You won't have heard of Zero – yet – but the Dorset-based brand looks set to make a splash with its launch of road bikes and components in January.
And if our sample Absolute is anything to go by, Zero will certainly be a name to look out for, thanks to its blend of quality and value.
- HIGHS: Well-engineered frame; handling
- LOWS: Brake pads lack bite
- BUY IF... You want one bike to fit all
The Absolute is the first bike that Zero will be launching. They also have a time trial bike and some carbon wheels also currently in development. Zero has been working in cooperation with a well established bike company on the designs and build, ensuring that both benefit from design acumen and economies of scale.
The Absolute SL is very much an all-rounder – it's more aggressive than a sportive bike, though not quite as harsh as an all-out race machine. The tapered head tube gives way to a chunky down tube with a squared-off rounded profile, while box-like chainstays meet the huge, stiff bottom bracket junction that houses a threaded bottom bracket. Stick a pair of stiff racing wheels in this frame and it'll really fly.
Looking at that stout down tube, bottom bracket and chainstays you might expect a pretty harsh ride, but slim seatstays and a top tube that narrows towards the seat tube take the sting out, while the tapered teardrop profile carbon fork provides plenty of steering accuracy without jarring your wrists.
The boxed chainstays change shape along their length, into a more rounded profile which Zero says gives far better ride characteristics than full box section stays.
Zero has used Toray T700 carbon fibre for the Absolute SL, which it says gives a more compliant ride than the T1000 it plans to use on a more race orientated frame.
Our Absolute SL came with dependable if not flashy kit. SRAM's 10-speed Apex groupset is its cheapest offering but it still provides faultless shifting; the only negative is the lack of bite of the hard waxy pads on the SRAM calliper brakes.
The bike's handling is neither too relaxed nor too sharp – we've done a bit of everything on the Absolute, from long days in the hills to short, sharp sprints and we've never found it lacking. By not pigeon-holing itself into a race or sportive category the Absolute is a great option for those looking for a one-bike-fits-all solution.