The Dutch brand Sensa’s bikes are sold exclusively in the UK by Lancashire’s Merlin Cycles and it has long had a reputation for value-packed bikes. My test Sensa Giulia GF Ultegra Di2 has a list price under £5k, but it has a lot in common with Cervélo’s Caledonia 5, which is yours for a much heftier £6,610.
Both have the same Shimano Ultegra Di2 drivetrain, similar tubeless-ready carbon aero wheels and they’re both endurance bikes designed to handle a wide variety of riding surfaces.
The Giulia has room for 32mm tyres, for “great fun on a gravel road, a cobblestone adventure or any road you would normally avoid”, as Sensa would have it.
The Giulia’s price looks even more impressive when you factor in its aerodynamic one-piece carbon cockpit and carbon seatpost.
Sensa doesn’t make it easy navigating its range though, with each of its road models called Giulia. Sensa’s Giulia G3 Evo is its lightweight race machine, the Giulia Evo is its aero-road machine and then there’s this Giulia GF.
The GF comes from the Italian ‘gran fondo’, which roughly translates as ‘big ride’ and is used by numerous bike companies for their endurance and sportive bikes.
Sensa Giulia GF Ultegra Di2 frame
To describe Sensa’s Giulia GF as a pure endurance bike would be to do a disservice to both the bike and the potential buyer. If you were expecting a relaxed, sedate bike for long days out then this bike really isn’t that.
The Giulia GF’s frame design is derived from Sensa’s aerodynamic Evo. They share the same front triangle tube profiles as well as having their cables and hydraulic hoses routed through the bar, stem and head tube.
Concessions to comfort come from the Giulia GF’s signature feature, the newly designed rear triangle. None of us will be surprised by the sight of its dropped seatstays, which are slender and feature a slight curve.
These are designed to flex when the road surfaces get lumpier and bumpier and I found they really did offer a smooth-riding rear end.
Sensa Giulia GF Ultegra Di2 kit
Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 and hydraulic disc brakes are pretty much impeccable, but again Sensa has gone for the racier version, speccing an 11-28 cassette rather than the less aggressive 11-32 seen on some of its competitors’ endurance bikes. The Giulia GF’s kit is equally impressive elsewhere too.
I was especially impressed by the combination of their smooth hubs and the compliant way they rolled, and with a claimed weight of 1,550g per pair, they’re not going to hold you back on climbs either.
Schwalbe’s One Performance tyre is a decent enough tyre that contributes comfort, good grip in all conditions and reasonable rolling resistance. I wouldn’t describe them as fast exactly but there are worse mid-range/budget options out there.
They’re not tubeless-ready either, so if you want to dispense with tubes you’ll need new tyres.
Its long, slender shape and rounded profile – all the rage in the 1970s – does take a while to adjust to if you’re used to today’s shorter, flatter designs. But after an hour or so settling in I had no issues at all, though it’s a saddle that may divide opinion.
The Supra Combo Integrale cockpit is a one-piece handlebar and stem. The bar has a flat, aerodynamic leading edge while the stem integrates perfectly into the aero-shaped headset and spacers.
The Di2 wires and the hydraulic brake hoses are routed internally for a smart look with the advantage of improved aerodynamics.
Sensa Giulia GF Ultegra Di2 geometry
In addition to a stiff frame with aerodynamic features, the Sensa Giulia GF’s geometry also wouldn’t be out of place on a race bike.
The parallel 73-degree frame angles shout classic race bike, while the 595mm stack and 396mm reach on my 58cm test bike are at the sportiest end of things, though this aggressiveness is at least slightly tempered by the Giulia GF’s metre-plus wheelbase.
I’m not saying this sportiness is a bad thing, but it’s better to know Sensa’s interpretation of an endurance bike.
|Seat angle (degrees)||74.5||74||73.5||73||72.7|
|Head angle (degrees)||72||73||73||73||73.5|
|Rear centre (cm)||41||41||41||41||41|
|Seat tube (cm)||46.7||50.3||52.2||54.1||56.4|
|Top tube (cm)||52.3||54.2||55.9||57.5||59.1|
|Head tube (cm)||11.2||14||16.1||18.1||20.1|
|Fork offset (cm)||4.5||4.5||4.5||4.5||4.5|
|Bottom bracket drop (cm)||7||7||7||7||7|
Sensa Giulia GF Ultegra Di2 ride impressions
The Sensa Giulia GF’s handling is swift, which is just what you’d expect from a bike with geometry that incorporates a steep head angle and a short fork offset that gives a 58mm trail figure.
Its on-road manners are much more akin to those of a race bike rather than an endurance bike, resembling the handling of Giant’s TCR and Cannondale’s SuperSix EVO rather than that of a more endurance-flavoured machine such as Specialized’s Roubaix.
When the road does start to steepen, the Giulia is a welcome ally. The front triangle’s deep angular aero profiles provide plenty of muscle, there’s solidity from its head tube and a resistance to flex from its bottom bracket. The result is a frame that responds beautifully when you’re out of the saddle and putting in a big effort on a steep gradient.
On fast, winding descents over smooth road surfaces the Giulia’s handling is poised, which is down to the combination of its metre-plus wheelbase and its compliant rear end.
Over looser surfaces and chipped stones, the front end’s solidity did result in occasional skipping and a little chatter, though this never lurches into discomfort or vibration-inducing fatigue.
Sensa Giulia GF Ultegra Di2 bottom line
The Sensa Giulia GF is a great bike. It cost just £3,999 when we called it in but even with the price increase to £4,499 this Sensa is astonishing value for money.
All today’s watchwords are happily represented too – dropped seatstays, integrated cockpit, aero tube profiles – and it’s light, responsive, a great climber and lots of fun when it comes to handling.
The big question is whether the Sensa Giulia GF is actually a ‘gran fondo’ bike in the way that term is usually accepted, a bike with slightly relaxed geometry prioritising comfort over all-out performance. And I’d say that it isn’t.
But if you’re looking for a bike with a racy outlook and a more aggressive riding character than a sportive bike – but also fancy having the option to run bigger tyres – then this Giulia would be money well spent.
And not forgetting Muc-Off, for its help keeping the bikes washed and lubed throughout testing.
Road Bike of the Year 2021 contenders
Thirty-two of the best bikes ridden and rated…
- ARC8 Escapee
- Basso Venta 105 Disc
- BMC Roadmachine TWO
- BMC Teammachine SLR TWO
- Boardman ADV 8.9
- Boardman ADV 9.0
- Boardman SLR 8.9 105
- Boardman SLR 9.4 AXS (winner)
- Cannondale SuperSix EVO
- Cannondale Topstone Lefty 1
- Cervélo Caledonia-5
- Cinelli King Zydeco
- Genesis CDA 30
- Giant Contend AR 3
- Giant TCR Advanced Pro 1
- Giant TCR Advanced SL 0 Disc
- Lapierre Xelius SL 5.0
- Orbea Avant H60-D
- Orbea Orca M20
- Pearson Off Grid
- Planet X London Road SRAM Apex 1 Disc
- Ribble CGR Ti Pro
- Ribble Endurance 725 Base
- Ribble Endurance Ti Disc
- Rondo HVRT CF1
- Sensa Giulia GF
- Specialized Roubaix Sport
- Specialized S-Works Aethos
- Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL7
- Trek Domane AL 5
- Van Rysel EDR AF
- Vitus Zenium Tiagra
|Price||EUR €4222.00GBP £4499.00|
|Available sizes||50, 53, 55, 58, 61cm|
|Brakes||Shimano Ultegra hydraulic disc|
|Cassette||Shimano Ultegra, 11-28|
|Cranks||Shimano Ultegra 50/34|
|Front derailleur||Shimano Ultegra Di2|
|Handlebar||Supra Combo Integrale carbon one-piece bar/stem|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano Ultegra Di2|
|Saddle||Selle San Marco Concor Cromo|
|Seatpost||Supra Race Line GF carbon|
|Shifter||Shimano Ultegra Di2|
|Stem||Supra Combo Integrale carbon one-piece bar/stem|
|Tyres||Schwalbe One Performance 28mm|
|Wheels||Supra RFC Disc 50 Elite carbon tubeless ready|