An originator of carbon bikes had much to show

(Originally posted in August , 2008)

Unlike the Giant media camp held in Mallorca, Look Bicycles opted for something closer to home to show off their latest bikes. The sleepy, high end town of Los Gatos was the place, conveniently located just a few miles from their American headquarters.

Heading the show was Look’s Ming Tan who knows his way around high end carbon bikes as well as anybody. And it’s a good thing because for 2009 Look is ALL about carbon. No mixed mediums, steel, Ti or aluminum frames to be found here. Of all the bikes present, the bikes which received the most attention were the all new 596 Tri/TT bike, the entry level 566 road bike and a full suspension mountain bike.

While you can look for a more in-depth coverage in a future issue of Road Bike Action, here are some of the highlights from Look’s ‘Passion For Perfection’ fest.

Look 596

In development for two years, the radically shaped 596 is available in both TT (white) and Tri (red) guise. Visually, the most significant feature has to be the upward kink in the top tube which Ming was quick to point was meant only as a styling exercise. The frame is available in four sizes for $4999 (which includes a seatpost, fork, carbon stem, carbon crank and a set of Look Ti spindle Keo pedals).

As new as the 596 frame is (over a pound lighter we were told than the 496), it still retains Looks radical Monoblade fork (which despite its name actually has two fork blades) from the 496. Due to its aero design, the fork produces a lower drag coefficient for slicing through the wind faster. Also, as with the 496, Ming said it takes approximately 50 hours of build time for each carbon frame.

However, one key talking point that Ming made the case for was the performance virtues of Look continuing to run measurable gaps between the rear wheel and the seat tube, and the trailing edge of the front wheel and the downtube. According to Look’s engineers, both the front and rear gaps offset the disrupting ‘viscous effect’ of air being churned up by the wheels by providing an exit.

All the frame tubes were designed as a unit to consider and maximize their airflow efficiencies. Look utilized their French F1 connections to get needed wind tunnel time at the vaunted facility at the Magny Cours race track.

Look 566

Sensing its potential for big sales, the new entry level 566 was one bike that Look will be putting a lot of emphasis on.  Sold as a complete bike for $2495 (or frameset at $1999), the 566 is at a price point that takes it out of Look’s vaunted French factory and puts the production in Asia. The monocoque carbon frame enjoys beautiful (tube to tube) construction, a full carbon fork and some smartly shaped chain and seat stays which are flattened mid-length to provide additional vertical compliance.

Besides the rear stays, one of the most noticeable aspects of the 566 profile is the flat, and nearly invisible (from a side view) top tube. Look claims a 1100 gram frame weight for a medium sized frame.

Choose between a white frame with SRAM Rival or a red frame with Shimano Ultegra SL. The new 566 is available in 5 sizes.

Look 586

Pure & simple, this is Look’s top of the line road race bike. Similar in appearance to the 586, the difference between the two is that the latter frame is a monocoque whereas the 595 gets the individual custom tube/carbon lug treatment. Two versions are still available, the Origin and the Ultra, the latter intended for bigger/strong/Thor Hushovd wanna-be type riders looking for a beefier frame that’s 15% stiffer at the bottom bracket and head tube. The 595 also runs rear carbon dropouts that are installed at the time that the chain sand seat stays are molded which makes for a single piece rear end to maximize stiffness. It’s all in the details!

The 595 was the first Look bike to use their integrated ‘E-Post’ seat post design. Look claims a 1040 gram weight for a small size frame (w/uncut seat tube). Choose between the classic red or the Team issue white frame. Available in six sizes for $3999 with a five year warranty.

Look 996 FS MTB

As strange as it was to see Look unveil a new hardtail mountain bike last year, it was stranger still to see them take the next step and bring a full suspension bike out. What next, a Look freeride bike?! At least this is a full suspension bike that still speaks to Look’s legacy of building lightweight, performance oriented bikes. Unlike the hardtail, Look wisely avoided running a integrated seat post on the FS bike due to the perception that suspension invites riders to ride steeper/rougher terrain where the lower set height helps get through the section.

The 996 uses a ‘a hybrid of the VPP (Virtual Pivot) and DW Link rear end’  which for those of you not up on the latest full suspension lingo means the Look borrows from two successful design philosophies to create their ASK (Anti Squat Kinematics) suspension. Key here is the lack of any pivot at the rear axle and a suspension curve that minimizes bobbing under pedal load. The rear travel sits at four inches which some might consider on the longish side for a true FS race bike.

The bike that Look showed weighed a claimed 22.8lbs with pedals. Three models will be sold: the Ultimate Pro Team with a Shimano XTR/Manitou fork/Rock Shox shock combo; the XO Pro Team that runs a Rock Shox suspension and SRAM X0 package; and the entry level SLX which runs with a Shimano SLX/Rock Shox suspension package. Suggested retail for the X-O Pro Team is $5799. The hardtail goes for $1000 less.

The Zed Crank
Besides the bikes themselves, there was also much interest centered on the unveiling of the radical Look Zed carbon crank. The one piece, hollow carbon crank is reminiscent to the one-piece Ashtabula BMX cranks from back in the day BMX technology.

By using their monobloc construction technology, Look has made a crank that is claimed to weigh 320 grams complete. Besides the construction process, the interesting part is that a single crank can be adjusted (via a the TriLobe pedal insert)to measure 170, 172.5 or 175mm in length. Without replacing any parts, the integrated carbon spider will also fit either 110mm (compact) or 130mm (standard) chainrings. Wow! There’s a lot going on with the Zed.

Due to the threadless TriLobe pedal system, you must run Zed specific Look Keo pedals which are included with the crank.

For additional Look info, Click Here

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