2014 signals a new direction for Australian company Cell Bikes, with a new designer, and a new focus in offering performance that matches its factory direct low pricing. The Omeo is one example of this re-branding and on paper has plenty to offer.
Named after a small town in Victoria, and an Aboriginal word for mountains or hills – the Omeo is lean, aero and ready to attack on the hills.
Ride and handling: High end race performance with a defying budget
At the recreational level, many brands are moving towards designs that offer something with a more upright position, relaxed handling and all-day comfort. The Omeo goes mostly against this trend, it’s a thorough-bred race bike, simply put – it’s fast.
A short 125mm headtube means the Omeo is low, aggressive and in-line with modern race bike geometry. It’s this detail that proves the Omeo isn’t for everyone, in fact, we’d say if you’re not looking to race or for a performance ride, the Omeo is likely to be too aggressive.
The Omeo’s handling can be a handful for the newer rider, with little effort required to tip the bike into corners or receive a change of speed. This race handling characteristic is the equivalent of a sports car, it’s fun and efficient for the experienced handler but can be downright dangerous and unnerving to the inexperienced user.
The aero tube profiles make the Omeo look hungry for a headwind, unfortunately the slim nature leads to some front end twist through the centre of the toptube. Reefing on the bars in an all-out sprint does uncover the flex, but thankfully it’s not enough to affect the bikes ability to track confidently.
Comfort is the biggest surprise. A combination of 25mm tyres, slim 27.2 carbon seatpost and slender seatstays all contribute to a ride that takes the edge from poor roads. It’s not a perfectly smooth ride, but rather a connected feel with the road without being a bone jarring experience.
Frame and equipment: Astonishing kit quality with little weakness
The Omeo’s frame is a clear example that Cell have made major business changes for 2014. Dave Musgrove, Cell’s product manager and Composite Engineer, tells us that the frame was designed and tested in-house - a significant move away from Cell’s previous catalogue bought ‘design’ approach.
The full carbon frame offers all the modern features - press-fit bottom bracket, tapered headtube, 27.2mm seatpost, internal cable routing with Di2 compatibility and slender seatstays. In addition to this, the frame is void of any aluminum reinforcement, with the bottom bracket, headtube and dropouts all carbon.
The rear brake has full length housing internally routed through the toptube without guides. This is an effective and cheap solution, and helps to future proof the frame for hydraulic rim brake options.
The 27.2mm seatpost is clamped via an internal wedge system, it’s a simple solution that never slipped or creaked during testing. A small packet of carbon-fibre paste is given to prevent seatpost slippage, and we recommend adding some of this to the handlebar/stem interface as well.
The near murdered-out paint and graphics make it hard to distinguish the brand without a considered look, the graphics are subtle if not borderline hidden. Splashes of white are hidden inside the fork blades and chainstays, giving some identity to this otherwise stealth Cell.
It’s easy to lose focus about the frame when such an exceptional build kit is used. In the past, Cell offered high-end groupsets, but would often skimp in crucial areas such as the cockpit – this is no longer the case and results in an impressive 7.74kg total weight.
There’s no faulting the 11-speed Shimano Ultegra 6800 groupset and we praise the use of the new semi-compact crank, offering a suitable high-end 52T cog matched with a hill conquering 36T. For some, the combination of race focused geometry with a middle ground gearing may not suit, but for those riding in hilly areas (such as Cell’s Sydney home base), it’s a welcomed choice.
The FSA Team Issue carbon wrapped cockpit components are a high-quality item with great ergonomics and add a great deal of class to the Omeo. Sticking with the proven brands, Mavic supply the wheels and tyres to complete the package.
The comfortable riding 25mm width tyres are another example of the new knowledge within Cell’s doors – with the wider tyres being a proven choice amongst the world’s fastest riders.
What lets the Omeo down is how it’s purchased. If you’re buying it direct from one of Cell’s retail outlets, no problem. However, receiving the bike in a box, there is an element of assumed knowledge that could lead to a disgruntled experience. Part of the factory-direct pricing is giving up the detailed after-market service that has become a common feature of the bigger global brands, and it’s an aspect not to be overlooked.
As we mentioned, the aggressive low position isn’t for everyone and nor is the purchase method on such a technical product. But there’s no denying it, from a physical product point of view, Cell have put together an unbeatable component spec and respectable frame that creates a truly bargain ride.
For a more detailed look at the Omeo 1.0, check out our image gallery.