French brand Look has opted for more ordinary aesthetics to achieve extraordinary lightness P
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Look has never been afraid of innovation. It produced the first clipless pedals, which helped Bernard Hinault win his fifth Tour de France in 1985. Shortly afterwards it introduced the first carbon fibre-tubed bike to the Tour. More recently, its latest aero offering, the Look 795, bore more resemblance to a technologically advanced praying mantis than a conventional road bike.
As such, customers who expect wacky designs from Look may be a little underwhelmed by the new 785 Huez, which is fairly conservative in appearance. But the innovation is still there – it’s just beneath the surface.
The 785 Huez RS is the first product from a new-look Look, which has undergone a bit of a corporate revamp recently, complete with a new president and the acquisition of wheel brand Corima. Unsurprisingly this build is equipped with Corima’s freakishly light and scantily spoked Winium+ tubular wheelset. It’s a nice complement to the lightest frameset Look has ever created, which is a claimed 730g for the frame and only 280g for the fork, together creating a complete bike at 5.9kg.
Look says it could have gone under 700g for the frame, which would have placed it up there with the very lightest. However, the company claims to have resisted the temptation to prioritise weight over function, performance and safety.
‘It’s not the lightest frame on the market,’ says Look’s product manager, Fred Caron, ‘but it’s very important to Look, a French brand, that the reliability of this product is really, really high. All of Look’s bicycles are made to not only meet the European testing standards, but exceed them by 60%.’
Responsibility for the Look 785 Huez RS’S light weight, high stiffness and wince-inducing £8k+ pricetag can be partly attributed to the choice of carbon fibres. Look claims to have used an ultra high modulus (UHM) carbon that boasts a tensile strength of 60 tons/mm2. For those without a masters in composites engineering, that means it’s very strong and light, but also very expensive – these grades of carbon can run into thousands of pounds per kilogram.
Perhaps only 10% of the frame uses these special fibres (reasonably so – a bike made completely of UHM fibres would be incredibly harsh and very susceptible to breakage) but it does help to explain the significant price increase
of the Huez RS over the standard 785 Huez, which comes in at a still-pricey £4,099 for the Di2 version. For that money you get a frame that weighs an additional 260g compared to the RS, at 990g, and a fork that weighs 350g.
The choice of fibres isn’t the only reason the Huez RS comes in at a weight to rival a special-edition Cannondale Supersix or Trek Émonda without the need for specialist third-party components. Look has rethought its tubes, using what Caron calls ‘optimised inertia section’, where each tube has been shaped to function optimally within the frame.
For example, the down tube has a fairly blunt, squared-off profile at the intersection with the bottom bracket, which then morphs along its length towards a more traditional round shape at the junction with the head tube.
Caron claims the combination of material selection and tube design means the Look 785 Huez RS boasts particularly thin tube walls, getting down to a thickness of just 0.6mm at the middle of the tube where the stresses are at their minimum. That, Caron says, cuts down overall weight without compromising on stiffness.
Continuing the theme of stiffness and low weight is the centrepiece of the bike: Look’s unique one-piece ZED crankset. Both the cranks and axle are created as a single unit from carbon fibre, and it’s cunningly designed so that it doesn’t need to be split in two to be mounted, but can be fed neatly through the bottom bracket shell before being sealed into place by the bearings.
With all this focus on stiffness, you might expect the 785 Huez RS to be bone-shakingly harsh to ride, but Look hasn’t forgotten comfort. Its cocktail of carbon includes 260 separate pieces for the frame, and 90 for the fork, to ensure that flex can be built in where it’s needed. As another nod to comfort, Look has also armed the 785 with a skinny 27.2mm seatpost.
Cyclist rode the Look 785 Huez RS at the Look Granfondo Marmotte in the French Alps, and found the supremely low weight, stiffness and tuned handling made for a fine partner over the 5,000m of elevation that the gran fondo inflicts. To see how the 785 performs on good old-fashioned British roads, stay tuned for a full review in an upcoming issue.
Look 785 Huez RS Team Replica, £8,199, zyrofisher.co.uk