CYCLING WEEKLY9 OUT OF 10
Look’s first dedicated climbing bike was launched on top of its namesake mountain, Alpe d’Huez, just before the 2017 Tour De France. There was so much interest in it that the French brand ran out of demo bikes for foreign journalists to test and I instead grovelled up the 21 famous hairpins – twice – on a spare 765, Look’s entry-level sportive bike, which weighed at least 2kg more than the 5.9kg 785 Huez RS.
However I did get to test the 785 in the UK later that year, and to make up for it I did multiple ascents of the Box Hill (which fortunately has only a seventh the number of hairpins) and relished every single one.
With its 730g frame, SRAM eTap groupset and Corima 32 MCC S+ wheels, it absolutely flew.
Now Look has reengineered the 785 for disc brakes – although the rim-brake bike is still in the range. Its rationale is that disc brakes will now enable you to perform safely on both slopes of the hill. With the frame and fork beefed up slightly and built up with SRAM Red eTap HRD groupset, the all-up figure has crept up to 7kg for this, the top-of-the-rand model.
Does that matter?
Well, the ride quality is as sublime as before. It is incredibly comfortable and incredibly springy – as if potential energy has bene trapped between nano-layers of ultra-high modulus carbon, of which five different types are used.
Ok, it’s not 5.9kg anymore but it still feels wonderfully light, especially for a disc brake bike. Giving it a nudge on another local uphill Strava segment, I got my fastest time out of 143 previous attempts.
Look aimed the 785 at everyday riders as well as the Fortuneo pro team it sponsored as the time of the launch, so with this is mind it has the classic 73 degree ‘parallel’ geometry (size medium) and supplies perfectly balanced handling on the downhills.
But disc brakes v rim brakes is cycling’s Brexit debate and although I count myself as a rim-mainer, if you’ll forgive the terrible pin, unlike Parliament I can still be persuaded by a good disc argument and I don’t see one here. Other brands have aero bikes with discs that are closer to the UCI’s weight limit – the 2019 S-Works Venge weighs 6.9kg for example – so since the 785 doesn’t have any aero credentials at all, it needs to stay super-light and stake its claim as one of the world’s best climbing bikes or risk irrelevance.
The 785 Huez RS Disc is wonderful, elegant bike that supplies a high-quality ride and the top model comes with arguably the best disc groupset there is. However, it is at its awesome best as a pure climbing bike in the original, lighter rim-brake version.