This article originally appeared on BikeRadar
Look's flagship 795 shows a maker positively obsessed with the idea of integration. The stem, crank and seatmast cap are all absorbed into a holistic design.
- Highs: Fast on good wheels, pretty stiff
- Lows: Integration adds hassle, substandard stock hoops
- Buy if: Your heart is set on a look, and you've already got the high-end rolling stock to get the most from this bike – or a pocket full of cash
Since the launch of the fabulous 695 in 2010, integration has formed the French brand's focus. Bicycles are, for better and worse, simply a collection of components. In aiming to integrate more components together, Look – famed in the 80s for inventing clipless pedals and pioneering carbon frame development – hit upon a rich seam of potential for further innovation.
The question is, does this approach produce a better bike or is it innovation for its own sake?
There are two versions: this Light and the Aerolight with integrated brakes. In the UK the Light is available as a complete bike with Shimano Ultegra or as tested with Dura-Ace. The Aerolight is only available complete with Dura-Ace.
All three builds use the same Look ADH carbon aero road bar, Selle Italia Monolink SLR Flow saddle and Mavic Aksium Elite wheels. That last item might jar but they are only intended as training hoops – UK agent Fisher told us that Look expects customers of these bikes to already own at least one set of high-end wheels. This is common practice for time trial bikes but certainly unusual for a high-end road bike.
Signature Look details
The signature feature of the 795 is the front end. The top tube is radically raised to line up with the Aerostem. It makes the bike appear very tall – and the look divides opinion – but at least it's different.
To allow height adjustment without using spacers and ruining that smooth line, the stem can tilt +17° to -13° using an internal mechanism, giving 57mm of vertical range for a 110mm stem. Even so, it couldn't get down to my preferred 12cm drop despite a lofty 80.5cm seat height.
What's more, adjustment requires hitting it with a hammer alarmingly hard (we watched a Look technician do it) to release the wedge clamp.
The new Zed 3 crankset is a work of art. It's made as a monocoque, with the two arms, the axle and the fairing all one piece. It has mountings at both 110 and 130BCD, so you can run any rings you like, and it's fitted by passing the left crank through the bottom bracket, necessitating the huge 65mm diameter BB.
Because the cranks are expensive to make, Look came up with a smart solution to provide enough length options: the Trilobe insert can be rotated through three positions to give effective lengths of 170, 172.5 and 175mm. On the down side, the unique axle size and thick arms limit your power meter options; neither cranksets nor Garmin Vector 2 pedals will fit.
Look's E-Post 2 seatmast cap includes an elastomer to damp vibration, though the effect is slight and the ride is firm at the bar and pedals. Its quill-type clamp is elegant but fragile so a torque wrench is essential. It comes with Selle Italia's Monolink system though it can also take regular saddles, so you're not tied to the SLR Flow that suits some but is narrow and firm.
Our main concern for the 795 was that the small junction at the head tube and top tube would be a weak link in the handling. It's actually more robust than expected, if still missing the ultimate precision of the most poised bikes. It's even better under power, the lower half of the frame resolute against any effort.
Light by name, not light enough out of the box
After my first day of testing up in North Yorkshire was abruptly ended by a storm, the second day dawned with snow flurries in the air, leaving no doubt over what to wear: everything. I reprised the route, east then down Blubberhouses and north to Glasshouses, at which point I joined the route of stage 1 of this year's Tour de Yorkshire at its most interesting point.
Flat from Beverley to Harrogate, things get spicy from Pateley Bridge. Having had no call for inner rings up to this point, you're faced with a 16% wall out of the town, and then another, then a third, each cruel ramp separated by winding sections that remain steep enough to prevent much recovery.
Being far from fully fit, I admit to being grateful for the 795's 34x28 bottom gear, otherwise an odd choice on an aero bike. Satisfyingly stiff, the Look climbs decently but its weight and especially the wheels prevented it from sparkling.
In all, the climb continues for 4km and rises to more than 350m, affording incredible views. With 10cm of snow by the roads and a block headwind, it was a hard slog from here and the sweat from the climb was chilling me so I sought refuge in a café, where a large coffee and a piece of cake the size of a house brick gave a boost to see me home. Still, I think it was the hardest and slowest 75km I've ever done.
At 7.45kg including the pedals, and at this price, this bike really stretches its ‘Light' moniker. What's more, Look doesn't make any claims for the aero gains of the 795, which is unusual these days. The NACA-derived airfoil shapes are skinny and clearly prioritise low wind yaw angles. Does it feel fast? On these wheels, no, it doesn't – though nothing would.
This should be an even pricier bike with worthy wheels and a sub-7kg weight. Instead, it's an uncomfortable compromise, hobbled with desperately disappointing Mavic Aksium Elites, which are dandy on bikes at a quarter of the price but not acceptable here. They're flexy, slow and undermine the frame's high stiffness.
When we did eventually try some upgrade wheels, as Look expects customers to do, we found there isn't clearance for 25mm Conti GP4000S II rubber on wide Enve 4.5 clinchers. With 4.5 tubs fitted instead, the 795 felt much brighter and faster, though not as spectacular as it should have.
Similarly priced aero-road rivals from Giant, Scott, Canyon, Ridley, and more, come with far superior wheels and a chassis that outperforms the 795. In that context, the awkwardness of the integrated parts is even harder to forgive. This isn't a bad bike, but you'd have to really want a Look to ignore its competition.