It’s often said that at a budget price-point, aluminium is aluminium. The Cell Lapa proves this doesn't have to be the case, with its locally designed frame that absorbs bumps and holds the road with confidence far better than many other offerings. Clearly not all bikes are created equal.
Named after the popular Sydney Eastern-suburbs La Perouse ride, the Lapa is a Shimano 105-equipped bike with a solid choice of remaining components that somehow remains under $1000. To put this in perspective, we tested a handful of sub $1400 entry-level road bikes sold through bike stores – all but one of those feature a component level one-below the Lapa 2.0.
We tested the Cell Lapa 2.0 against two other direct-buy road bikes: be sure to read our grouptest summary, which includes our analysis of build quality.
Frame and equipment: quality all-round, if a little weighty
The locally designed Lapa 2.0 frame is a far-cry from the ‘white-label’ frames of Cell’s past.
It's constructed using triple-butted tubing, meaning the wall-thickness of each tube changes three times, keeping it thick at the welded areas for strength and tapering down in the centre for reduced weight and increased ride compliance.
Hourglass seatstays – similar to the ones Cannondale has used for years on its frames – help interrupt the forces being transferred from the rear wheel before reaching the rider. Further helping with ride compliance are a skinny 27.2mm carbon-fibre seatpost and carbon-fibre front fork – all designed to flex and soak up the rough stuff.
Tapered head tube and internally routed brake cable: this is a far higher quality frame than Cell would have used a few years ago
A tapered head tube is used to help keep the front end stiff: this uses a 1.5” sealed bearing at the base and then tapers to a smaller, 1 1/8” sealed bearing – it’s a feature that’s often standard on higher-priced bikes, but rarely seen at this bracket.
Cell has chosen Shimano’s workhorse 105 groupset, a solid choice that never disappoints. The 105 shares many of the same features as Shimano’s performance groupsets, but carries a little more weight and lacks the finer polishing.
Cheaper Tiagra brakes are still solid stoppers
In order to keep the price-point low, slightly cheaper Tiagra brakes and a compact R565 crankset are used – these still perform without compromise, and aside from weight are difficult to differentiate from the 105 versions.
Compact gearing provides a generous range; however, the 11-25T rear cassette will feel a little tall for some newer riders. Perhaps a larger 11-28T would have been a better choice for even lower gearing.
The frame is equipped with pannier rack mounts, ready to serve extra duty as a daily commuter.
We're confident that the Lapa 2.0 is the only bike under $1000 to have sealed cartridge bearings throughout
The wheels prove that the Lapa was made for more than just weekend escapes, adding a little extra weight but offering terrific durability and strength. The reinforced Mavic rims are a solid choice and, laced to sealed-bearing hubs, should ensure these remain relatively maintenance and worry free.
Wider tyres are quickly growing in popularity, offering increased ride comfort, traction and puncture resistance with limited negatives. Cell has smartly chosen 25mm width Vittoria tyres, which help to suck up much of the road buzz and provide confident traction and puncture resistance.
Cell-branded parts complete the component spec, and we can’t fault them. The rather narrow saddle is generously padded and should suit a wide range of riders; holding onto it is an easily adjusted carbon-fibre seatpost. The stem and handlebar are basic, but share their dimensions with far more expensive offerings.
No pedals are included, so factor in some basic clipless pedals into your budget before expecting to roll away.
Ride and handling: smoothness and confidence that feels like a steal at this price
Cell has dubbed the frame’s geometry and design ‘Endurance Performance Optimisation’ (EPO): while this clearly pokes a bit of fun in the direction of the professional side of the sport, it also serves a purpose. The geometry places the rider in a more upright, comfortable position, while key areas of the frame design help smooth out the roads irregularities. And it works unbelievably well.
The Lapa corners with confidence
The Lapa cruises along with a silent, chatter-free ride that provides you with confidence to tackle uneven surfaces and downhills at speed. Cornering is equally rewarding, with the wheels securely planted to the ground.
The handling isn’t race-bike fast, but nor is it a slouch. It’s easy to change direction and, along with the flex-free frame, the Lapa’s poise begs to be pushed harder.
Offering a balanced ride, the upright position doesn’t compromise the bike’s behaviour, but rather just keeps you in a comfortable position. At speed the Lapa is stable and, whether in the saddle or out, there’s little reason to feel nervous.
A compact handlebar may not suit larger-handed riders
The short-reach compact handlebar divided our test team: one tester says their hands don’t fit in the bar, while others say it’s great, facilitating getting into the drops without much of a stretch and keeping the brakes at easy reach.
Often direct-buy bikes are offered in limited (and restricted) sizing for greater economies of scale, but The Lapa is available in a choice of six frame sizes, so we had no issues in finding a precise fit.
In conclusion, then, the Lapa rides amazingly well, has near-faultless componentry, and comes at a price that seems too good to be true. Is there a catch? Well, if you’re unable to buy direct from one of Cell’s retail stores, the out-of-box build quality leaves a little to be desired. Even more important than a bike’s value for money is its setup and fit for your individual needs – and for many, that’s something a boxed bike just cannot offer.
Be sure to read our full direct-buy shootout to find out more of the Cell’s build quality and your other options at this price point.