Cranks: Shimano Ultegra, 50/34 (optional 53/39)
Wheels: Fulcrum Racing 5
Tires: Continental Grand Prix
Stem: FSA Team Issue Carbon
Handlebar: FSA Wing Comp
Seatpost: FSA Team Issue Carbon
Saddle: Prologo Nago Evo
JAMIS XENITH PRO
The Xenith line consists of six different models all sharing the same monocoque frame mold and geometry; it’s the carbon blend that goes into the mold that differentiates them. The Xenith Pro’s frame uses Dyad Elite carbon, the fourth from the top. The difference between the blends is the modulus of the fibers used, which greatly influence the frame’s impact resistance, stiffness, weight and damping abilities.
The Xenith Pro’s Dyad Elite blend isn’t the lightest or stiffest Jamis employs, but it does offer the greatest impact resistance and damping properties. When it comes to the frame design, the Xenith Pro’s predominantly round tubes take a more standard approach compared to the Cayo Evo’s use of elaborate shaping. Its use of robust seat stays stand out among the flattened seat stay bikes we’ve become accustomed to seeing among our fleet of test bikes. Asymmetric chainstays, with a 10- percent-larger right-side stay, are used to offset the additional stress the driveside has to endure. As with the Cayo Evo, the Xenith Pro opts for the same fork-steerer taper of 1 1/8 to 1 1/2 inches. While some brands have reduced the size of the taper to 1 1/4 or 1 3/8 inches to smooth the front end, Jamis obviously deems the stiffness it provides to be of worth.
To deal with the unsightly Di2 battery, the Xenith Pro opts for a mount on the bottom of the downtube; this is a definite improvement over a water-bottle cage mount, but still not as clean as the Cayo Evo’s chainstay location. The Xenith Pro is the least expensive Ultegra Di2 bike to come through the RBA offices yet. But in order to accomplish this, the bike is stocked with a lower-level Shimano 105 cassette and BR561 brake calipers, which still use a dual-pivot design, but fall below the Ultegra line. A Ritchey Pro Carbon seatpost and their aluminum stem and handlebar, along with Shimano’s RS10 wheels, round out the Xenith Pro’s 17.7-pound build.
XENITH PRO PARTS
Shifters: Shimano Ultegra Di2
Front derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2
Rear derailleur: Shimano Ultegra Di2
Brakes: Shimano BR561
Cranks: Shimano Ultegra, 50/34
Wheels: Shimano RS10
Tires: Vittoria Rubino Pro Slick
Stem: Ritchey Pro 4-Axis
Handlebar: Ritchey Pro Logic II
Seatpost: Ritchey Pro Carbon
Saddle: Selle San Marco Concor
Let’s start with the main feature on both the Cayo Evo and Xenith Pro—the shifting: Although it’s of little surprise, we have to state that the Ultegra Di2 was never amiss, even when making the kind of shifts we were always told not to: under load with no let-up of power. Both bikes shifted equally well and with nearly identical drivetrains, which was to be expected. Even with increased shifting frequency from our battery-assisted shifting enthusiasm, we never went through a full battery charge over the course of a few weeks on each bike. Shimano says that a battery charge will last between three to six months, depending on shifting frequency.
While the shifting didn’t differentiate anything between the two bikes, their ride quality did. Even though the Xenith Pro uses a carbon blend with an emphasis on compliance, the Cayo Evo’s damping specific tube shapes offered less transfer of road vibration when the road got rough. In terms of overall stiffness, both bikes had an impressive amount of front end rigidity, but the Xenith Pro came out on top in the overall acceleration department. Superior bottom bracket stiffness gave it power transfer that was noticeably more efficient than the Cayo Evo’s when sprinting. Both bikes matched up equally well in handling, which should suit riders looking for race-inspired geometry.
The overall value between the two bikes is open to debate. With a $300 difference between the Xenith Pro and Cayo Evo, some might feel that getting a good frame and the Ultegra Di2 drivetrain is enough for them. If that’s the case, then the Xenith Pro is without a doubt the bike to go with. For those who don’t mind spending the extra money, then the Cayo Evo is overall the best value of the two. Yes, it is more expensive, but what you’re getting for the additional $300 is a complete Ultegra group and slightly sturdier wheels, in addition to a half-pound-lighter bike. Although we didn’t have any complaints with either of the wheelsets, the Fulcrum Racing 5s of the Cayo Evo use eyeleted rims and a higher spoke count— 20 front and 24 rear. We feel that in the long term they will hold up better than the 16-spoke front and 20-spoke rear Shimano RS10 wheels on the Xenith Pro.
With both Focus and Jamis claiming they can hardly keep the bikes in stock, it’s clear that the Ultegra Di2 buzz is in full swing with consumers. If you’re dying to have the latest tech gadgetry, then both the Cayo Evo and Xenith Pro will satiate your desire. But if you’re looking for the most bike for your money, then it’s not with electronic shifting. As good as the Ultegra Di2 works and as fun as it is to hear the servos working when changing gears, we still feel that you give up too much bike to get it at this price range.
In our opinion, adding weight while sacrificing the quality of the rest of the componentry isn’t worth the small gains in shifting performance compared to bikes with the less fashionable mechanical drivetrains. Within the Focus line you can get the Izalco Pro 3.0, which runs with SRAM Force and a higher-end build than the Cayo Evo 2.0, for $3700. Aiming just a bit higher, there’s also the Izalco Pro 1.0 with mechanical Dura-Ace and undoubtedly much less weight for $4600. The same holds true in the Jamis line. The Xenith Race uses the same exact frame as the Xenith Pro, but with Ultegra mechanical components and a fairly comparable build for $2800. At $4900, the next step up in the Jamis line is a big one, but weight savings and a complete SRAM Red gruppo are some of the rewards.