BIG-WHEELED WON­DERS

The lat­est big-vol­ume tyres are tough, grippy and com­fort­able enough to thrive on the worst roads, while still rolling fast. But which of the three here un­der £2,500 make the most of their po­ten­tial for year-round triathlon per­for­mance?

220 Triathlon Magazine - - Contents - PHO­TOG­RA­PHY WORDS GUY KESTEVEN RUS­SELL BUR­TON

How will the trend for bigvol­ume tyres trans­fer to the tri course? We test three bikes from Fo­cus, Whyte and Ge­n­e­sis to find out

T he lat­est tech­nol­ogy and rid­ing trends mean it’s a great time to be mak­ing new bikes. In­no­va­tions such as disc brakes al­low de­sign­ers to fit wider wheels and tyres into frames and se­cure them with thru­axles to cre­ate a smoother, more ro­bust, punc­ture-re­sis­tant ride with bet­ter brak­ing con­trol.

Car­bon fi­bre lets de­sign­ers tune the ride qual­i­ties of a frame to a much greater de­gree than is pos­si­ble with metal. Deep aero tubes can now be made to be com­fort­able, while squeez­ing them through tight spa­ces be­tween com­po­nents doesn’t have to re­sult in a weak spot. Light­weight frames can be strong enough to skip along farm tracks but still sparkle on a smooth road climb. Flex can be built into some parts and locked out of oth­ers, just by the choice and align­ment of sheets of fi­bre.

And it seems rid­ers are be­com­ing more will­ing to em­brace these in­no­va­tions as at­ti­tudes to rid­ing and routes change. They don’t nec­es­sar­ily want to stop when the road does, be­cause that’s when the traf­fic, noise and dan­ger, for the most part, stops too. And they

don’t nec­es­sar­ily want a dif­fer­ent bike for the dif­fer­ent types of rid­ing they do.

The three bikes here are in­tended to of­fer all of these new com­for­t­and con­trol-boost­ing, ride­ex­pand­ing, punc­ture-pre­vent­ing, weather-beat­ing ad­van­tages while still re­tain­ing a rea­son­able de­gree of com­pet­i­tive on-road per­for­mance.

The first is the Fo­cus Par­alane Car­bon 105 and, al­though at £2,199, it’s the cheap­est bike here, it’s loaded with in­no­va­tions and prac­ti­cal touches. The cun­ning quar­ter-turn Rapid Axle Tech­nol­ogy thru-axles are the fastest we’ve used, and it comes with neat­look­ing, light­weight, flat al­loy mud­guards, as well as Shi­mano wheels and a 105 groupset with hy­draulic disc brakes.

As one of the first bikes in the fat­tyred but fast, ‘all-road’ cat­e­gory, the UK-de­signed Ge­n­e­sis Da­tum is now into its third year. By spec­c­ing 29er MTB rims rather than road hoops, it takes a slightly dif­fer­ent ap­proach to wheels than its ri­vals, but per­haps that’s what’ll al­low this pre­vi­ously proven all-rounder to con­tinue to shine among the cur­rent crop of all-road­ers.

The Whyte Wes­sex, mean­while, launched to rave re­views in 2016 thanks to a great bal­ance of a Brit­proof frame and com­po­nent prag­ma­tism with a pur­pose­ful rather than sit-up-and-beg ride po­si­tion. But is its sure­footed han­dling, wheel-hug­ging mud­guards and Shi­mano Ultegra Disc groupset enough to jus­tify choos­ing it over its cheaper com­peti­tors on test? There’s only one way to find out… FO­CUSSED ON COM­FORT Fo­cus’s Par­alane de­liv­ers a springy, long-dis­tance and back-road, bad­weather-friendly ride with some neat frame and kit fea­tures. The car­bon frame makes this Par­alane £700 more ex­pen­sive than the iden­ti­cally specced al­loy ver­sion, but it’s a well-thought-out chas­sis and one of the few in its cat­e­gory un­der 1kg.

By us­ing long fork legs with a step-down mid­way, Fo­cus gets plenty of im­pact com­pli­ance, while the an­gu­lar head tube boosts steer­ing stiff­ness. Top tube, seat tube and rear stays all use flat­tened sec­tions to al­low flex from be­low with­out in­tro­duc­ing side­ways soft­ness. The stays are also curved so that they limit im­pacts and vi­bra­tion, and that en­gi­neered spring is ob­vi­ous in the ride.

It’s not just the frame that flexes to soak up shocks. A short seat tube rel­a­tive to top tube length means there’s more of the car­bon seat­post show­ing than nor­mal. It’s also a skinny 25.4mm-di­am­e­ter shaft for ex­tra sway.

Previous edi­tions of the Par­alane Car­bon 105 came with 25mm Sch­walbe Pro One tyres, so it’s good to see Fo­cus has gone up to 28mm Con­ti­nen­tal Ul­tra Sport II tyres as stan­dard for 2018. The wider rub­ber pro­vides a lit­tle more in­su­la­tion from the rougher roads even if the Ul­tra Sport IIs don’t have the same fluid feel as the previous Pro Ones.

There’s clear­ance for tyres up to 35mm wide if you un­bolt the flat al­loy mud­guards, which is a good idea for rougher rides any­way. While the metal mud­guards are rel­a­tively light (450g) and tidy in their minimalist ap­pear­ance, the sin­gle stays and flat de­sign mean they tend to bounce off the tyre on ragged sur­faces. Our rear set soon spat its bolt out, so check for tight­ness reg­u­larly and don’t ride through any rat­tling noises think­ing they aren’t im­por­tant.

The bump iso­la­tion through the sad­dle and frame helps when turn­ing over a gear or tak­ing cor­ners on rougher roads. A slightly re­laxed 72° head an­gle and low bot­tom bracket give it a safe and com­posed feel in more chal­leng­ing con­di­tions. But it’s a fine bal­ance. The longer you ride, the more the smooth­ness saves your legs and shoul­ders from vi­bra­tion fa­tigue, but things can get bouncy when you’re try­ing to lay down power on smoother sur­faces. You’ll also want to take ad­van­tage of the short seat tube and go up a size if you’re look­ing for a more stretched and ag­gres­sive ride po­si­tion, rather than com­pact and up­right. IN­FORMED BY EX­PE­RI­ENCE Whyte’s Wes­sex takes ev­ery­thing its de­signer – Ian Alexan­der – has learned about day-in, day-out UK rid­ing over years of elite-level rac­ing and train­ing, and lever­ages

“The Fo­cus Par­alane is the cheap­est here and comes loaded with in­no­va­tions and prac­ti­cal touches”

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