When Storck announced a 740g carbon fibre frame at last year's Eurobike we were sceptical. Could this be a step too far? Is under a kilo for a frame and fork too light?
And with the ultimate build set-up you're looking at a complete bike that comes in at 4.8kg (10.7lb in old money). That's 2kg under the UCI limit for Pro Tour bikes. And did we mention that the bike tested here costs over £10 grand?
The Fascenario 0.7 differs from Storck's previous carbon bikes in that it now has a patented mould process. Called VVC (Vacuum Void Controlled), this virtually eliminates any resin voids within the carbon structure, and reduces possible weaknesses in the construction.
Each frame produced by Storck is tested on a powerful hydraulic rig that puts the frame through the equivalent of many years' normal use. The data recorded in this test is then analysed and any frame that doesn't meet these controls is discarded immediately.
As for the design, it shares the ovalised and oversized head-tube of previous carbon Storcks (similar in design to those from Isaac and Principia) joined to a huge diameter downtube into a massive bottom bracket area. The chainstays are also massively deep, at over an inch and a half and over an inch wide in the centre, tapering at both the BB and dropout ends. Up front is the latest evolution of the superb Stiletto fork, which has proved one of the most laterally stiff we've ever tested. In this guise it's the superlight UMS version, weighing just 260g.
The frame will cost you £2,649, which is comparable to high-end frames from Colnago, Pinarello and Seven, and less than the flagship models of some of these. The fork, meanwhile, at £706 is the most expensive we've ever tested, but the Race SL Stiletto in a 1k weave finish (to match the 0.7 frame) is a much more reasonable £288 and is still light at 320g.
You'd expect a bike that weighs under 11lb to be skittish, probably flexible and more than likely a bit delicate. The 0.7 is none of these things. One word describes the ride: phenomenal. Forget everything you know about race bikes - this redefines speed. On the flat it pulses forward under high cadence willing you to go that bit harder, that much faster, to push yourself to the limit. And things get even more interesting when the road starts to rise...
Although we fully expected the Fascenario to shine when we took it uphill, it does so much more than that. Climbing doesn't feel like it does on any other bike because its sheer lack of weight means you'll tackle climbs on two or more cogs harder than a 'normal' bike.
Descending took some serious adjustment, however. Maintaining high speeds requires more pedal input than usual, but this is balanced by the ease at which direction can be changed. The superb stiffness of the chassis makes corrections instantaneous and hard cornering a breeze, although you do have to adjust the amount of effort needed to push through sweeping bends with economic shifting of body weight rather than hauling the bike from side to side.
Sprinting out of the saddle is nothing short of stunning, with instant and rapid acceleration. We wondered how much of this would be down to a wheelset that weighs less than a kilo, so we replaced the wheels with a handbuilt set that was a similar weight to a Kysrium ES, but it still felt just as quick and considerably more comfortable (the wheelset here was fitted with hard riding 22mm tubular tyres).
Let's be fair: this build isn't what 99.9 per cent of the population would ever consider buying for normal use. It's here to showcase what can be achieved in the pursuit of the ultimate lightweight machine, and has only been built for the very deep of pocket.
We'll start up front. The integrated ceramic headset is butter-smooth and free from vibration, and it managed to keep that way despite the unseasonably torrential rain of the test period. The Schmolke TLO (The Light One) handlebars damp vibration from the road brilliantly, and the 44cm bar weighs in at just 149g.
We were less impressed with the Syntace F99 stem, which appears to be strong enough, but bigger riders on this test felt a great deal of flex. Braking is controlled and smooth, however, with AX's Orion callipers running SwissStop carbon specific pads (the best for carbon brake surfaces).
THM's Clavicula cranks handle the power transfer and, despite the incredibly low weight of 420g (including BB cups), they are among the stiffest we've ever tried. The AX post and saddle are again of the ultra light variety. The saddle, despite being a carbon shell, is shaped just right for comfort, although the high gloss finish becomes very slippery when wet, so our preference would still be for something with a cloth or leather surface.
Reduction in weight is as we all know is very important in improving a race bike, the Lew Racing Pro VT-1 is the lowest weight wheelset we have ever seen - at just 910g a pair it's about the same as a high quality rear wheel on a serious race bike.
The Lews are an incredible asset on climbs and on the flat changes of speed are instant, overall the feel is quite hard but with added zing. Tufo's Elite road tubulars were fitted and these are a good compromise between super high pressure tubs (usually hard riding) and a supple more forgiving tyre, although not as comfortable as either a larger diameter tyre or a high quality - and high cost - natural rubber Challenge Strada 23mm tubular.
Lighter riders felt more at home on the Lews than our bigger and taller testers, for whom the wheel seems to wander under hard riding. So if you are a bigger or harder rider than the norm and in the market for a wheelset of this calibre we'd recommend the Clydesdale version which adds 200g to the overall weight.
The only other minor niggle is more about the rider than the wheels; with them being so light (and expensive) we found ourselves backing off over rough broken surfaces, and to be honest, although we revelled in these hoops they're not for everyday - only race days for the rich or very well sponsored...
The headline figures defy belief - 740g frame, 10.7lb/4.8kg complete bike, sub kilo wheelset, and a complete bike price in excess of £10,000 - so let's be honest, we are not dealing with an everyday bike here.
That said, the Fascenario is quite simply stunning - an incredible bike that's better than anything else we've tried, and so far in advance in every respect, that this test is akin to testing a Formula 1 car in What Car magazine. In the real world, though, match the frameset with a second tier groupset (Ultegra or Chorus), standard top flight wheels (Fulcrum, Shimano, Campag...) and quality finishing kit, and you could have the most advanced race bike available at a price not dissimilar to a top of the range Trek, Colnago, Cannondale or Scott.
Believe us, you wouldn't be disappointed.