Ah yes, Alpe d’Huez. One of the Tour de France’s Alpine icons. The sun on the riders’ backs, elastic snapping as the gruppetto slips back and the leaders sweat their way up its 21 bends, rising to a heady 1,860m. And that would be perfect for testing Look’s new 785 Huez RS. My real-world testing was ever so slightly different — the short, steep climbs of the Cotswolds on a wild winter’s day with wind gusting to more than 60mph.
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The 785 is Look’s new ‘Altitude’ bike, or ‘an ultra-lightweight bicycle for all occasions’, as the French brand would have it. All models share the same ‘race’ geometry as Look’s 795 aero road bike, which means classic 73-degree parallel angles in the three larger sizes.
The Huez RS frame weighs just 730g and, paired with the 280g carbon fork, can be built into a sub-6kg bike; the standard (non-RS) Huez frame weighs 990g. Look has "selected only superior carbon fibres, including the finest high modulus." Of course.
Design-wise the compact frame has the usual oversize down tube and bottom bracket shell, with very neat internal cabling and electronic groupset compatibility. I would have plumped for an 11-32 cassette rather than 11-28, but along with the 52/36 chainset it does create a peloton-ready combination.
Shimano Dura-Ace gear changes were as slick as you’d expect, and the braking — even in high-speed simulated emergency stops — was powerful enough and controlled with no ‘grabbing’ of the carbon rim. In the dry anyway.
I had no rain during testing but a previous storm had left large areas of standing water and these had an immediate negative impact. I’d experiment with different brake pads before tackling an Alpine descent in heavy rain.
On the flat, over rolling countryside and on climbs, this bike lives up to its lofty ambitions. Whether seated and spinning the pedals or out of the saddle and cranking it up, I couldn’t get the bike to misbehave. In spite of its low weight and slim, lightweight fork it handles accurately and flies down descents, tracks well through corners and offers enough comfort for endurance riding.
There are no Trek- or Lapierre-like elastomers but the 27.2mm carbon seatpost and narrow seatstays result in a rear end that didn’t leave me feeling beaten up after a ride in brutal weather and over roads of variable quality. The bar tape was skimpier than some, but that’s inexpensive to rectify.
The Corima S1 wheels are designed for riders up to 110kg and their deep-section rims performed impressively in stormy conditions. A couple of very high-speed gusts from the side caught them, but the 1,625g pair were no sails. They run up to speed smoothly, with decent acceleration and good top-end speed, which they hold well. They also ran impressively quietly, contrasted by the pleasingly loud freewheel.
You had to be careful with near straight-on headwinds, but I reckon that would be true of any wheel during the days I was testing. The Continental Ultra Sport 2 tyres, though fine, do seem a little penny-pinching on a six-grand bike.
Look’s Huez RS 585 is every inch a peloton-inspired bike, a great climber and a well-balanced all-round performer, though wet weather and carbon rims aren’t always happy playmates. Given the budget I might be tempted to go for the £2,950 frameset, build it from scratch and try to get it down below 6kg for even more va va voom!