There we were descending down to the village of Bourg d’ Orisans after starting out high above on the ski slopes of Alpe d’Huez, each of us knowing full well that soon enough our free-flying decent would be replaced with a gear grinding climb back up the world famous, 21 switch-backed climb that runs deep in Tour de France lore. It was the stuff of dreams!
LOOK 785 HUEZ
The occasion was the launch of Look Cycle’s new 785 Huez & Huez RS. Both bikes represent the venerable French brand’s attempt at building a new lightweight frame. The two model Huez family now brings an “altitude” segment to Look’s current “aero” and “endurance” categories. The Huez frame has a claimed weight of 990 grams with the RS version hitting the scales at 260 grams less. The difference between the two is the latter’s greater use of high modulus (and exclusive use of ultra-high modulus) carbon which allows for thinner walls on the tubes.
Unlike the other high-end bikes from Look that are made in their own factory in Tunisia (which get shipped to the Look HQ in Nevers. France for paint & assembly), in order to ramp up production of the 785, initial orders are currently going to an Asian vendor. The frame uses a mix of tube shapes utilizing what look calls Optimized Inertia Sections. The massive downtube is a mix of oval and square shapes. The RS uses 260 pieces of carbon in the frame versus 230 for the standard Huez. While not Cervelo-like pencil thin, the seatstays are a pretty small diameter.
Best Quote From the Press Release: “Look engineers have over 30 years of savoir-faire and expertise…”
What wasn’t discussed during the presentation was whether the frame could house 28mm tires (the new standard for all race bikes) and whether a disc brake model would arrive. Don’t count your pennies on that latter note – Look is still a very traditional European bike brand and throughout the Continent, disc brakes are of course still far off the fashion radar for road cyclists. Just by eyeing the frame up-close, a 28mm tire would most likely fit (the bikes were fitted with 25mm Continental tires). As is fashionable, the new bikes use a 27.2 seatpost for the compliance afforded, but there is still a nub of extended seat tube and a traditional exposed seat binder.
The minimally spoked Corima wheels no doubt provided the bikes with even more eye catching appeal. Following the descent down Alpe d’ Huez they were burning hot and made any fear of getting injured by an exposed disc rotor seem a downright second thought.
RIDING WITH JALABERT
The riding portion of the launch was based on two trips down, and then back-up, the 7+ mile climb. As light as the complete bikes were (guessing around 14 lbs) a few journos present (this one included) thought the bikes coulda/shoulda been spec’d with an 11-30 cassette versus the 11-28 cogs used (mated to 52×36 chainrings) to make the hour long effort a bit more efficient.
Especially on the descent, the Huez RS felt extremely lively, but never “nervous” (an adjective employed by Look). The bike could turn tightly inside through the switchback turns with ease and Corima brake pads worked wonders for slowing the bike down.
New this year, and something that Look was proud to tout was a new lifetime guarantee on the frames. Five sizes will be available in the same race geometry used for the super-duper, F1 inspired 795 race bikes. Prices (in Euros) for the RS model will be: $10,000 for the team edition with SRAM eTap, $7000 with Shimano Dura-Ace, $5000 with Shimano Ultegra Di2, and $4000 with Shimano Ultegra. The 785 Huez is priced at $4000 with Shimano Ultegra Di2, $3000 with SRAM Red, and a great entry-level price point of $2300 with Shimano 105.