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Bike Test: Carrera SL950 Carbon Road Bike

August 20, 2015
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The name Carrera was originally the title sponsor of the Italian cycling team, Carrera Jeans, in 1989. After the Carrera team ceased to exist, the race shop responsible for building the team bikes maintained its passion for designing and building bikes. The SL950 is a result of Carrera’s continued R&D with different grades of carbon and resins.

THE FRAME
Carrera’s SL950 frame is intended to appeal to the all-around rider. The SL950 maintains sporty geometry with the added benefit of a supple graphite/epoxy carbon composite. Due to a different carbon and resin, the claimed 900-gram frame is 170 grams heavier than the SL730 “climber’s” bike that sits upscale from the Gran Fondo- inspired SL950. The front triangle is made up of round-to square tubing to create a stiff and responsive ride, all with the intention of adding more compliance than the brand’s stable of stiffer racing frames.

Aesthetically, the SL950 frame has a clean and crisp look to it. We’ve been critical of Carrera’s NASCAR-like graphics in the past, so the subtle colorway of our test bike was as much a welcome change from previous bikes as it was from the sea of black bikes currently on the market. There are no drastic tubing shapes, angles or curves. But, the unusual frame color does change the beat of the typical black-and-red rhythm. Its semi-internal cable routing may not look the cleanest, but it’s hard to tell when the external cable is only exposed past the bottom bracket and along the bottom of the chainstay.

The Carrera SL950's headset consists of a tapered steerer tube to balance stiffness with compliance.

The Carrera SL950’s headset consists of a tapered steerer tube to balance stiffness with compliance.

THE PARTS
Save for the French tires, our test bike was about as Italian as you could get, starting with the new 2015 Campagnolo Chorus gruppo. The Italian shifters differ from their competitors by virtue of brake levers, which don’t double as shift levers. Changing gears is as quick and efficient as those of any other drivetrain. At $6550 and 15.8 pounds, the Carrera SL950 is as light as many bikes at this price. Rolling on a set of Fulcrum Racing Zero rims attached to 23c Michelin Lithion.2 tires, the wheels were fast but did not assist with the comfort of the ride. An FSA Team Issue handlebar and stem, along with a Selle Italia saddle, provide a proven and capable cockpit.

The new Campagnolo Chorus crankset is now equipped with the adaptable four-arm spider design.

The new Campagnolo Chorus crankset is now equipped with the adaptable four-arm spider design.

THE RIDE
The bike was very balanced in its comfort, efficiency and weight. Between the 115mm stem and long reach of the handlebars coupled with the 54.7mm top tube length, the geometry felt a bit longer than most for this size frame. The easiest fix would be a shorter stem. The most notable positive of the bike was the descending and cornering abilities. The SL950 was very predictable and easy to handle. Two traits that stood out were its quick acceleration and turning prowess. In fact, the bike would practically turn in on itself, but never in an uncontrolled manner. Nice.

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 7.46.20 PM

THE VERDICT
Snicker at the concept of a “Gran Fondo” bike if you will, but as a niche of bikes best described as “performance- driven” with more comfort than a race bike, they are bikes that make a great deal of sense to a great deal of riders. Light enough, fast enough, stiff enough, stable and comfortable is how we’d best describe the SL950. Like other bikes we’ve welcomed for representing this new era of light but compliant frames, the Carrera would be the latest entry in the category. No, there was not any one feature or trait that left us in awe, but if you’re looking for a bike that has bal- anced performance features, the Carrera SL950 is a great choice for any rider.

PUNCH LINES
• A very well-rounded bike
• It’s always a pleasure to ride with Campagnolo components
• Unique graphics stand out for the right reason

STATS
Price: $6550; $4400 (frameset)
Weight: 15.8 pounds
Sizes: XS, S, M (tested), L, XL
www.carrera-podium.it

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