There are few names in the world of high-end race bikes more storied than that of Look. Originally a ski equipment manufacturer, the French brand was the first to market a clipless pedal and was an early pioneer of carbon frames.
Its association with the La Vie Claire pro team in the 80s – wearers of that stunning Mondrian-inspired jersey – helped cement its iconic status. As a brand it retains a certain mystic quality the like of which no amount of marketing can buy. So the keen entry-level price for the new 765 – which made the longlist for our sister title Cycling Plus's 2016 Bike of the Year awards – will have roadies pricking up their ears.
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Technologically Look has a habit of doing things its own way: think wacky adjustable stems and one-piece carbon cranks. Its more expensive offerings are symphonies of ingenious innovation and French weirdness – an intimidating nightmare for the home mechanic, but fascinating if you're interested in bicycle engineering.
By such standards, the 765 looks relatively conventional, on the outside at least. The seatpost, cockpit and bottom bracket are all standard parts, and the frame itself doesn't make use of any outlandish gimmicks or quirky tube profiles.
Our test ride had a nonstandard Ultegra Di2 drivetrain
Beneath the surface however, the 765 has one trick that sets it apart from the competition: it has flax fibres sandwiched between its layers of carbon in the chainstays and the fork, which Look claims give a "vibration filtering" effect. Flax is the natural fibre used to produce linen and although this isn’t its first use in bicycle frames, it remains relatively unusual.
The 765 is an endurance machine through and through with geometry that tends towards the tall. Our medium test bike has a 182mm head tube that gives a fairly upright position even without spacers under the stem. Reach figures are on the conservative side too – this is undoubtedly a machine for cruising rather than crushing the opposition.
The tall head tube (182mm on our medium tester) makes for a relaxed ride position
A note about groupsets: for reasons of availability our test bike was fitted with Ultegra Di2 electronic components which are not available as a standard build. However the spec is otherwise identical to the standard mechanical Ultegra version, with the latter being just a little lighter as you'd expect.
Silky steel-like ride
The ride quality is a little like that of high-end steel. It's remarkably smooth, shrugging off potholes with suitably French disdain. Whether it's the flax or just smart use of carbon layups we can't say, but the frame and fork both do a sterling job absorbing vibration from broken surfaces.
There's no harshness there at all, and this in turn contributes to a sense of composure in the handling – it’s quite imperturbable.
Whether it's down to the flax in the chainstays it's hard to tell, but the frame does a grand job of soaking up buzz
In keeping with the plush ride quality, this isn't an exceptionally stiff bike, so if that's what you're after you should look elsewhere. It's certainly not floppy, but there is certainly some flex during hard accelerations, and on the climbs the 765 isn't as eager as its racier brethren.
Accept it for what it is, and the 765 is a fine package. It's not a price point killer, nor is it exceptionally light. But for eating up the miles it's a classy and refined piece of engineering.