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Bits for Climbing

From issue issue 72

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Trek Émonda SLR Race Shop Limited Disc*
It’s easy to scoff at a few grams saved here or there but the truth is, when you want to go uphill quickly (or at least faster then you have in the past), weight is a massive, objective hurdle. So why not get the lightest bike you can? For the last few seasons that bike has been the Trek Émonda; and in 2017 the new Émonda lowered the bar even further with a disc bike that is lighter than the original rim-brake version.

The old rim-brake Émonda was a mind-blowing 690-gram frame. The new rim-brake Émonda SLR is 640 grams but, more impressively, the disc-brake version is still lighter than the old rim-brake bike at 665 grams. As a complete bike, the Émonda SLR Race Shop Limited we have been testing all summer hit the scale at just 6.8 kilograms (14.9 pounds). That’s for the complete disc build with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 9170, Bontrager Aeolus 3 TLR carbon clinchers, a Bontrager cockpit and Montrose PRO saddle in a size 60cm!

The other numbers Trek touts are equally impressive. Despite the weight savings, the frame is stiffer than its predecessor. Trek uses its Series 700 carbon and the tried-and-true OCLV process the brand pioneered more than two decades ago. It’s that process that has gotten better, which is why Trek can do more with less. It started with virtual analysis, going through literally thousands of virtual designs before heading to actual prototypes.

The Émonda SLR’s response under power is next level, as if your desire to accelerate is hardwired to the contact patch. It’s not good for a disc-brake bike, it’s not good for a climbing bike, it’s phenomenal for any bike. The incredibly light package provides plenty of stiffness, but it’s balanced perfectly with a feeling of incredible precision. It’s a scalpel for surgically inflicting your will on the peloton.

The Race Shop Limited geometry is tight and steep, with a short wheelbase and aggressive stack and reach numbers. Some might call it a bit too quick; we call it precise. It adds to the bike’s race-inspired feel and we love it. As nimble as it is, take a jacket off at 30 mph, and the Émonda confidently tracks right ahead. If you want a more-relaxed response to input, go for the H2 geometry. The increased compliance in the frame really is negligible, but now you can put a 30mm tire on the bike and with a set of tubeless tires they make this ultra-light, ultra-stiff, ultra-precise race bike an adventure-ready companion with a magic-carpet ride. $3,500 (frame only); trekbikes.com

(*Race Shop Limited disc model available as a Project One Option only.)

LOOK 785 Huez RS. At just 730 grams, this is the lightest frame LOOK has ever made. There are some lighter frames, but add the svelte 280-gram fork and the list of lighter platforms shrinks considerably. As traditional as the 785 Huez looks, every tube shape and carbon choice was painstakingly engineered. Some 350 separate pieces of carbon sheet are used in the exacting layup, resulting in super-thin tube walls. Only 10 percent is ultra-high-modulus, 90-ton carbon, which creates stiffness with very light weight; and a full 50 percent is everyday 30-ton carbon, which gives the bike its durability and road-damping qualities. The rest hovers between these high- and mid-modulus materials. The 785 Huez RS has geometry that is perfectly in tune with its capabilities. A short rear end gives its stiff power platform extra reactivity, while a slightly taller head tube offers a great position for an alpine climb or long fondo campaign. The LOOK 785 Huez RS is available in builds ranging from $4,000 to $10,700. $4,000–$10,700 (varies by build); lookcycle.com

Canyon Ultimate CF EVO. Canyon is out to make a point with the new Ultimate CF EVO. First, Canyon optimized the layup. Yeah, we’ve heard that before; but Canyon did it “extensively.” Then it asked Tomomi Inada, the former Japanese Minister of Defense, if they might be able to gain access to some very special carbon materials. Canyon must have asked her nicely because the result is a frame that weighs just 665 grams and a fork at just 270 grams. Canyon claims this ultra-light frame possesses the same stiffness, comfort and durability that has made the Ultimate CF SLX one of the best bikes in the world. To put an exclamation point on the message, Canyon has created two builds that are mind-bogglingly light. The first, dubbed the Ultimate CF EVO 10.0 LTD, uses SRAM Red eTap, Lightweight Meilenstein clinchers, Canyon’s own H36 Aerocockpit CF and a THM Clavicula M3 SRM crank for 5.8 kilograms (12.8 pounds). Too heavy for you? The Ultimate CF EVO 10.0 SL uses Red 22, Lightweight Meilenstein tubulars, more THM parts and Canyon’s H18 Ergo CF bars and V13 stem for just 4.96 kilograms (10.9 pounds). $3,500 (frame/fork); canyon.com

Giordana Sahara. It’s more than bikes, wheels and waistlines that can lose weight. Why not our kits too? Giordana’s Sahara takes weight to the minimum, while not skimping on the fabric’s ability to keep you cool, since the climbs of the grand tours are synonymous with heat. The jersey is 90 grams of heat-battling fabric technology with ventilated panels and ceramic infusion for UV protection. This UV protection is a huge bonus. What good is a mesh jersey if you need to wear a base layer? And in the heat of a long day, are you going to stop and reapply sunscreen under your jersey? The Sahara bibs have the same light weight and beat-the-heat mindset. They benefit from Giordana’s 1on1 Paneling System to provide a compressive fit with minimum weight, while the core is heavily ventilated. The Cirro S Chamois and the sculpted Copa Mondiale keep the boys comfy when climbing on the rivet and weigh just 172 grams. The Sahara Desert may not have any climbs, but it has become synonymous with performance in the mountains of cycling. $160 (jersey); $200 (bibshort); giordanacycling.com

OTHER BITS TO CONSIDER

Roval CLX 32 Disc. As more road bikes spec disc wheels, finding lightweight climbing clinchers has become more difficult. Roval’s CLX 32 wheels are some of the lightest we’ve found—just 1,350 grams for a set, beating many rim-brake wheels of similar depth. The dimensions—32mm deep, 28.1mm wide, with an internal width of 20.7mm—make them ideal for the movement to higher-volume tires as well. Add to this the tubeless-ready design and the CLX 32 can shave weight from a climbing machine to an adventure rig taking on rough dirt roads. $2,400; rovalcomponents.com

A Famous Shape, Stunningly Light. Selle Italia SLR saddles are some of the most popular and recognizable saddles in the peloton, and the new C59 takes this famous shape and makes it mind-bogglingly light: just 63 grams. It’s not just the lightest Selle Italia ever, but according to our math it’s the lightest production saddle ever made. It’s pure carbon and resin, with the giant Superflow cutout. If you’re in the mood for a bit more padding, check out the SLR Tekno Flow at 110 grams, with a nice layer of padding. $550; selleitalia.com

DMT R1 Summer. The R1 Summer has everything we love about the R1, with a new upper. It’s completely mesh but covered in a polyurethane film to reinforce it. At the shoe’s instep, large ports expose the mesh, giving the upper exceptional breathability. The tongue is perforated and the outsole vented, and DMT makes every pair in its factory by hand with a team tracing its roots back to the 1980s. $340; 275g (size 41); dmtcycling.com

Factor O2. It would be easy to categorize the Factor O2 as simply a climbing bike. Its lines are slim, it’s super-light (790 grams at 54cm) and it does truly excel in the hills, but it’s more than that. The bike is incredibly stiff at the pedals and explosive under bunch-sprint-level wattage—not just the numbers a lithe climber creates. We’ve found that other bikes this light can have a shrill ride quality, but the Factor O2 remains poised and planted, whether ripping a technical descent over rough pavement or shooting a tight gap at 1,300 watts in a bunch kick. $4,700 (frame, fork, cockpit); factorbikes.com

Kask Valegro. When Team Sky’s technicians wanted a new ultra-light, incredibly ventilated and aerodynamic new helmet, they turned to Kask—the only helmet supplier the team has ever worked with. Kask used its aerodynamic experience and turned it inside out, using it to channel airflow to the rider even at slower climbing speeds, with 36 vents. Kask also tackled evaporative cooling by reducing the amount of head-to-pad contact. The 2018 Valegro comes in at just 180 grams (size S), including a full-featured fit system. $250; kask.com

ISM PN 3.0. To climb well you’ll need to spend an inordinate amount of time locked in on the nose of your saddle—and no saddle provides a better climbing position than the ISM PN 3.0. Don’t let its unusual looks scare you. It gives your soft tissue room to breathe and is safe from nerve-killing pressure, even tapping out big watts per kilo on long climbs. The sculpted nose gives your legs unobstructed freedom of movement for maximum efficiency, while the wider rear allows you to put some weight on those sit bones if the pace ever slackens. $225; ismseat.com

Zipp 202 Firecrest Disc. The king of the hill is literally the Zipp 202. The wheel has continuously evolved and in October the Firecrest version of the 202 got disc brakes, giving your disc climbing rig some more “pop” in the hills at 1,530 grams. The heart of these wheels is the versatile 77/177D hubs, meaning if you want to tackle some truly terrifying grades the wheels can be fitted with an XD driver to expand gear options to SRAM’s spin-inducing 10–42 cassettes. No climbing wheel is more proven than the Zipp 202 and now it’s disc- and tubeless-ready. $2,400; zipp.com

Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Leader V4. Pearl Izumi’s P.R.O. Leader shoes have been some of our favorite climbing shoes for the last few seasons and the latest, the V4, is the best yet. The tech—no lasting board, seamless upper, new bi-directional closure wrap, super-stiff carbon outsole—is all great, but it’s the bling that hooked us. The outsole’s rainbow electroplate may be tough to see in the saddle and may not be very practical but if you have some soul it’s a flashy addition you’ll love, and they go uphill just as fast, or faster, than any boring, naked carbon outsole. $350; pearlizumi.com

Muc-Off Hydrodynamic Lube. No WorldTour team climbs better than Team Sky and they lube up with Hydrodynamic Lube from Muc-Off. It is hand-blended to form a lubricating film that prevents metal-on-metal contact and works whether Chris Froome is tapping out 400 watts in the Alps, Geraint Thomas is lashing the Flanders field over the Kwaremont at 900 watts or you are climbing a local berg with your buddies. Free watts are never a bad thing when the road points up. $28, 50ml; muc-off.com

eeBrakes. Want to shave 100 grams off your Dura-Ace 9100 build without losing an ounce of performance? Every dimension, every ridge, every curve of the eeBrake has been sculpted to remove even a milligram of superfluous material for 162 grams of stopping power. The power is delivered progressively for easy modulation, cable path is smooth and direct, adjustment is tool-less and they open wide to easily allow for 28mm rubber. $315 each; canecreek.com

CLIF Nut Butter Filled Energy Bar. The Nut Butter Filled Energy Bar puts nut butter inside an organic energy bar that has 7 grams of protein and is low on the glycemic index. With 230 calories, one bar packs enough punch to fill the nutritional needs of more than an hour’s riding and comes in five tasty flavors. It’s not just the calories that will keep you going—check out the label for a new image of company founder Gary Erickson climbing the legendary Gavia Pass in Italy. $21.48 (12-pack of 1.76oz bars); shop.clifbar.com

Elite Fly Bottle and Vico Cage. What’s the first thing you do at the bottom of the final climb? Toss your empty bottles to save those precious grams, right? Well, maybe, if you carry a UCI WorldTour license. Never mind the litter, good bottles are expensive. Elite has the answer for all you gram counters. Its new combo of Fly Bottle and Vico cage weighs just 78 grams—empty of course. That’s less than the vast majority of quality bottles alone. $8 Fly Bottle, $40 Vico Cage; elite-it.com