Sometimes a new bike pops up on the scene, and it’s a little ho-hum: there’s just not much to say about it. Other times, the thing is so packed with features and new designs that it’s hard to know where to start.
Look’s new 695 frameset falls into the latter category.
Team Cofidis riders should consider themselves lucky to ride one of the more technology-laden bikes in the peloton. The 695 is something of a departure for the French company, which has mostly developed road frames with a relatively traditional look and feel. But Arthur Espos, Look’s media and PR rep, assures us that the exotic-looking machine is not frivolous. Every piece on the bike has a purpose.
“What makes it special is just complete integration,” he said. “With the 695 it’s just complete integration with a purpose.” The crank, bottom bracket, seat post, headset and fork are all purposely built for the bike and meant to contribute to a specific function.
Most obvious on the new bike is Look’s Zed 2 crankset. A new version of the crank that debuted two years ago on the 596 time trial frame, it’s made entirely from carbon fiber as a single piece — arms, spider, spindle and all. Look says it’s stiffer and lighter than anything on the market.
The pedals thread into tri-lobed inserts at the ends of the crankarms. Rotating the lobes adjusts the effective crank length between 170mm, 172.5mm, or 175mm to accommodate multiple sizes from one mold. New for the Zed 2, the lobes will accept any pedals to be threaded in, rather than just special spindles only available from Look’s own Kéo pedals as on the original Zed cranks. With similar versatility, the carbon chainring spider has bolt holes for either standard or compact chainring sizes.
The Zed 2 cranks turn on massive 65mm sealed cartridge bearings. The 695 BB shell is fantastically oversized to accommodate the huge bearings. Continuous strands of carbon are oriented optimally for stiffness across all the frame junctions, including the BB shell, down tube, seat tube, and chain stays.
Next, check out the fork and headset for innovation and integration. Look says the new HSC 7 fork is 15 percent stiffer and 16 percent lighter than the prior top-of-the-line HSC 6 featured on this year’s 595 frameset. Like the cranks, the HSC 7 is 100 percent carbon fiber in construction, including the dropouts. It turns on not just one oversized bearing, but two; rather than a tapered steerer, it uses 1.5-inch bearings both top and bottom. The lower bearing nests deeply and directly against the carbon fiber of the head tube’s bottom bore.
Headset preload is adjusted via Look’s new Head Fit 3 system, which doesn’t require a top cap or compression plug. With Head Fit 3, an adjustable carbon ring below the stem permits headset fine-tuning independent of stem placement. The system saves about 40 grams from a traditional plug and top cap.
What about that funky carbon stem? It’s called C-Stem, and as with some of Look’s prior component offerings, it’s adjustable. A moon-shaped lobe in the handlebar clamp reverses to increase or reduce effective stem length by 10mm, and a cam at the steerer clamp permits three different tilt angles. Even with the reach adjustments built in, Look is still making five lengths of the 140-gram C-Stem, creating a range from 80 to 130mm, in 10mm increments.
Look’s E-Post carries forward from the current 595 and 586 models. It does require cutting an extended seat mast to fit, but offers 3cm vertical adjustment of saddle height once cut. And it incorporates interchangeable elastomer damper inserts to help absorb road vibration.
Finally, carbon fiber rear dropouts are co-molded with the seat stays and chain stays.
It’s quite a piece of work. “It’s been five-plus years in development,” said Espos. “About the same time as when we were working on the 596 that we introduced two years ago.”
And by the looks of it, Look’s new 695 should be worth that five-year wait.