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Look 795 Blade RS review

18 Apr 2019
Verdict:

Ultimately let down by its spec rather than the frame and fork. It has the potential to be so much better

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£2,900 frameset, approx £6,975 as tested
For 
Frame and fork strikes a decent balance of stiffness and shock dampening. Undeniably fast with assured handling
Against 
Seatpost bolt requires a lot of torque to prevent slippage. A touch heavy for this price

This article was originally published in issue 84 of Cyclist magazine

Look has always been a pioneering brand. As well as launching the first clipless pedals in 1984, the French company also lays claim to creating the first carbon road bike frame, as used by Greg LeMond in 1986 (albeit with aluminium lugs).

More recently, Look has become known for producing some of the most distinctive bikes on the market, often sporting innovative bespoke components.

One example was this bike’s predecessor, the 795 Aerolight. It had a dramatically sloped top tube that blended seamlessly into the stem, plus a V-style front brake housed within the fork legs.

It also came with Look’s unique carbon Zed cranks, made as a single piece for stiffness and lightness.

The first thing that struck me about the 795 Blade RS, then, was that Look has backtracked towards something a bit more, well… normal.

Product manager Frédéric Caron explains that the company took this course after accepting that there were some (mostly mechanical) complexities with the Aerolight that were off-putting to some.

‘Shop mechanics were not keen to work on it, so we had to develop the 795 Blade RS with much more sympathy to the consumer,’ he admits.

To that end, fancy integrated brakes and the Zed crank have been replaced by stock hardware: Shimano’s flagship Dura-Ace mechanical kit.

The top tube is now pitched closer to horizontal, giving this new frame a more typical silhouette, and although it’s still obviously an integrated aero affair, the 795 Blade RS is ostensibly less complicated than past models.

There’s a ‘but’…

Despite Look’s good intentions, when this test bike arrived with the brakes Euro-style, requiring me to switch them, I found myself battling some tricky (and frankly overly complex) cabling foibles inside Look’s own aero handlebar.

A few vexing hours later, brakes finally sorted and at last out on the road, I was faced with another issue.

The seatpost slipped no matter how hard I tried with my multitool to tighten it, leaving me having to procure some gaffer tape from road workers to get home.

Initially I gave Look the benefit of the doubt (as slipping posts are not uncommon), so before my next ride I simply made sure to add some grip paste and re-check the bolt.

But the post slipped again.

In desperation I resorted to taking the post out at the roadside and smearing it with grit, trying to add friction.

When this failed my final bodge was to jam foliage into the seat tube in an effort to wedge the post. Laughably, it worked.

Not the best of starts, then. But things can only get better, right? Not entirely.

It was early December when I began testing the Blade, with its full-carbon Corima 47 WS1 clincher wheels, which alone cost close to £2k, and for which Corima insists on supplying cork brake pads.

Cork is perfect for stopping wine bottles but highly ineffectual at slowing – let alone stopping – road bikes in anything other than bone-dry conditions.

As for the tyres, Vittoria’s cheapo, steel-beaded Zaffiro Pro Slicks have no place on a bike that would cost £7k as specced. They simply don’t provide the refined feel of top-level rubber.

And while I’m about it, I might point out that a range-topping rim brake bike being over 8kg has to be labelled as a bit of a porker in the current market. Clearly Look had some explaining to do.

Problems solved

Caron was understanding as we talked through my grievances. Starting with the seatpost, he instructed me to clean all surfaces thoroughly to remove all traces of grip paste (and soil, ahem), grease the bolt threads and tighten to 10-15Nm.

That did feel rather extreme, as that’s a lot of torque for a small bolt (5-7Nm is more common on bikes), but he assured me Look had tested it and indeed the post did then subsequently hold firm.

And what of the bars, wheels and tyres? Caron assured me there are already updated versions of both the wheels and handlebars available.

That was welcome news, but did rather beg the question why a company would send a bike for testing with products that are knowingly already superseded.

But here’s the thing: it doesn’t matter anyway. If you’re buying a Blade in the UK, it’s only available as a frameset (£2,900 including fork, headset and seatpost; add the stem for £115), which means the spec is entirely your choosing.

As an aside, this also means the bike might appeal as a TT or triathlon build as its adjustable seatpost head facilitates (relative) seat tube angles from 71.8° to 78.4°.

This throws my review a little into disarray. On the one hand, I’m obliged to tell as I find, and based on this build the 795 Blade RS plainly did not win my favour.

But my gripes were with the components, not the frame (once the seatpost issue was solved). The frame itself actually has a lot of merits.

Those chunky aero tubes are, as expected, resolutely stiff laterally, resisting any undesirable flex, but overall the 795 Blade RS doesn’t feel unwieldy or overly harsh.

The modicum of compliance offered by the bowed seatstays and fork legs makes it a little more accommodating on a rough road than a good number of its aero competitors I’ve tested.

And, credit where it’s due, this Look is unquestionably fast. When I swapped the wheels for Zipp 404 NSWs fitted with Vittoria’s top-end Corsa tyres (ditching the cork), the experience was immediately more positive, hinting at what the 795 Blade RS would be capable of with a more refined spec.

Despite my initial reservations, the 795 Blade RS ultimately proved itself to be an accomplished aero racer. But it still has a big problem – the sheer strength of the competition.

The Blade sits in a class that includes bikes such as the Cannondale SystemSix, Trek Madone and Specialized Venge, and it doesn’t match up to those bikes.

I can’t help but feel that Look’s strongest asset was its individuality – the bikes were like no others on the market.

By making its latest model more like everything else, Look has lost a little bit of its magic. Since when was standing out from the crowd a bad thing?

Spec

Frame Look 795 Blade RS
Groupset Shimano Dura-Ace
Brakes Shimano Dura-Ace
Chainset Shimano Dura-Ace
Cassette Shimano Dura-Ace
Bars Look Aero Design
Stem Look Aero Design
Seatpost Look Aeropost 2 
Saddle Selle Italia SLR saddle
Wheels Corima 47 WS1, Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slick 25mm tyres
Weight 8.01kg (large)
Contact zyrofisher.co.uk

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