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Road test: CYFAC XL8R Accelerator
Introducing 40 years of French flair
By Chris Henry
On a recent trip home to the States, I had the opportunity to test ride a CYFAC XL8R, the mid-range model of CYFAC's series of high end frames. CYFAC may not be the best known brand name, but its decidedly modern frames combine solid tradition with a reputation for quality craftsmanship.
Hand-made from the start
CYFAC, a company which boasts more than 40 years of experience building frames for some of the biggest names in cycling, hand-builds all of its frames in La Fuye, France. Chief frame builder Francis Quillon began his career as a promising amateur racer in France, and began building frames for himself and his teammates. As his reputation as a builder spread, Quillon devoted more of his time to building frames for more teams. The CYFAC company began in a little workshop run by Quillon and his wife. CYFAC continues to hand-build all frames on its own premises, and employs the talents of several frame builders, including the brother of former world champion Laurent Brochard.
CYFAC lacks the big budget to sponsor pro teams under its own name, but many of their bikes are ridden in the pro peloton under the guise of another sponsor's name and paint job. This was the case with the French Cofidis team, who rode the frames under the name MBK through 2002. This year, CYFAC provides frames for the MBK-Oktos team. CYFAC frames have been ridden to stage victories in all three grand tours.
CYFAC offers four production road frames, the Starship, XL8R, Airplane, and Altec 2+, in addition to time trial frames and custom offerings. My test bike was the XL8R "Accelerator". The frame, which features a sloping top tube (5 degree slope), is available in four sizes (S, M, L, XL). The medium size frame provided for the test weighs in at 1,100 grams (2.42 lbs). My complete bike weighed 17.3 pounds (see full build specifications below).
Medium frame size geometry (Measured center to center):
Top tube (actual) - 54.3 cm
With only four sizes and one paint scheme, this may present a limitation to some buyers, although CYFAC offers customized painting for all of its frames at an additional cost.
Dimples: not just for golf balls
An interesting aspect of the XL8R frame is the placement of three dimples in the tubing on each side of the top and down tubes, close to the welds with the head tube. These dimples create what Columbus calls the "Multishape Damping Effect". This design employs specially shaped tubes and three different diameter punches, or dimples, on both sides of the top and down tubes. The punches are positioned in the zone where vibrations from the fork enter the frame, which CYFAC claims creates a physical obstacle which prevents the free movement of vibration waves throughout the length of the tube.
How much the dimples in the XL8R frame really contribute to the dampening of road shock is difficult to judge. Regardless, the frame lives up to the claims of providing a stiff, yet forgiving ride, largely due to the choice of carbon fork and rear stays.
Columbus flexes its Muscle
The Columbus Muscle rear stays and full-carbon fork are constructed using 15 layers of high grade carbon fibre, covered with another layer of high modulus carbon fibre. The lower portion of the fork blades and the area near the rear dropouts feature a 'Ti Mesh Titanium Net', designed to increase the damping effect of high-frequency vibrations, such as those produced by riding over broken pavement.
The Muscle fork has a 4.5cm rake, features a full-carbon steerer, and weighs in at just 398 grams. The chain stays feature an s-bend designed to increase stiffness.
Short but sweet
My testing conditions for the XL8R were not ideal, coming in the dead of an east coast USA winter. With more favorable weather- and fitness- I would have preferred to put the bike and myself through the paces of some longer rides. As it stood, my average ride was in the hour and a half range, covering an endless series of relatively short, and relatively steep hills.
Although the XL8R is not the lightest bike out there, it performed well when the going got vertical. The stiff frame's response was quick and agile during out of the saddle efforts, but rode comfortably on a variety of surfaces and absorbed road shock nicely.
The XL8R is designed as a stiff, strong bike that will go the distance, ideal for heavier or more powerful riders concerned about too much frame flex. The frame is light, althouth it doesn't challenge other featherweight frames. Furthermore, the choice of Mavic Open Pro rims for the test bike added another element of dependable performance, if not the lightest product available. The head tube angle of 73 degrees presented a nice combination of responsive steering and smooth, steady handling.
For my test I substituted an Easton EA50 mountain bike seat post for the lighter American Classic post provided with the bike, which was too short to provide proper extension with the frame's sloping top tube.
Rounding out the equipment choices on the test bike were Selle San Marco's ASPide FX saddle, and Deda Magic handlebars and stem. Each of these components was acceptable, though my personal preference would have been to swap the saddle for my trusty Selle Italia Flite, and the bars for a model with more room to grip on the drops.
Handles well in the snow
A two hour ride in the snow wasn't something I had planned as part of the CYFAC review, but that's just what I got when I headed to Washington, DC to ride with a friend. We set out for a simple spin of about 32 miles, the snow began to accumulate and stick to the roads at around the halfway mark, and consequently those minor issues such as traction, shifting, and braking were somewhat compromised. All in all, however, the bike performed admirably, even if I would rather have not found out, and only at ride's end did the trusty Dura-Ace components begin to succumb to the accumulated slush and begin to miss shifts.
Overall I was quite pleased with the quality of the CYFAC ride. Though I was unable to test the bike on some longer rides, its performance during the rides I did take certainly inspired enough confidence to make me wish I still had it on hand.
One issue I did encounter when I began riding the XL8R was the fact that my heels would occasionally brush the chain stays while pedaling. This happened more with my right heel, and admittedly my cleat position is such that my right foot angles out a bit more than my left. Nonetheless, the position is not radical, and my size 44.5 Sidi shoes would not be considered larger than average. A glance at the s-bend in the chain stays shows that the flare occurs a bit too close to the bottom bracket, though for many riders this may never pose a problem.
Just as a rider's comfortable position on a bike is an important component of efficiency and power output, so too is a comfortable ride and stable bike. The XL8R provides both, along with impeccable construction and distinctive styling.
Special thanks to Red Lantern Cycles for arranging delivery of the test bike.
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