|Cyclingnews TV News Tech Features Road MTB BMX Cyclo-cross Track Photos Fitness Letters Search Forum|
On Test: 2009 Avanti Quantum Team, November 14, 2008
Ticks in all the right boxes
Avantis Quantum Team is a classic modern road racing bike, combining eager, positive response with laser-guided handling thanks to its torsionally stiff carbon fibre frame. Shimanos stunning new Dura-Ace ices the cake. Bikeradar's international editor John Stevenson was fortunate enough to enjoy a slice.
Avanti is New Zealands biggest bike company. Its one of the landmarks on the Australian scene and its bikes just might be more widely available elsewhere in the world if recent hints from the Avanti folks become reality. The Quantum Team is its top model road race bike, the result of an intense development effort.
Ride & handling: float like a butterfly sting like a bee
The best road bikes enthusiastically assist maximal efforts, but dont bug you with strange handling quirks when you just want to cruise peacefully along. The Quantum team achieves that perfect balance of eagerness-on-demand and just-riding-along placidity. Its most striking attributes are its phenomenal cornering accuracy; the ease with which it floats along on the flat; and its sheer rampant willingness to encourage and join in as you explore the upper reaches of your aerobic range on climbs.
Point the Quantum Team into a curve and it banks smoothly and precisely into the turn without fuss or hesitancy. Thats a boon when youre shoulder-to-shoulder in a group and you need to be certain you can rely on the bike, but it also makes for some major thrills on the open road. Find a set of downhill twisties and the temptation to see just how fast and hard you can go to the bottom is irresistible.
Something about the Quantum Team makes it easy to keep up the pace on the flat, too. The daily dash to the office has been consistently faster. The culprit is almost certainly the Zero aero wheels; the 58mm-deep carbon-faired rims slice the air more efficiently than low-profile rims and it certainly seems to be a difference you can feel. Some people claim to be able to detect differences between wheels that are so small its hard to believe theyre not lost in the noise. Were therefore a bit reluctant to get too excited about this sort of difference, but the clock doesnt lie: Ive been about five percent faster on the Quantum Team compared to my usual commute bike. Not all of that is the wheels - the rest of the package is in there urging and assisting too, although the wheels sure dont hurt.
A light bike is an asset on climbs, but the Quantum Team isnt insanely light. At 7.36kg without pedals its almost a middleweight in this era of bike that easily hits the UCIs 6.8kg weight limit. Nevertheless, its hardly lardy, but there seems to be more to the Quantum Teams climbing prowess than just the gram count.
Its low-speed handling is perfectly steady, which lets you focus on stepping out on the razors edge where you go up as fast as possible but your breakfast stays down. Theres a powerful feeling of connectedness between your effort and the road, thanks to the simply huge amount of carbon around the bottom bracket. You just cant feel the back end flexing under effort. Instead you put the power down and you go forward and up. Pretty soon youre digging into reserves you didnt know you had because the Quantum Team has gone from coaxing you upward to demanding, with menaces, that you get the hell up that hill as fast as you can right now.
Its like a cross between a sergeant major and a standover man.
This eagerness is about feel and response, though, not handling. The Quantum Teams cornering manners and amiable willingness to stroll along make it a fine companion for long days in the saddle too. You dont necessarily have to hammer it, but itll always tempt you.
Frame: carbon for beef and a quiet life
Much of the Quantum Teams character comes from a handful of major features of its frame. Theres a lot of bike here. The bottom bracket shell is 86mm wide, with pressed-in bearings to carry the new Shimano Dura-Ace cranks. The down tube is almost as wide for much of its length, topping out at over 70mm wide just in front of the bottom bracket, while the seat tube and chainstays are similarly beefy. The right hand stay is 43mm tall, the left 37mm to take into account the differing forces on the two sides.
Up front, the steerer tube tapers from 1 1/8" at the top to 1 1/2" at the bottom. This stiffens for fork against fore-aft flex and lets Avanti enlarge the top of the down tube too. All this material down the bikes main axis of flex is what makes the Quantum feel so torsionally rigid and gives it its resistance to maximal efforts.
Super-stiff bikes are nothing new; they have been around since the oversized aluminium Cannondales and Kleins of the 1980s. What sets apart well-dialled carbon fibre frames like the Quantum is that their stiffness comes without perceived harshness. A stiff aluminium frame rings like a bell with every bump. The resulting tactile and auditory assault is fatiguing.
Carbon, on the other hand, can be configured to damp out some of this buzz. Its not as simple as it being more or less stiff vertically, because bike frames are all pretty stiff vertically. Its more that a carbon frame spreads out the bumps a tiny bit, and takes the edge off them. Theyre still there, but they dont sting in quite the same way, leading to a perception of a softer feel, a gentle clunk over a bump rather than a jarring clang.
Equipment: New Dura-Ace supports a great gear selection
The heart of the Quantum Teams fit-out is the 2009 version of Shimanos Dura-Ace group. Shimano has shed grams from Dura-Ace, which was starting to look a bit overweight compared to SRAM Red and Campagnolo Record, with tricks such as carbon fibre brake levers and derailleur parts hollow outer chainring and lighter brakes. Visually, perhaps the biggest change is that the new Dura-Ace routes its gear cables under the tape.
The old style never bothered me, but apparently lots of people wanted Campagnolo-style hidden cabling. Cramming the shifter mechanism into the lever body does mean that its shape has changed. The new levers are a bit broader where your hand sits. Its disconcerting at first - change always is - but you soon get used to it.
Whats not changed is the sheer quality of Dura-Aces shifting and stopping. Changing gears is quick and positive, with a more pronounced clunk than before. Dura-Ace brakes are the one component I really miss when I ride an Ultegra-equipped bike. Their powerful, controllable stopping power is worth the money. Their already-good wet-weather performance has been further improved in this incarnation. This isnt the place for an in-depth exploration of the new Dura-Ace, though thats coming. In short, though, Shimano has put itself back in the top rank with this revamp of its pro-level road group.
To our eyes at least Shimano has excelled itself in the styling department, too. Dura-Aces mix of dark grey anodizing and polished bare aluminium is as up-to-the-minute as next months hit song. Dura-Aces look and feel are a perfect complement to the Quantum Teams frame.
It turns out that the wheels account for the Quantum Teams slight lardiness. At 1799g with rim strips theyre in the ballpark for deep-rim wheels, but thats still several hundred grams heavier than typical high quality wheels. The Specialized Mondo tyres are also surprisingly heavy at 280g each, but theyre grippy and predictable and look a million dollars in Team Quick-Step red and white. Or at least they do when theyre new. Like the white bar tape and saddle, they get grubby quickly. The bike-proud will see keeping them pristine as a challenge; lazy buggers like me will just replace them with something black when they wear out.
Contact points are taken care of by a Selle Italia Flite Gel Flow saddle and FSA F-Force Compact Carbon handlebar, neither of which happened to suit me: Id prefer a deeper drop bar with more forward throw, and the saddle just doesnt fit my bum. Saddles and handlebars are personal, but the short-drop compact handlebar is a strange spec on a road race bike. When you want to get into the drops, you want to get down. The 145mm drop of FSAs new ergo shape would be a better choice. The saddle sits on FSAs two-bolt K-Force Light seatpost, which makes it easy to get your saddle angle exactly right.
Frame: Avanti Quantum Team (ADT CRR5 Carbon)
Shift levers: New Shimano Dura-Ace STI Dual Control ST-7901