Quintana Roo have always liked to lead rather than follow convention, and their new Illicito frame takes their leftﬁeld view on aerodynamics to new extremes. Add their benchmark ergonomics and the original triathlon bike specialists are deﬁnitely back at the cutting edge.
Ride & handling: Excellent handling balance, but some frame softness when you really grunt a gear round
When you consider how radical the Illicito looks, with its offset down tube and missing non-drive side seatstay, the actual ride is remarkably conventional – if you’re expecting the bike to turn large lazy circles because of skewed aerodynamics or missing frame parts then you needn’t be concerned.
We’ll confess it took us a rather long time to stop staring down at the offset frame rather than looking where we should be going. Start paying attention though and the handling has Q Roo’s typically well balanced and friendly feel.
While you'll need a deep drop stem if you favour a super-low setup, the Illicito's ride position will suit most riders without any problems. As radical as the numbers sound, you’ll soon not notice where your seat is either, just that it all seems to synchronise together really well when you’re on the bike.
Its ability to not only hold a line, but stay fast, focused and predictable in a very wide range of wind angles and some serious gust strengths is exceptionally impressive too. We got away with running the rear disc wheel in blustery conditions far more easily than we should have done, and with Zipp 404s on it’s one of the friendliest handling top-end bikes we’ve ridden.
Even with a disc wheel plugged in at the back and those super deep chainstays, life in the saddle is perfectly comfortable with no trace of faster fatigue and the forward angle helping a fresh-legged feel when running bricks. The tri-spoke front wheel on our test bike did the fork feel no favours, with all our review notes commenting on harsh front-end feel until we swapped it for a more forgiving wheel. That done, hands and wrists all breathed a big sigh of relief and we carried on racking up the miles in perfectly acceptable, if not outstanding, comfort.
The skinny ride-softening top tube has some noticeable fore/aft twist if you grunt a big gear round out of the saddle though, particularly when we were pressing against the increased inertia of the disc wheel. Some testers said that they felt they could feel a slightly softer offside-to-driveside feel in the cranks, which created a sensation of ‘limping’.
Whether that’s an actual trait of the bike or just something psychosomatic we were expecting to feel due to the asymmetric design is impossible for us to conﬁrm though. Either way the ﬁnal result is a frame that transmits power well and is comfortable over long mileages, if not among the best in class.
Frame: Lopsided chassis takes 'aero' to another lever but can take a bit of getting used to
The front end of the Illicito starts conventionally enough with a normal stem, head tube and fork. The TRP U-brake sits on the back of the fork legs for aerodynamic reasons but otherwise it’s all business as usual. However as Quintana Roo only build bikes for triathletes – not aero bikes that might be used by time triallers – they’re not bound by the restrictive frame dimension and design edicts handed down by the UCI. And that's where the fun starts.
Look closely and you’ll notice the down tube is shaped and offset noticeably towards the driveside of the bike. This shift concept is designed to suck air around the aerodynamically ‘cleaner’ left-hand side of the bike rather than the chainset and cogs of the driveside. While it's been used on previous Q Roo bikes, the new Illicito takes this aero ‘cleanliness’ to another level by completely removing the non-drive seatstay.
To compensate, the offside chainstay starts off as deep as many down tubes before tapering away to a rear-facing dropout. The joining web above the bulbous press-ﬁt BB30 bottom bracket area and the driveside chainstay is also extremely deep to beef up the back end, with the solitary seatstay a skinny strut in comparison.
Once past the headstock area where the internal cabling inserts vertically behind the stem, the top tube is also a very shallow – but quite broad – tube. The seat tube is a comparatively deep piece, although there’s plenty of room for vertical seatpost adjustment before you reach for a saw. The aero seatpost also gets a slotted top to give you an effective seat angle anywhere between 77-81° – a feature that should please even the most forward-thinking athletes.
As the only things that come with the frame kit are the TRP brakes, the rest of the spec is entirely up to you. Production bikes will be Shimano Di2 compatible (our pre-production sample isn’t), and the bottom bracket will be BB30 or conventional crank compliant. In the interests of neutrality we did most test mileage on a set of Zipp 404s, not the futuristic looking disc and tri-spoke wheel combination supplied with our sample.
This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine.