Friday, 28 March 2014

LOOKAGAIN





My budget was increasing incrementally but was dependent on securing employment. I had cause for optimism – actual interviews – and set about securing a loan with which to actuate any potential purchase. I went about the business of establishing the Look’s credentials. I contacted Action Bikes who informed me that their Wimbledon branch held custody of the model consonant with my scale. I went down there on my bike – this was an exercise in reconnaissance and no purchase would be forthcoming; I’d yet to secure those much needed funds.
            They were helpful in Action and fitted pedals to the bike so that I could take it for a ride. It felt long in its reach, this bicycle, and the attending staff member declared that he was aware of this. He said that a shorter stem could be fitted, and implied that this would be done gratuitously. I left Action Bikes very alive to the idea that this was the bicycle I’d been looking for.
            Reflection supplemented this notion. The Look 566 was reviewed as being ‘comfort orientated’, in that an enlarged head-tube and shorted top-tube allowed for a more relaxed posture. My test-ride did not give this impression; it felt racier than I was being led to believe, which implied that the other bikes I’d investigated would be racier still and could not be purchased, therefore, without trying them out first (which was not possible given that they were available exclusively online).
            In an attempt at banter, I had asked whether Action intended on stocking whatever bikes Look at in mind for 2014. They thought not, for Look was not a marque that had sold particularly well; their customers were often unaware of the brand and were not reassured by the fact that Look was a French manufacturer. In their ignorance I assumed these clients to be incipient enthusiasts. Yet, with the Tour de France as the sport’s most distinguishing feature, it seemed strange to me that Look’s Gallic origins would be a matter for consternation. People wanted Specialized, Giant or Trek, mostly, and that was that. I doubt Bianchi, Colnago or Pinarello suffer such ignominy, which might say something about how the British perceive the Italians more favourably than they do the French. I have another theory: it’s in the name itself: I suspect the word ‘Look’ just comes across as being a bit odd, primarily because it’s more normally understood in its verb form. None of this bothers me – on the contrary, it all points toward this being a wholly appropriate bike.
I let it lie a while, just to see what my subconscious might throw up, and returned nine days later, with the funds in place, and took the now stem-shortened 566 for another spin. There was a noticeable improvement, not just in my posture but in my impression of the bike as an aggregate. On the one hand it didn't feel as radically different from my steel bike as I had expected, but on the other it felt much lighter (to be expected) and maybe more “responsive”. Reassuringly unvacillated, I bought the thing. Having parted with my borrowed cash, I took the bike home on the train – for it had no pedals – and my certitude held firm. I awoke the next day and remembered I’d spent £1,550 on a bike, but still my conviction did not waver.
Within a week I’d purchased a half-priced Look bottle cage off of eBay, a pair of pedals, and a bracket to house the saddlebag presently appended to my other bike. But, such were my circumstances, it would be another two weeks before I finally managed to ride my new Look 566 and had to content myself with admiring side-glances whenever I vacated my flat.


Friday, 14 March 2014

VERENTI, CINELLI AND LOOK


 
 
 

How did I aware myself of the Verenti Insight? I’m not sure, but I found one selling on Wiggle, with a full Shimano 105 groupset, for £864 reduced from £1,200. What a handsome looking bike, decked out in matt black and with conservative geometries. I might have bought it there and then, but I was still strapped for cash. ‘Verenti’ is an off-shoot of ‘Ridley’, and of Belgian provenance. The Insight would almost be indistinguishable from the Ridley Orion were it not for the latter’s more mercurial livery, which does not suit it.
            I was perusing over 2013 models, reduced in price to make way for their 2014 heirs, available in only limited dimensions. I needed the medium, apparently, but within a week of finding the thing it was gone. I could always buy a 2014 Verenti Insight for £950, but this was kitted out with Shimano Sora, an inferior groupset equipped with a 9-speed cassette. I could tolerate the 9-speed component (I presently ride a 7-speed) but should I ever want to upgrade to 10-speed then I would need to replace the whole gruppo – cassette, gear shifters, derailleurs (possibly) – which would represent a fraudulence of economy.
            There was an Insight endowed with a 10-speed Shimano 105 groupset but that retailed at £1,200. I was beginning to regret not finding a way to raise money for the 2013 version. Then I started poking about to see what else Wiggle had on sale, came across a rather nice medium sized Cinelli Saetta 105, only to then discover that I would need a large in that, which they didn’t have, and wept openly. It was lovely, this Cinelli, and had been reduced from £1,788 to a mere £969. But they size their products more harshly in southern Europe, and I’d need a large if buying an Italian, Spanish or French bike, which Wiggle didn’t have; I checked with other online dealerships, and them neither.
 
 
 
 
(Cinelli Saetta)


There is no need to hurry. I figure that two months will be sufficient to familiarise myself with a new bike in a new material, so I have until mid-June to sort myself out. On the other hand, there are deals to be had right now, and come June everybody will have more than likely got shot of their 2013 stock, leaving only full priced 2014 models to choose from. It is sensible, then, to try and get this thing sorted – of this I am convinced.
            In fact, I may have found an apposite solution. It is the Look 566, selling for £1,550 from Action Bikes. It is the 2013 model, originally priced at £2,200, with full Shimano 105, Mavic Aksium wheels, and they have my size. It’s more than I fancy paying, but given the reduction it might be worth splashing out that little bit extra. Moreover, it is an understated bike – predominantly white, with black detail – and sports an unusual top-tube: almost flattened, with a kink in it about 15 cm down from the head-tube to allow for a slightly more upright posture, it’s not as beefy as carbon-framed bikes can so often be; this is just the sort of quality I’ve been looking for, and the fact that it enhances the bike’s countenance is not lost on me.
            When I came around to the idea of conceding to carbon, I was sure of one thing: that certain brands were not to be courted. For those who take note of such things, specific marques proliferate: Specialized, Trek, Giant, Boardman and Cannondale seem to be the most popular brands; Focus, Bianchi, Scott and Felt are fairly common; Pinarello, Cube, Condor and Cervelo get about, too; but I’ve not spotted many Looks being ridden.
            Actually, Cannondale’s adopted geometries are rather pleasing, and Cervelo’s RCA is maybe the best looking (carbon) bike ever (it also retails at over £7,000 for the frameset alone). But the rest are spoiled by a preponderance of curves and/or excessively colourful graphics. The Look 566 suffers no such deficiencies. If I can raise the cash, this could be the one.