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2011/2012 Look 586 — Riding Notes
See the Look 586 SR test bike details.
As a point of reference— my body weight was about 175 pounds as I tested the Look 695 SR— moderately heavy. My lean racing weight is about 168 pounds, with an anaerobic threshold of about 340 watts.
One of my gripes about most bicycle reviews is that a wheelset and tire choice and tire pressure are responsible for as much or more of the ride quality as the bike, making most reviews of dubious value, since bikes are typically tested with widely varying wheelsets and tires. Therefore, I felt it was essential to eliminate the wheelset as a variable, right down to the tires and tire pressure.
Accordingly, for a fair apples-to-apples comparison to my Trek Madone 6.9 SSL, I swapped my Lightweight Obermayer wheelset onto the Look 586, just as I had done for the Look 695 SR the week prior. Right down to exactly the same wheels/tires/brake pads.
Also, I rode the Look 695 SR the week prior, so its behavior was still fresh in my mind.
The 586 is not a lighter 695 SR
I had just tested the fabulous Look 695 SR, so my impressions were fresh from it, and so favorable of the 695 SR that I am considering acquiring one.
Unlike the 695 SR, the Look 586 did not bring a smile to my face, a bad sign. As a point of fact, I felt quite annoyed riding it.
Sprinting felt unrewarding, as the bike resignedly acquiesces and gets the job done well enough, but provides no enjoyable feedback as I’m used to on my favorite bikes. A positive feedback loop is important: if it feels great, I want to ride, and ride more and harder and longer. If it feels boring, well, that’s why one test-rides first.
Descending, the bike felt nervous, and thus so did I. I had to pay more attention than with the Look 695 SR or my Trek Madone 6.9 SSL. While the Look 586 would hold a line well, I felt at all times that I had to watch out for a twitch that would send me in the wrong direction. It was not a pleasant experience down Old La Honda, and I did miss my line in several places. After 3 descents, I was able to adjust, but it still demanded my attention and was just more work than fun.
Stiff and dead
The Look 586 has taught me what people mean when they say that a carbon fiber bike feels “dead”, so in that sense I applaud it, for I now know what to avoid.
The 586 feels plenty stiff— I noticed no obvious flex— but it manages to feel lifeless and devoid of personality, yet nervous while descending.
From my test ride, I internalized one key point of wisdom: I would never buy a carbon fiber bike without a good 3 hour test ride. There is too much possibility of a bike that feels this boring. For a bike in this price range, that is unacceptable.
Well, I disliked the Look 586 ride quality so much that I almost turned around back home to go switch to my Trek Madone 6.9 SSL. But professional discipline prevailed, as I reminded myself that it was to my own benefit and to the benefit of my readers to articulate the issues, and that meant completing a substantial ride (4200' of climbing and descending).
Acceleration and ride quality
Power transfer seemed fine, yet the frame was so dead in feel that I had a hard time being objective about it— I think it is efficient, but the feel left wondering what was actually going one— maybe it was better than I thought, but just with a boring feel? It did not seem to accelerate the way the 695 SR does, so that is one clue that perhaps it does give something up. Or maybe it accelerates about as well, but the dead feel makes it feel slower.
This was fairly hard to evaluate, but I would definitely rate the 586 front end as noticeably less good than the 695 SR. Braking seemed to suffer from more fork flex and vibration.
Feels a bit unstable, and I was not able to figure out exactly why. This was true in a straight line, and particularly while descending.
Perhaps the issues with the Look 586 can be mitigated by installing a carbon fiber stem and bar along with double bar tape, but this bike as I tested it is an anti-sales tool for anyone looking for comfort.
I tested the 586 with the Lightweight Obermayer wheelset, which is exceptionally comfortable, as I know from riding it in the Everest Challenge, and 6000 miles or so over the year. Thus, there can be no claim that the wheelset is at issue.
The aluminum bar and stem on the Look 586 transmitted the tiniest road vibration right through to my hands, which were wearing thick and warm winter gloves. Yet it was the most uncomfortable ride I’ve experienced on a road bike— I noticed it immediately.
When I returned home, my fingertips tingled numbly for 30 minutes— a very disturbing result. After a while they were fine, but I certainly would not want to subject my hands to that kind of abuse every day.
Then there is the seat comfort, which also transmitted the feel of every piece of grit I rode over. This was the same seat (Bontrager RL) that I rode on the 695 SR and almost the same seat as on my Trek Madone 6.9 SSL (Bontrager RXL)— so the seat itself was not the issue.
I suspect that the UD carbon (“HM 120 G / M UD (UNIDIRECTIONAL)”) is responsible for what I felt with the Look 586. The Look 695 SR uses “HM 110 G / M ULTRA LIGHT HIGH MODULUS” carbon, an entirely different material it seems.
An ultra-stiff frame can be more comfortable than a less stiff one
There is a lesson here: the ultra-rigid Look 695 SR was much more comfortable than the less stiff and very uncomfortable Look 586. I rode the 695 SR almost twice the time as the 586, and triple the distance. yet the 695 SR left me lusting after it, and the 586 made me feel an urgency to return it to the shop ASAP.
The frame design, the carbon weave, the stem and bar and seat post, the wheelset— these all are a system. Judging ride quality by frame stiffness is ludicrous.
Don’t judge a bike’s comfort by the frame stiffness, as my experience proves (to me at least) that a very stiff bike can be comfortable, and a less stiff one can be very uncomfortable.
On paper, the Look 586 should have been more comfortable than the Look 695 SR, but it managed to have a harsh ride quality that abused my hands and butt, and also managed to show descending behavior that felt like work, not fun, a nervous ride quality that I really disliked.
I suspect that installing a carbon fiber handlebar (not too stiff) and carbon fiber stem along with the Look E-post and double-thick bar wrap would address the comfort issues significantly. But I doubt that the unrewarding feel of the frame can be addressed.
Riders considering LOOK should be looking at the Look 695 SR, which was much superior in handling and comfort and personality, in spite of its on-paper stiffness.