With the majority of carbon frames available as off-the-rack and Asian-made modular monocoques, Cyfac buck the trend with fully custom rigs still hand-made in France.
The name may not appeal to those seeking the designer label kudos of the ProTour but those who prefer to look beyond the decals will find much to like. The Absolu oozes hand-built quality and manages to exhibit a certain je ne sais quoi that is not often found on more mass-produced frames.
You certainly have to pay to get it, though. Our stock tester was already well into the upper end of the pricing spectrum but having one made to your own requirements – including virtually any colour scheme you desire – will add almost half again to the bottom line.
For the (very) well-heeled seeking a true hand-built rarity, the Absolu presents a compelling option. Cyfac even offer a two-night package – including a stay in a chateau and tours of local wine cellars – for customers who would like to collect their dream machine in person. Sip and enjoy an Absolu if you have the funds, but mere mortals will likely have to look elsewhere.
Ride & handling: Reasonably stiff yet sublimely comfortable
On the mixed terrain of our usual training routes the Absolu proved to be one of the nicest frames we’ve ridden, with an excellent balance of ride quality and stiffness for riders seeking an all-around fast machine capable of handling racing, the occasional sportive, or just logging long miles in the countryside.
The Absolu is by no means the stiffest bike we have ridden but is still pleasantly responsive with just moderate flex from the rear end while climbing the myriad short, sharp climbs we threw it up.
In exchange for the slightly less snappy feel comes a brilliantly refined ride quality thanks in part to forgiving seatstays that glided over the broken asphalt that peppers southern England – despite the integrated seat tube – and took the sting out of the surface without ever feeling soft or spongy.
Handling is also reassuringly middle-of-the-road with classic 73.5 and 72.5-degree head and seat tube angles – neither 'comfort bike' languid nor criterium bike quick.
With the spacers removed from under the stem we were able to get the bars as low as we needed for a nice, aggressive position and we confidently pushed hard through fast corners even in wet conditions with both wheels tracking superbly well.
Though admittedly not as edgy as some more tech-heavy machines, the Absolu is a good companion for short, fast rides or long winter endurance miles alike. It weighs in at 7.15kg (15.76lbs) without pedals.
Frame: Hand-made chassis with some clever details and full-custom option
The Absolu sits at the top of Cyfac’s range and some of its versatility can be tracked to its do-everything construction. The multi-shape top and down tubes are narrower than some newer offerings from the likes of Cannondale and Specialized but subtle ribs in the T800H IM carbon fibre tubes – at the head tube for the seat tube and the bottom bracket for the down tube – serve to add a bit more stiffness side-to-side. The seat tube, on the other hand, stays round until it morphs into a more elliptical profile at the integrated seatmast.
Instead of the usual hourglass or wishbone-style seatstay shaping, the Absolu’s are arrow-straight but with two bridges joining the left and right sides, and fully separate tubes running all the way to the seat tube. Cyfac claim this arrangement makes for a more comfortable rear end than monostays that tend to transmit vibration right into the seat tube, and based on our test rides, we would tend to agree.
Our standard large frame fitted quite well but its tube-to-tube construction means Cyfac can build the Absolu with custom geometry if needed. In that case, the Cyfac Postural System fitting methodology – developed in conjunction with France's Lyon Centre of Sports Medicine – comes into play and appears impressively thorough. A generous 15 paint schemes are available.
The fine details are where a handbuilt frame can score over a mass-produced one and the Absolu is no exception. Instead of riveted-on housing stops, the rear brake cable is neatly routed through the top tube and the derailleur housings meet the frame at moulded-in guides on either side of the head tube – tidy-looking for sure but they do require in-line adjusters lest you go without the ability to tweak the cable tension while on the bike.
The carbon rear dropouts are sandwiched by thin aluminium plates to prevent damage from serrated quick-release skewers or axle ends and overall finish quality is superb.
Equipment: High-quality spec with love-it-or-hate-it chainset and bars
Our test bike had been built up for the Cyfac showroom and came equipped with last year's Campagnolo Record 10-speed groupset. Despite being eclipsed by the new 11-speed version, this previous generation provided the same precise shifting, predictable braking and quiet running we have come to expect. No complaints here, and budget-minded shoppers can likely find some sweet bargains if they're willing to forego the extra cog and new lever shape.
Subbing in for Campagnolo's silky-smooth Ultra Torque chainset was a Stronglight X-Wing Activ Link unit with a massive carbon fibre chainring spider and curiously angular arms. Though claimed to be stiffer than Record – we couldn't tell without having the Campagnolo bit on hand for comparison – the outer ring's proprietary 146mm BCD and the bottom bracket's unusually narrow and thin bearings may cause difficulties down the road when it comes time for replacements.
The Absolu was fitted with an Easton EC70 SL carbon-and-aluminium clincher wheelset, which aren't the lightest around at 1,695g per pair but offer superb stiffness and a reasonably aero 38mm-deep rim section in return for good straight-line speed and a reassuringly solid feel. Wrapped around them were Schwalbe Ultremo Evo clinchers that offered a good balance of speed, weight, grip and durability.
Easton also supplied their EC90 carbon stem and EC90 SLX bars. The former was impressively stiff – and equipped with replaceable steel hardware to guard against stripped threads – but the bars were surprisingly soft. Easton refer to this as “intelligent flexibility” for a more forgiving ride over longer distances but sprinters and general powerhouses may wish to look for something a little more stout.
Finally, the titanium-railed Selle Italia SLR offered a now-classic shape that fitted our rear ends rather well, though its flat surface won't suit riders who prefer more of a 'saddle-shaped' perch. Saddle choice though – like pedals and bars – is best left to the individual.