There is nothing in life that doesn't involve compromise or balance. Fancy a nice car? OK, but you'll have to take fewer holidays. A big house? Fine, but you'll need to work more to pay for it and so lose some free time. A nice meal? OK, but indulge too much and you'll inevitably put weight on.
You get the idea; compromise is everywhere, it's simply up to each of us to find the balance that suits...
In the car park, after removing the copious amounts of packaging from the Javelin Torgiano, I had a chance to admire the newly assembled bike. It was a 'Stealth' machine of the first order: from the rims and frame to the bars and even bar end stops to hold the tape in place, everything that possibly could be carbon, was. I very much doubt this bike would show up on radar [You're wrong. Hah! - Ed].
Compared to some recent machines we have looked at where manufacturers have treated every surface as a chance to advertise their brand, this one seemed to rely more on the quality of the components to sell themselves. This is an altogether more classy approach in my opinion and worthy of a bike in this price range. With its minimalist approach to finishing that let the quality of the components do the talking, this bike not only weighs in low, but looks light too.
Before starting my ride, I had cause to fine-tune my saddle both for height and angle. The Zero carbon seatpost was possibly the nicest I have come across so far, with a traditional cradle design finished to an exceptionally high standard. With an easily accessible single Allen bolt to do all the adjustment I required in seconds, it was a joy to use and, with the range of movement it afforded, put all of the newer 'advanced' designs to shame.
It was late afternoon when I set off from a hotel in the small town of Nerja, an hour east along the coast from Malaga in southern Spain. The seaside roads quickly gave way to ever smaller lanes as I climbed inland towards Frigiliana and after six kilometres there was barely a car in sight.
I don't think this was entirely due to the fact we were heading away from the coast and the pensioners seeking the last of the sun and sand, but also because the road surfaces were bad enough to frighten off anyone not using a rental car with fully comprehensive insurance. The potholes were so big I swear I saw at least two cars disappear completely. As I picked my way carefully through the tough but tranquil countryside, I found myself wondering if the locals had cottoned on to this welcome side-effect of their rough roads and decided not to hurry repairs along...
One of the first things that hit me as I wound through the scrub hills and olive groves was how quiet this bike was. Despite the challenging surface, there were no rattles at all - something I haven't come across since the Fondriest bike I tested more than a year ago. The indents in the toptube of the Torgiano meant the cables could bounce quite a lot before coming into contact with the tube... I wasn't sure this was why it had been shaped in this way - or why any of the other curves and dents were there, to be honest - but whatever the reason, the lack of clatter added to the feel of quality.
The second thing I noticed as I pushed on up the increasingly steep inclines was how much flex was present in the machine; there was as much movement as I have come across to date. I guess this is not surprising given the Javelin's extremely low weight - amongst the lightest we have tested in these pages. Most of the flex seemed to come from the toptube and bottom bracket area and was probably exacerbated by the lateral movement in the lightly spoked wheels too. I can't honestly say I would recommend this frame to heavier riders, but those in the mid to light range would probably find the 'give' an acceptable trade-off against the weight advantage.
How to impress brown animals
A few kilometres further up, past the town of Frigiliana, I found myself caught in the first snarl-up of the day as the local goat herd made its way home; it was rush hour after all! I thought the small brown animals seemed pretty impressed with the Torgiano.
This is the first time I have come across the new Campagnolo Ultra- Torque chainset, which is of a slimmer, lower profile than its predecessors and is certainly more aesthetically pleasing. This slimmer profile could have actually reduced the Q angle (the distance between the feet compared to the hips) slightly, but this potential advantage was neutralised by the now fully external bearings. I can't say I am qualified these days to fully assess the stiffness of cranks, and it would have been hard to gauge this satisfactorily because of the flex in the frame, but they certainly seemed stiff enough.
With regard to the new 'split' bottom bracket design, I couldn't see the point in it before they made it and I can't say I am any the wiser now. I cannot fathom the logic behind making an axle in two parts and why this would ever be preferable to a single piece, particularly in an area that handles all the drive from the engine (the legs). Although this design is certainly an improvement on the original carbon offering, I would say Campag have left themselves plenty of room to move forward.
Gear changes from the Campag Record titanium gear system were refreshingly smooth on the rough roads and constantly changing gradients. There was no hint of misalignment right through the 10- speed range, and every selection was made without loss of traction from the chain even when switching while out of the saddle. The chain, with its drilled-out links and hollow rivets, was pretty scary, but I guess if people aren't breaking them then they're strong enough.
Braking the carbon trend
Regular readers of this column will know I hate carbon rims, so when I was approaching the end of the climbing section, I was dreading the challenging descent I knew was to follow. However, when I turned around and started to head downwards, I was somewhat surprised that my pre-ride prejudice wasn't instantly confirmed. Yes, there was a little squeal when braking for extended periods, but nowhere near what I had experienced before and, amazingly, there wasn't much at all in the way of brake grab.
Having run my thumb along the rim of the Zero 024 wheels in the car park earlier and felt the discrepancies in the surface, I was sure I was in for an 'auto braking' experience but, as it turned out, they were pretty smooth. They're not something I would like to use in the rain on a smooth surface, but compared to the Campagnolo equivalent, which sported rims of a very similar shape, they were much better. The only visible difference between the two I could see was that the Zeros have a matt finish compared to the high-gloss finish of the Campagnolos...
In my opinion, the carbon rims were saved by the new calipers and their heavily scalloped-out design. During assembly, I had the chance to handle these separately and it is hard to believe anyone can get brakes any lighter than this without risking failures. In fact, when applied in the car park, I could see a good few millimetres of flex in the arms! Rather than impairing braking efficiency, this extra flex probably compensated for discrepancies in the carbon rims, making for a good partnership.
Fragile but impressive
The frame geometry was great for me, although the front end had very light handling to which the movement in the toptube added. It stabilised somewhat when it really mattered, though - at high speed. I also found my weight was evenly distributed between the two wheels, adding to the sense of balance on the whole set-up. I had thought the Javelin would not cope with the steep descents and the terrible roads, but the curve of the rear stays and the absorption properties of the Fizik Arione Wing Flex saddle soaked it up incredibly well.
Earlier, when I had put the wheels into the frame, I had admired the minimalist skewers. Normally, lightweight parts like this suffer as the currently in vogue titanium for the spindle stretches. This means you have to tighten them almost to the extreme in order to get enough purchase to ensure the rear wheel isn't pulled over under maximum effort. This didn't seem to be the case with these and the light serration on both nuts and the wheel axle probably added to the security.
Unfortunately, the lever itself was of a type I have come across before - a simple 'rod' that screwed into the skewer head. Take my advice and make sure you get some thread lock onto these pronto or you might find yourself at the side of the road sans lever and unable to get your wheel out!
After a few kilometres of descending, I passed through a quaint, whitewashed village and hit a smooth piece of Tarmac and immediately noticed a bump, bump, bump... coming through the wheels. I stopped to have a look only to find that the Veloflex tubulars had absolutely no glue on whatsoever and that I could easily roll them off the rim with one hand! I had been very lucky... Note to self - check tubular tyres before test in future.
Despite this near-catastrophic experience, I really liked the Veloflex Carbon tubs when both climbing and descending. They definitely added to the lively feel of the bike, as tubulars tend to, but they also gave a sense of grip on the rough surface. I would have been happy to race on these whatever the race or weather.
Heading back to the coast left me some time to reflect on the overall impression of the Torgiano. It was decidedly fragile when travelling fast, probably caused by its light weight and exaggerated by the flex of the frame and wheels. While 'solid' is not a word I would use to describe it, the Torgiano's foibles don't stop if from doing a impressive job.
The Javelin Torgiano is a great bike: well thought through and with an air of class. The choice of equipment was perfectly in keeping with its specialist, high-end nature. With advances in carbon technology testing the UCI's minimum weight limit, we are seeing a rebirth of the specialist bike. The Torgiano is well positioned to compete in this increasingly competitive market, but at a cost. As yet, carbon technology is still lagging a half-step behind for the title of lightest bike. If you want superlight weight, be prepared to give up some stiffness. Only you can decide if this compromise works for you.