Scenery suitable for the filming of mythical movies, manicured rail road rides and adrenaline raising descents – New Zealand is still very much a hidden, distant gem in the cycling world.
One company that’s long known of these wares, Avanti, holds the luxury of designing bikes to suit the local, expansive terrain. Built to take advantage of these sprawling dream-like roads, the Corsa ER is for endurance riders: those seeking a little adventure and immense riding comfort without the cost to performance.
So how does this New Zealand brand hold up against the heavyweights in the industry? We grabbed the brand’s latest and greatest endurance bike – the Corsa ER 2 – and hit tarmac.
Comfiest frame ever from the Kiwi company
Designed in New Zealand, the Corsa ER is said to be Avanti’s most comfortable road frame to date. Visually, it’s a surprising fact with some of the largest diameter and squared tubing we’ve seen in recent time. But look to the top of frame, the thin seat stays, flat top tube and a 27.2mm seatpost diameter and the road soothing aspects are revealed.
Avanti has a reputation in offering frames with impressive stiffness to weight ratios. And while the Corsa is designed to offer comfort too, the frame stiffness and low weight remain.
Down tubes don't get much wider than this!
Such stiffness comes from an enormous box-section down tube that uses the full width of the press fit bottom bracket shell. Equally gargantuan chainstays flow on from there, leading to a rock solid 12mm thru-axle at the rear hub.
With geometry on the racier end of the endurance-bike bell curve, the Corsa reacts well to getting in the handlebar drops and cornering the bike with aggression. Combined with traction-packed rubber, the stiff frame and sharp angles hold a desired line without fuss, spitting you out the other side with whatever speed you dared to carry in.
Plenty of room around the 28c rubber
Without mounts for rim brakes, tyre clearance is kept wide open and the stock 28c rubber is given room to spare. Here the height of the tyre will be the deciding factor, but 30c slicks will fit.
Up front, a full carbon fork offers straight blades and a 12mm thru-axle. The front and rear thru-axles are there to provide support to the additional forces from the disc brakes.
Components that tame the frame
This stem is split into two, allowing it to pivot on itself
In the name of comfort, Avanti has taken the unorthodox method of looking beyond the frame. Here, a new vibration-damping stem and seatpost are given to further take the sting out of the ride.
That TranzX stem – which pivots on an internal elastomer – does indeed work, and it’s remarkably subtle too. Mow through a stretch of dead road and your hands feel more relaxed, in turn keeping your teeth from chattering. More importantly, there wasn't any of the flex or rock we'd expected to feel.
However, hit a sudden hole or lip in the road and you’ll know it – the stem clearly isn’t built to absorb direct impacts, and it's here that the well-hidden character of the stiffly straight thru-axled carbon fork shows itself.
Out of curiosity, we tested the Corsa with a ‘normal’ stem. Doing so reveals a noticeably harsher front-end ride over small vibrations, making it obvious that the fork offers less give than much of its competition. Still, the 28c rubber means the ride is far from brutal and short of any mishaps you can of course keep the stock stem in place.
By no means a cheap component, the seatpost doesn't do nearly as much as the stem for comfort
The vibration-damping ring surrounding the 3T seatpost’s clamp is less of a blessing, it surely does something, but its effect isn’t obvious. Either way, the ride isn’t harsh but don’t expect this post to produce a lazy boy-like seated experience.
While comfortable, the Corsa’s fit is surprisingly long for the endurance genre. The 100mm stem of our sample may therefore prove rather lengthy if you're seeking an ultimately upright ride, especially given the rearward setback of the seatpost. It’s here that the special bump-absorbing stem presents a potential issue, with making swapping to a different size a potentially costly challenge. We reckon most riders will be happy enough, but it's a factor to consider if you prefer a more upright position.
Performance and flat protection don’t gel
The Corsa is a controlled ride with a touch of sportiness on offer once you overcome its extra weight. And at 8.48kg without pedals, it’s certainly at the heavier end for its price. The shock-absorbing stem and confidence boosting disc brakes are much to blame here. And while the heavily flat-protected Kenda tyres don’t add too much on the scales, they do add to a slightly sluggish feel.
Proving it’s got a little competitive spirit in it though, the Corsa ER frame carries UCI-approval. The gearing is another aspect that shows this bike wasn’t intended to be ridden slowly, with a semi-compact 52/36t crank matched to a 11-28t cassette out back.
The gear range provides both high speed descending and reasonable spinning on the climbs. Unless you live in seriously mountainous terrain, you should be comfortable with what’s on offer. This said, we’ve become fans of the mega-range gearing popping up on similar endurance road bikes, where a compact crank up front is matched to a massive 11-30 or 11-32t cassette out back – it’s something that promotes a more sit-and-spin style of riding.
Shimano's finest at this price? We won't complain...
Shifting wise, the Shimano Ultegra 11-speed grouptest with an upgraded Dura-Ace rear derailleur is unsurprisingly near flawless. Quick and smooth shifts are consistent.
Piped in from these Ultegra-grade shifters are Shimano’s flat-mount hydraulic disc brakes. There’s a good chance the Corsa ER will be your first foray into the world of road disc, and the level of brake control on tap is certainly something worth experiencing.
Finned pads help dissipate heat from the brakes
Interestingly, Avanti has gone with smaller 140mm rotors, something likely done to reduce weight. Prior to its temporary ban over safety concerns, the UCI had set its racing standard at 160mm rotors, but Shimano has previously stated that 140mm is enough for its system due to its IceTech technology, something that can be seen in the finned pads that help draw heat away from the brake caliper.
The rolling stock is certainly high quality and further underlines that the Corsa is full of value. The DT Swiss R23 Spline Disc wheelset is pure class and is perhaps the best blend of reliability, weight and ride quality you’ll find at this price point. These rims offer a reasonable width (18mm internal), and can easily be set up for tubeless compatibility too.
Puncture protection at the cost of raw speed
Wrapping these alloy hoops is a pair of Kenda Kountach Endurance tyres. These offer respectable grip and are flat protected to the hilt, but unfortunately such security comes with added weight. At close to 300g apiece, these tyres are certainly a big factor in why the Corsa ER doesn’t jump to attention when you stamp on the pedals.
Oozing with value for money
Reflecting on our time with the Corsa ER 2 leaves us with a mixed impression. There’s no denying the value for money, and the ride quality is nothing to complain of either.
The shock absorbing stem and seatpost are certainly not the norm for a bike of this category, and these components assist the frame in creating a bike that’s both comfortable and efficient. However, at least in the case of the stem, it’s another part to wear out and cause noise further down the road.
And its parts like these that bump the weight of the Corsa up from where we feel it should be. But a change to faster tyres is likely enough to get this ride moving, and it’s priced competitively to allow for such upgrades.