Flip over a couple of pages and you’ll come to a preview of the new Look 785 Huez RS, a bike so advanced that it weighs just 5.9kg and incorporates 350 different sheets of carbon in the layup of the frame and fork. But despite its ultra-modern technology, at first glance it looks more or less like bikes have looked for most of the past century. It’s basically a collection of tubes assembled into a double-triangle pattern around a bottom bracket, with a pointy saddle and a bendy handlebar. The remarkable thing about the bicycle, more than any other form of transport (or indeed any other machine), is that they got it pretty much spot-on from the beginning. The design is so mechanically optimal that countless engineers have struggled to improve upon it, and as such its form has endured almost intact during the same period that the Wright Brothers’ bi-winged flying machine has evolved into the modern fighter jet. The classic bike shape is not only incredibly efficient, it’s also exceptionally beautiful, with a simple elegance that can transform a few thin tubes of steel into a mobile work of art.
That explains why, despite the advent of superlight composites and electronic shifting, many of the big bike companies still produce steel frames that are virtually identical to models from the golden era of cycling back in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.
For this month’s ride test, we put three such modern-vintage machines through their paces on the chalk roads of Tuscany in Italy, and the reaction of the testers was revealing. I might have expected them to bemoan the heavy weight or the lack of stiffness, but instead they revelled in the fun and feel of the ride.
It’s testament to the genius of the bicycle that even when dealing with an aesthetic and materials from a bygone age, the performance still manages to be right up to the minute.
The bike design is so optimal that its form has endured almost intact during the same period that the Wright Brothers’ bi-winged flying machine has evolved into the modern fighter jet
The white chalk roads of Tuscany are the perfect venue to test three bikes with souls that belong to a bygone era