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Road test - February 5, 2004
Anatomic XLR8R Team Pro
Finding himself without a bike during the off-season, Cyclingnews diarist Scott Sunderland enlisted the help of an Australian framebuilder to set him up with a custom bike.
Over the last 17 years, I have ridden and raced a great variety of bikes and have experienced the evolution in the bike building sector first hand. I went from steel to carbon frames, aluminium and aluminium oversize, titanium and the last bike in my garage was an aluminium-carbon combination.
As I signed up with the new Alessio-Bianchi formation for 2004, I took my 2003 Team fakta bikes to the mechanics just before leaving for Australia last October.
The new Bianchi bikes weren't going to be ready until early January and I found myself without a training bike for Australia.
Now, three months without a ride was just a tad too long so I made a few phone calls to friends and before I knew it, I had myself a new bike lined up.
The cooperation came from a true blue Australian bike designer, Sean Jeffries - alias Dr Spokes. His shop is situated strategically on the Gold Coast Highway, in Miami, Queensland and that was just perfect for me as I would travel from Brisbane via that route; to enjoy the beautiful beaches of the Australian east coast for a week before continuing the trip to Inverell, NSW.
Sean, the man behind the Anatomic frames was himself a triathlete, competing with the elite troop on the Gold Coast and interstate. Sean's background is in engineering as a CAD draughtsman and he brings his design skills and riding experience to the job of creating the perfect ride. All his bikes are custom-built, with Sean working with the rider to finalise the design and his welders carrying out the actual construction.
In his striving for perfection in every aspect of the bike-building trade, Sean has also acquired the skill of painting and airbrushing frames in a way which would make Italian frame manufacturers whistle in appreciation.
In Dr. Spokes mode, Sean offers a total bio-mechanical bike-fit to all his customers and thus gives them the opportunity of getting the exact right size frame, tailored to their personal anatomy and needs.
There are lots of riders out there for whom the common off-the-peg frames with angles and tube lengths designed to suit the average are not really favorable when aiming for top performance.
Sean will show you what would be an anatomically correct position for you and then discuss your wishes in detail: what you want from your bike; e.g. is it going to be a training bike, a track bike, or one for criterium racing, mountains, long road rides and races, T.T. or triathlons.
Sean has worked closely with triathletes in recent years because it's easier for a small operation to supply bikes for an individual than for a team, but he says he's keen to get more involved with road racing and is looking for riders to support.
Dr Spokes is also known to be a real gear guru and searches all over the world for the latest top-of-the-line lightweight components.
The day I went into his shop he had just finished putting a bike together that weighed a meager 6.2kg! This little piece of art was for a client who races in the master categories; talk about being a cycling enthusiast... and of course yours truly was not one bit jealous (much! I since have placed my own order).
Sean says he is developing his Anatomic range to rival all its European and US top-of-the-bill counterparts. Unfortunately, his lightweight bolides will have to be reserved for weekend coffee shop rides or life after pro racing. For pro events a bike that light has been ruled out by the UCI - I'll have to use a bike that's over half a kilogram heavier, as the UCI's minimum is 6.8kg.
Small changes make a huge difference when you want to feel 'as one' with the bike, and are critical for comfort, confidence and performance; the three essential factors needed for enjoyment and success.
I could see the great advantage in working with a custom frame builder like Sean and I was eager to talk to him about the bike he would build for me.
The result of a short but interesting intermezzo at his business premises was a beautiful bike, handed to me jus a week after our meeting!
It was complete. Finished in a superior way with the 2004 Campagnolo Record group and exquisitely painted, the graphics were sharp and I immediately noticed the workmanship in the clean welds on the frame; I was impressed.
The 3K full carbon front forks and the 3K carbon composite rear triangles are designed exclusively for the Anatomic Frame and look great with the Columbus XLR8R tubing. This and the black and gold combination give the bike a stealth appearance. I was a bit sorry I had the red seat but used it anyway as it is my favourite saddle.
I spent the three months of my off-season trip home to Australia riding this black beauty, and, in short, I'm very impressed and enthusiastic about the bike.
After setting up my position, seat height and so on, I set off down the road for my first 100km loop, with some short, steep climbs and fast descents. Straight away the bike felt spot-on! I had given my bike measurements to Sean, and the only difference between my Opera (Pinarello) aluminium/carbon team bike and the Anatomic was a half degree less in the head angle.
I had the immediate sensation of more comfort on the rough bitumen roads and it handled nicely in the corners and descents. The overall ride feel and comfort makes this a bike best suited to longer rides and races, especially on poor surfaces - it'd be great on cobblestones! It's not a criterium bike, though, but that's no surprise - after all, the bike was custom made for me!
The bike has a stiff feel but combined with responsiveness. Yes, I know that's the great bike test cliché, but it's how good bikes should feel - that your effort isn't being wasted and that things happen when you stomp on the pedals, the sensation of all your power going to the rear wheel via a good aluminium frame. The carbon seatstays also feel very stiff against lateral movement but act as a good shock absorber on the rough roads; and which gives the rear wheel plenty of contact with the road surface, especially on rough corners and descents.
Coming out of slow corners and opening up the throttle, the response from the bike was very pleasing. At this time you can get a lot of flex in the front part of a bike but there was very little here thanks to the full carbon forks.
I was stoked to have the 2004 Campagnolo group on the bike as it gave me the chance to get the feel of it before the new season started. The Alessio-Bianchi team will be equipped with this group set along with Campagnolo wheels; can't wait!
This bike was made exactly to my measurements and is equal to what I have been using to race in Europe. It had a positive feel on all road surfaces and it is stiff while it is still quite a light bike. The bike has the look of and does what I expect from a top end ride.
The Anatomic frames are of neat design, fit like a tailor-made Italian suit and are built with looks to match just that. This is something which is not easily achieved on a small scale. But Sean doesn't look likely to be operating on a 'small scale' for much longer. Overseas orders are flowing in, including contracts to build frames for the 2004 Chinese and South African Olympic triathlon teams.
But don't just take it from me. Sean's successful cooperation with other triathlon stars worldwide and in Australia (such as Miles Stewart, Chris Hill, Simon Whitfield and reigning world champion Emma Snowsill) are a confirmation of the quality of the Anatomic frames.
Recommended retail price: Au$3,000 (frame only)