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Look 695 SR Carbon Fiber Road Bike

Today, courtesy of Palo Alto Bicycles, I test-rode the Look 695 carbon fiber road bike. (And no, you don’t have to get the fancy paint job in the 'Collection Unique').

To make a fair comparison to my Trek Madone 6.9 SSL, I swapped my Lightweight Obermayer wheelset onto the Look 695 and set out for a spin— I’ll be riding it tomorrow as well.

Test bike — the SR (Super Rigid) frame

Here is what I rode:

  • Look 695 SR frame with Look carbon C-Stem, HSC-7 fork, ZED-2 carbon fiber crankset.
  • Look seat post (not the lighter E-Post, which has elastomers, E=“elastomer”).
  • Bontrager Affinity RXL saddle.
  • Shimano DuraAce PD-7900 pedals
  • My Lightweight Obermayer wheelset with Veloflex Record (front) and Veloflex Sprinter (rear) tires.
  • Two bottles cages.
  • SRAM Red drivetrain.

With DuraAce pedals, the above weighed in at 14.18 pounds. Since DuraAce PD-7900 pedals weigh 0.55 pounds, that’s a bike weight without pedals of 13.63 pounds. And that’s including the bottle cages, so take 1/10 off for 13.53 pounds. A Shimano DuraAce DI2 setup is heavier, so I understand.

My Trek Madone 6.9 SSL with Shimano DI2, same pedals and wheels weighs in at 14.3 pounds with the SRM 7950 power meter crankset and head unit, so the Trek would likely about the same, or even a bit lighter than the Look 695 above (if the Trek did not have the SRM setup), since the Trek weighed in at 13.99 pounds before the SRM upgrade.

Riding impressions

My reference bike is my own Trek Madone 6.9 SSL.

  • I felt at home on the Look 695 SR immediately. The bike had no oddball quirks, handling was terrific, response was instant, etc.
  • Acceleration and ride quality— the Look 395 SR offers an extremely firm ride, with absolutely no detectable give under the most extreme effort. While the Trek is quite stiff, it is definitely not as stiff as the Look 695 SR, and this can be felt.
  • Comfort— compared to my Trek Madone 6.9 SSL, the Look 695 SR has more road feel, transmitting more vibration, but surprisingly still felt very comfortable. The Lightweight Obermayer wheelset might have a lot to do with this. However, I did not ride with the E-post (elastomer post),which has built-in dampening elastomers, so my impressions are a worst-case for comfort. Wheelset and tire choice is likely to be a huge factor of course.
  • As far as I can tell, the Lightweight Obermayer wheelset was made for this bike!
  • Descending and handling— on my favorite local climb of Old La Honda Road, handling while descending was impressive— better than any bike I’ve ever ridden, and OLH is a road I’ve descended hundreds of times, so I know it intimately.
  • The Look 695 SR definitely handles better than the Trek Madone 6.9 SSL while descending. While the Trek has excellent handling (and I have 8000 miles or so this year on mine), the front end of the Look 695 SR is exquisitely precise in its steering, and it inspires confidence. It was an exultant pleasure settling the Look 695 SR into a turn— I not only loved the feel, I felt safer and more in control.
  • Braking felt more in control, more controlled. My theory is that the stiffer front end of the Look 695 SR reduces any deformations of the fork under hard braking, and thus the bike remains more predictable and consistent in handling.
  • I would never even consider building a frame as wonderful as the Look 695 SR with SRAM Red; SRAM Red shifting is not even in the same league as Shimano DuraAce DI2, and worse, the SRAM levers just do not fit my hands where they connect to the handlebar— a lump in the wrong place (I had the same problem on the Moots Psychlo X RSL).

Stiffness for the sake of stiffness is pointless. But assuredly, the Look 695 SR frame uses that stiffness for the best ride I have ever experienced.

Power meter — no SRM support, but Keo Power

I use the SRM 7950 power meter on my Trek Madone 6.9 SSL. The SRM can be used on the Look 695 SR with suitable cups for the bottom bracket, according to Palo Alto Bicycles.

Unless one wishes to dispense with the incredible Look carbon fiber crankset (a very bad idea for this frameset, methinks), another solution is needed. But on the near-term horizon are the Look/Polar Keo Power pedals.

One intriguing aspect of the pedal solution is that perhaps even mountain bike and cyclocross bikes could use them, though it’s unclear as yet how practical this is (clearance, cleats, shoes, etc).

Another intriguing feature of the pedal-based system is that one can have power readout for left and right pedals, to gauge the power output from each leg independently. But I’m not a fan of apparently small screens as on the Polar 600X unit. Older eyes and dim light are a bad combination.

But a warning for Mac users like myself: the Polar software is only for PC users (I really don’t want to run Windows in a virtualization program, and I don’t want the lousy solution of having to use a web site to download power data— useless while traveling). So the power meter situation is less than ideal, at least for Mac users.

What’s next

The comfort question to answer is how the Look 695 SR rides for 3-5 hours, or longer.

I’ll be riding the Look 695 SR for 2 more days. My intent is to ride it on the most uncomfortable pavement I know of, and on a 4-5 hour ride, so as to determine just what the comfort is like on a longer ride with bad pavement (for locals: the Hwy 84 pavement from La Honda to Hwy 1 in the SF Bay Area).

The image below is a stock marketing photo; I rode the same frameset, but with my own wheels/tires, SRAM Red and the standard seatpost (note the E-Post).

Look 695 carbon fiber road bike
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