|Cyclingnews TV News Tech Features Road MTB BMX Cyclo-cross Track Photos Fitness Letters Search Forum|
Look KG486 review - December 6, 2004
A solid winner
Designed with plenty of input from French star Laurent Jalabert, the Look KG486 is a spot-on road racing bike that won't beat you up or let you down, says Chris Henry.
The Look KG486 is by now a proven frame in the professional peloton. The frame was unveiled at the Vuelta at the end of 2002 and appeared under Crédit Agricole and Kelme team leaders Christophe Moreau and Oscar Sevilla (and later Alejandro Valverde) in 2003 before becoming standard team issue for both teams in 2004. The bike has been an important project for Look's new star consultant, Laurent Jalabert, who since retiring from racing at the end of 2002 has devoted more of his time and input to the design processes at Look. Jalabert won more than 100 races on Look bikes throughout his career and knows a thing or two about what a pro needs in a high performance frame.
The KG486, the first bike for which Jalabert worked through the entire design process, is a distinctive blend of aero styling and solid construction in a one piece carbon frame. The bike gives a very solid ride, but doesn't thrash the body from being too stiff, and the KG486 offers a frame design that highlights both form and function. As has become common on high-end carbon frames, the tubes are designed to provide stiffness and flex in the right places, meaning the seat tube retains an aero shape (complete with a cut-out around the rear wheel), while the top tube twists to flare laterally as it continues from seat tube to head tube.
The seat cluster is an impressive mass of moulded carbon, likely the source of some of the frame's 'extra' grams, but also a functional example of Look's workmanship and design. At around 1500g the KG486 is far from the lightest frame in the peloton, but Look has never pursued weight at all costs, preferring to tune the whole package, and going for reliability, perhaps after watching some of its competitors' frames turn out to be less than durable. The frame also incorporates what Look calls its 'double curve' on the rear seat stays, designed to once again combine lateral stiffness with vertical vibration dampening.
Look's 'Progressive Sloping Evolusize' means the amount of top tube slope on the KG486 varies depending on frame size. The smallest frame, a 49cm, has up to 65mm of slope, whereas a 59cm frame has no slope at all. The goal is to provide the same handling and ride quality throughout the entire size range (49-59cm, every two centimetres).Look didn't just jump on the sloping top tube bandwagon for fashion's sake, rather the frames are designed with geometry in mind and built accordingly.
The full-tilt carbon components, including ITM Millennium Ultra-Light handlebars, Look's Ergopost 2 seat post and Carbostem, as well as the company's own beefy carbon crankset, provide nice complements to the monocoque frame. The ITM bars have a slightly deeper drop than I would have preferred but otherwise had a classic, comfortable shape. I used my own saddle for the test, a Fi'zi:k Arione, as well as the Campagnolo Eurus clinchers for most of the riding. The Eurus are strong, light, and dependable over all types of terrain, worthy of training or racing on a frame like the KG486.
Out on the open roads, the Look rolls smoothly - and quickly. The Campy Record provides perfect shifting and the Eurus wheels complement the bike's design with a stiff but forgiving ride. Even on moderate sections of pavé, the bike absorbs vibrations quite well and feels sturdy. Having owned a carbon frame (lugged, not one piece) that failed, it's nice to at least feel confident that Look's construction will last.
I might, however, prefer a little less carbon in the total package. Specifically, I would feel somewhat more comfortable using more traditional materials for the seat post and handlebars. This is strictly a personal preference, but I don't believe every part of the bike needs to be carbon. Oh, did I mention the water bottle cage is carbon?
Actually, the carbon cage is an accessory that Look got right. The C-shaped cage holds bottles snugly over all road surfaces, cobbles included, and this nothing to sneeze at. Look's carbon model may be light, but personally I'm not the least bit concerned with the weight of a bottle cage. All I want is for my drinks not to go flying or rattle every time I hit a rough patch of pavement, something that seems hard for too man cage manufacturers to master.
All in all, the Look KG486 was a joy to ride. The frame's weight was the only notable issue, and for me it was not a deal-breaker. From the first ride, the bike felt comfortable and exactly as I expected a bike to feel. That is, the adjustment period was as short as any. The front-end handling was responsive without being jittery, while the one piece carbon frame soaked up enough vibration without feeling spongy. The bike was just as comfortable after four hours as it was after two.
Fitted with the superb Campagnolo Record group, the KG486 offers virtually everything a top of the line race bike should. Weight-watchers could always make substitutions of some parts to shave grams, but for me the bike's ride was nice enough to look beyond the weight, which only seems extra by comparison.
Images by Chris Henry/Cyclingnews.com