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Fuji SL 2.3 review

22 Dec 2015
Verdict:

The Fuji SL 2.3 is well kitted out, making for a lightweight build but the heavy wheels hold it back on the hills.

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£1,600
For 
Light overall build
Against 
Wheels are slow to accelerate

The only sub-8kg bike among the four we’ve tested at the same time (Cannondale Synapse, Specialized Tarmac & BMC TeamMachine), Fuji’s SL 2.3, while on first sight not totally living up to its super-light billing, does sport Shimano Ultegra shifters and a high-modulus carbon-fibre frame that should make riding uphill more of a joy. The firm’s top-of-the range SL 1.1 lays claim (for now) to being the lightest production road bike in the world, tipping the scales at less than 5kg (depending on final build). Does it lend this more affordable model any of its fleet-footedness, and is the SL 2.3 a mid-price all-rounder?

Frame

Fuji SL 2.3 Praxis

The SL 2.3 represents the second rung on Fuji’s SL ladder, so while it doesn’t feature the super-light 695g frame of the top-end SL 1.1, it is more mountain-ready than many other bikes at this price. The top tube tapers from its junction with a squat 120mm head tube to meet a seat tube that becomes more box-sectioned as it reaches the oversized BB30 bottom bracket shell. The rear triangle is comprised of thin seatstays to bring natural suspension to the SL, while flared, deep-section chainstays are designed to transfer power to the rear wheel with minimal loss. A fairly conservative head angle (measured at 71.8°) and 980mm wheelbase on our size 52 test bike suggest solid handling on flat roads and quick descents alike. 

Components

Shimano Ultegra shifters, plus front and rear mechs are combined with Shimano 105 brakes. Sounds like a near-perfect combination. The Praxis mid-compact 52/36 chainrings are fitted with Oval forged cranks. A 105, 11-28 cassette lends the bike a good compromise set of ratios for pretty much any kind of riding you could imagine. These closer ratios allow more consistent shifts, and the Ultegra set-up is its usual slickly operated self.

Fuji SL 2.3 Ultegra

Fuji’s parent company owns finishing kit manufacturer Oval Concepts, so it’s no surprise to find the SL 2.3 bedecked entirely in its parts. It also allows the bike to be built down to a competitive price. The 40cm alloy bars (everyone’s going narrow these days) are a little too stiff on really rough roads but otherwise excellent.

The wheels are also from Oval. Although billed as an aero alloy clincher, we’re not so sure a 27mm rim counts. That said, a decent spoke count of 20 front, 24 rear and generally robust build ensured they stayed true throughout testing, and the cartridge bearings should promote longevity and be easily replaced if and when the time comes. However, at 3.06kg with tyres, tubes, cassette and quick-release skewers attached, they’re the joint-heaviest wheelset on test with the Specialized’s Axis wheelset. Sadly, they share the Axis wheels’ reluctance to accelerate.

The ride

The Fuji doesn’t need fat tubes to communicate feedback from the road and allow rapid progress with compliance. But the saddle instantly irks; we felt like we were perched on an uncooked sirloin steak. It’s deeply but quite firmly padded, robbing feel from the otherwise well- damped and responsive rear end of the bike. At the front, the short head tube and narrow bars allow a low aero position with a modicum of comfort.

Fuji SL 2.3 groupset

The compact hoods and short lever throw of those Ultegra shifters go a big way to improving the enjoyment of the SL 2.3 in all circumstances. Similarly smooth yet positive engagement from the Ultegra derailleurs is a godsend, especially when you’re halfway up a climb soon after breakfast. The 105 11-28 cassette works nicely in this set-up – matched to the 52/36 chainset, the spread of gears is ample for quick progression on rolling roads, more than enough to haul ourselves up testing inclines, and we never felt like we needed a higher gear for descending. The 105 brakes offer well-modulated control with a finesse to their operation, and good stopping power when faced by a stray cat that hasn’t yet developed an understanding of the Green Cross Code. While the running gear is easily the best of all these bikes, the package is let down by its wheels.

Handling

Fuji SL 2.3 review

The Oval Concept clinchers aren’t as willing as we’d have hoped when goaded into sprinting, nor are they light enough to make short work of hills. Obviously, we’d expect this to be the case on bikes of this budget – wheels are always the first thing to give – but on a bike that uses the initials ‘SL’ (for ‘super light’) in its moniker, it’s even more of a letdown. Vittoria’s 25c rubber does its best to redeem the wheels’ performance, offering a smooth and confidence-inspiring ride at 85psi. Overall, the Fuji’s handling is particularly assured, however. There’s nothing frightening about the way it corners, and the stiff, fairly low front end (aided by the ubiquitous tapered head tube) eggs you on to turn deeply into corners before powering out of them.

We’d love to have experienced a rear end that was as helpfully communicative as the SL 2.3’s front end. It’s impressive to find an Ultegra-equipped bike for this kind of money, but we’d have taken an unexpurgated 105 groupset and improved wheels over the headline-grabbing shifters and mechs if it gave us a bike that was better suited to hills.

Geometry

Geometry chart
Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 530mm 530mm
Seat Tube (ST) 480mm 485mm
Down Tube (DT) 615mm
Fork Length (FL) 374mm
Head Tube (HT) 120mm 120mm
Head Angle (HA) 71.5 71.8
Seat Angle (SA) 73.75 73.8
Wheelbase (WB) 979mm 980mm
BB drop (BB) 68mm 68mm

Spec

Fuji SL 2.3
Frame C10 ultra high-modulus carbon frame, FC-440 forks
Groupset Shimano Ultegra
Brakes Shimano 105
Chainset Oval Concepts, 52/36
Cassette Shimano 105, 11-28
Bars Oval Concepts 310, 6061 alloy
Stem Oval Concepts 313, 6061 alloy
Seatpost Oval Concepts 905
Wheels Oval Concepts 327 aero alloy clinchers
Tyres Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slick, 25c
Saddle Oval Concepts 905
Contact evanscycles.com

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