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Fuji SL 2.5 review

3 Jun 2016
Verdict:

An impressively light and easy-handling bike, despite a low and racy ride position

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£1,499
For 
Racy, and not overly twitchy despite being lightweight
Against 
The wheels are a bit of a drag

About the bike

When Fuji brought out the SL last year, its top-end model, the 1.1 was the lightest production bike in the world. For the price of that 4.96kg wonder bike you could almost buy a fleet of six 2.5s, Fuji’s entry-level alternative. So how much superbike magic has been passed down? With not a millimetre or degree to tell between the two in terms of geometry, it’s got all the markers of being a swift ride. But how much of an anchor will the additional weight and more basic components be on a bike originally designed to be a world beater?

The Spec

Frameset

In its glossy yet understated, two-tone blue paint job the Fuji is certainly a looker. Low at the front, yet with sensible steering and a medium wheelbase the SL rewards putting in some serious effort. Yet its well-mannered handling means it won’t get hairy in the corners unless you do something very odd. Thanks to its short head tube, the top and down tubes either meet just before the head tube or, on larger frames, at an additional reinforcing bridge. The result is a front end without a hint of twanginess. By comparison the seatstays are spidery little things to boost comfort at the back end. The seat tube starts off round at the top before squaring up to meet the medium-sized BB30 bottom bracket assembly. All in it’s a pretty looking package. 

Groupset

Shimano 105 shifters and mechs are typically smooth. There are a few variations. The non-series Shimano BR-561 brakes aren’t quite as good as 105, using a slightly more basic mechanism but they’re still streets ahead of many non-brand alternatives and powerful enough to keep you feeling confident. The Oval compact chainset works well. Shifting is good and although it’s probably less stiff than a matching Shimano number unless you’ve got huge legs you’d be hard pushed to tell.

Finishing kit

The Oval Concept bars are short and shallow, going someway to domesticating the low front end. Their tapering profile is particularly pleasing in the hand. The seatpost and stem are businesslike. While we didn’t particularly dislike the fairly densely padded saddle it grates slightly with the bike’s otherwise racy disposition. Although the frame has an oversize BB30 design, it actually runs a standard external bottom bracket via an adapter.   

Wheels

The Oval wheels are not particularly light, which is a bit of a shame when coupled to such a minimalist frame. They show every indication of being robust though, with sealed cartridge bearings and speedy pickup from the hub. The folding Vittoria Zaffiro tyres don’t add unnecessary weight, are competent performers and at 25c wide, come in the size most consumers would choose.

The ride

First impression

With not much of a stack to the front end, the Fuji feels like it’s ready to get down to business, instantly dropping you into a head-down position. So much so, in fact, that unless you’re feeling particularly lithe you’ll probably want to chuck a couple of spacers below the stem. The first test sprint reveals an obstinately stiff front end, matched by a rear triangle that’s equally disinclined to give anything away in terms of unwanted flex. 

On the road

The SL bills itself as a lightweight race bike, and while in this cheaper iteration it might not be as incredibly feathery as the top-end model, its frame is still a long way from obese. The riding position is instantly recognisable as the sort that would reward putting your shoulder to the wheel and getting down to some work, whether leading a pace-line or sprinting for the finish. Nothing in the componentry stands out negatively. The 105 parts are a familiar and welcome sight and while undoubtedly there to save a little money, the Oval brand crankset is efficient and unobtrusive in its operation. As is almost universally the case on bikes at this price, the wheels are a little uninspiring, putting a slight damper on the bike’s acceleration. The saddle was comfortable enough, although its plentiful high-density padding might not suit riders intending to use the SL as an out-and-out racer. 

Handling

Despite its fairly low and aggressive front end, bounce the Fuji into the rough stuff and it’s not too unforgiving, something inherent to the frame but also aided by the 25c tyres. This slightly split personality is carried through to the handling. Some very racy bikes will have a head angle that edges toward vertical. This makes for a very agile bike that requires minimal steering input to turn but does also tend to require a degree of vigilance and experience to keep on the straight and narrow. The Fuji’s fairly temperate 71.5° head angle is likely to be a good fit for the majority of riders. It’s far from being so slack as to leave the bike uninteresting to chuck around, but means piloting it round corners is far less nervy. While an overall lack of weight is always good, the Fuji has a slightly uneven split between lightweight frameset and moderately bulky wheels, which means the ride isn’t quite as responsive as the headline figures might suggest. That said, you can’t economically upgrade a frame in the same way you can a wheelset so maybe this isn’t that bad a compromise. 

Spec

Frame C10 ultra high-mod with carbon dropouts, BB30, tapered full carbon fork 
inc dropouts.
Groupset Shimano 105 5800, 11-speed
Brakes

Shimano BR-561

Chainset Oval Concepts 520, 50/34
Cassette SRAM PG1170, 11-28
Bars Oval Concepts 310, butted 6061 alloy, 31.8mm
Stem Oval Concepts 313, 6061 3D-forged alloy, 31.8mm, +/- 7 deg
Saddle Oval Concepts R500
Seatpost Oval Concepts 905, carbon wrapped alloy, 27.2mm
Wheels Oval 327 Aero Alloy
Tyres Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slick, 60tpi folding, 25c
Contact evanscycles.com

Geometry 

Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 545mm 540mm
Seat Tube (ST) 500mm 503mm
Down Tube (DT) 615mm
Fork Length (FL) 379mm
Head Tube (HT) 135mm 135mm
Head Angle (HA) 73 73
Seat Angle (SA) 73.5 73.5
Wheelbase (WB) 974mm 972mm
BB drop (BB) 68mm 68mm

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