Devinci isn't often the first name to come to mind when it comes to high performance road bikes, but if its flagship Leo SL platform is anything to go by, perhaps it should be. Ride quality is excellent, it's stiff and spritely off the line, and handling manners are well suited for both all-day epics and criteriums. Aside from some minor fit and spec issues, this machine is certainly worth a closer look.
- Pros: Fantastic ride quality, good value, very lightweight, solid spec, great handling
- Cons: Noisy cassette, narrow rims, poorly placed bottle mount, frame isn't superlight
Ride & handling: Fantastic balance of stiffness and comfort
Devinci looks to be targeting the bell curve of the market with the Leo SL, as it's neither an uber-stiff race bike nor an ultra-plush endurance machine. Instead, its carbon frame strikes an excellent balance between efficiency and comfort that should suit most riders looking for a do-it-all road machine.
Ride quality is much smoother than we expected given the relatively large seat stays, oversized seatpost and extended seat tube, and the narrow rims and tires. The Leo SL is firm and communicative on smooth pavement but nevertheless surprisingly forgiving when you hit unexpected bumps.
Even coarse textures such as washboarded dirt roads and chip seal are handled with aplomb. There's ample feedback coming up through the bar and saddle but it's muted to the point where we rarely found it bothersome.
The confidence-inspiring handling behavior mimics the refined ride quality. We found the Leo SL to be rock solid when bombing down alpine descents at 80km/h yet it's still eager to make last-minute line changes through decreasing-radius corners without requiring excessive handlebar or hip input.
The extended seat tube and 31.6mm-diameter seatpost don't suggest comfort at first, but the Devinci Leo SL is actually quite cushy
Neither the stiffest nor the softest bike we've ridden by any means, the Leo SL's stout backbone and oversized lower tube dimensions give it great snap under power. It's perfectly comfortable on more casual cruises where you're just looking to eat up some miles, yet the chassis is also ready and willing to stomp up short and steep grades out of the saddle or shut down high-speed gaps in a group ride.
While Devinci seems to have nailed the key performance metrics on the Leo SL, we nevertheless encountered some oddities with the fit. First off, Devinci offers the Leo SL in a scant five sizes that are intended to cover a huge range of rider heights from 1.47m to 1.93m (4ft 10in to 6ft 4in). Nevertheless, we found little real-world variation between the small and medium sizes, with just a 3mm difference in reach.
Stack changes more dramatically from size to size, with a whopping 105mm spread between the XS and XL options, so you're likely to find some wiggle room depending on your preferred positioning. Speaking of which, Devinci appears to stray more toward the mainstream here, as our medium-sized test bike came with a relatively short 100mm stem and comparatively wide 44cm (center-to-center) bar – both of which favor a more upright stance than an attacking one.
As Devinci offers the Leo SL in both standard and compact drivetrains, we'd prefer the company follow Canyon's lead and pair those with corresponding changes to the cockpit – longer and narrower for the former, shorter and wider for the latter.
Frame: Smooth lines and a split personality
Devinci's 'Dual Core Fusion' marketing speak suggests the Leo SL is built of separate upper and lower halves that are joined in the middle to create a stiff, oversized spine melded to a smooth-riding pillow top. While our tests generally agree with that description, the modular monocoque construction is still decidedly mainstream, with a one-piece front triangle joined to separate rear stays.
As is becoming increasingly common these days, Devinci has foregone outlandish tube shapes in favor of mostly rounded forms and smooth transitions to maximize the stiffness-to-weight ratio.
Typically modern features are littered throughout, including a 1 1/8in to 1 1/2in tapered front end, an 86mm-wide press-fit bottom bracket shell with a correspondingly broad seat tube and down tube, asymmetrical and widely set chain stays, and internal cable routing that can be configured for mechanical or electronic transmissions. Seat stays are certainly smaller than the chain stays but they're not radically so like with some of the bike's competition.
The matching fork is all carbon, with notably stout blades that undoubtedly contribute to the bike's confident cornering feel, and co-molded aluminum faces that guard the composite tips from wear. Rear dropouts are aluminum.
Internal cable routing can be configured for mechanical or electronic transmissions on the Devinci Leo SL
One distinguishing feature is the Leo SL's extended seat tube and particularly bulbous seat cluster. How much those actually contribute to the bike's comfy-riding rear end behavior and stable pedaling foundation is subject to debate but it's at least something to set the Leo SL apart from a visual perspective.
Devinci doesn't bill the Leo SL as an ultralight chassis and our test sample bears that out. Actual frame weight for our medium-sized sample is 1,120g, including the seatpost collar, cable routing hardware, and rear derailleur hanger – respectable numbers but nothing that will set the weight weenies' hearts aflutter and a fair bit higher than the 930g claim.
Cables are relatively easy to feed through the frame thanks to removable stops and a big exit port at the bottom bracket. Smart routing paths – such as the rear brake cable, which enters underneath the top tube but exits on top of it – produce minimal friction, too.
The only real hiccup we noticed was that the bosses on the seat tube are drilled too high, making it difficult to insert or remove a large bottle depending on the make and model of cage we used.
Equipment: Solid spec but could use more modern wheels
Devinci offers the Leo SL in seven different build kits depending on your budget and preferences; we went with the SRAM Red 2012 version and, for the most part, there is little to fault.
As we've noticed in the past, shift quality is crisp and quick, with lots of tactile and aural feedback coming from the DoubleTap levers – there's no question over whether you've initiated a shift. The new Yaw-equipped front derailleur firmly moves the chain back and forth between the revamped chainrings, even under power, and, just as promised, there's virtually no cage rub regardless of gear combination (though it takes some careful fine-tuning to get there).
Devinci does, however, substitute in a previous-generation Red cassette and a Shimano Ultegra chain. The former shifts about as well as the newer version but runs noticeably noisier. However, the chain partially offsets the noise problem so it's mostly a wash.
Thankfully, Devinci doesn't skimp on the Red 2012 brakes, whose cam-actuated, single pivot redesign lends excellent stopping power coupled with a confidently firm lever and good modulation.
We're a little more mixed on the Easton EA90 SLX wheels, though, particularly now that we've seen the company's new designs for 2014. The shallow rims feel great on steep climbs but their 15mm internal width doesn't provide much support for the tires.
The Easton EC90 SLX3 bar's surprising comfort is balanced out by the stem's stout and stiff square-section construction
Likewise, the corresponding 23mm Vittoria Rubino Pro Slick tires are light and roll quickly but we wouldn't mind some extra meat in both departments, which would provide not only a smoother ride but even more capable cornering with a minimal impact on weight.
Finishing kit is spot on. The Easton EC90 SLX3 carbon fiber bar is one of our favorites for its versatile, compound curve bend and refined ride quality. Paired to the bar is the company's square-section EC90 SL molded carbon fiber stem, which is lightweight but impressively stout. Finally, Devinci opts for a house-brand carbon seatpost but with a Selle Italia SLR Monolink Kit Carbonio Flow saddle, whose unusually narrow nose virtually disappears underneath you while pedaling but still remains remarkably supportive and comfortable.
Total weight as tested is an excellent 6.64kg (14.64lb) without pedals. Coupled with the comparatively reasonable pricing, the Leo SL offers not only great overall performance but pretty good value, too.