Look was one of the first carbon bike builders to really shape tubes to tune the ride and handling characteristics. Not simply a replacement for another bike in the line, the launch of the 566 marks LOOK’s entry in the growing category of carbon bikes that uses significantly shaped tubes to tune the ride comfort, while at the same time be a lot more affordable than you’d expect.
While lots of companies suggest that they’re pioneers in carbon, Look actually are. Way back in ‘85-86 they were winning their home town Tour (de France…), the first win for that race on a carbon bike. Of course with the Badger and Greg Lemond getting along so well, the world could be forgiven for not noticing the Look bikes, or the fact that Look were also the first clipless pedal to win a tour in 85!
LeMond & Hinault riding Look’s original carbon bikes in 1986.
Since then they’ve developed from “simple” Tour winning carbon to playing with shape through the KG series and into great forms reviewed here with the 585 and 595 ( PEZ rode one of the first bikes at the 2006 Tour ). Earlier this year, we again found ourselves along a Tour route on a Look, this time we traded France for California, and the 595 for the all new 566.
Click the thumb at top for the BIG view.
Until recently, the often mis-guided ‘gold-standard’ for defining the best riding bike was simply – how stiff is it? Making a carbon bike stiff has become increasingly easy, through the widespread (and again often misguided) use of high-modulous carbon, and also as engineers have advanced the shaping of tubes to achieve the most within parameters of weight, strength, and cost.
The last couple of years have seen more builders refine ride qualities that are both stiff in certain directions – like resisting the bending and flexing forces caused by pedaling, sprinting, braking, cornering, and standing – but also don’t feel like you’re riding a bathtub through a buzzsaw. And although carbon layup and resin formulas play a big role in determining how a bike will ride, the other key ingredient is tube shape.
Not everyone who likes road riding wants a bike designed for racing, nor does everyone want to pay for a bike designed for racing. And here is where the new for 2009 566 steps onto the stage. It’s a full carbon bike, designed to be raced and ridden hard, but without the super rigid feel often desired by ‘pros’ and ‘hard core racers’, AND priced as an affordable step up from aluminum (with a way better ride quality).
The bike itself, and its ride qualities are impressive, but even more so at the price points offered by LOOK. The 566 is designed by LOOK in France, while the frames are molded to LOOK’s exact specs in Taiwan where production costs savings allow this bike’s price to drop into a category that would make even Slap-Chop Vince say “WOW”! Ranging from US$2499 with Shimano 105 build, $2899 w/ SRAM Rival, or $3499 for Ultegra – this bike rides like a whole lot more than these prices suggest.
The curvy-tubed frame is eye-catching from top to bottom. The full carbon frame & fork are made from LOOK’s proprietary recipe of mixed modulous carbon, resins, and layup schedule. The front triangle is molded as one piece, to which the stays are joined ‘tube to tube’ style – where one tube is bonded onto another and in some cases wrapped with carbon for reinforcement. The frame design includes a shorter length top tube and longer length headtube (compared to LOOK’s 586 & 595 race bikes), to offer more options for riders who prefer to ride slightly more upright position – otherwise known as ‘comfortable’.
The wheelbase is slightly longer than we might expect on a frame this size. It measures 98.5cm versus 97.3cm for the small sized Look 595.
Headtube angle is 71.5 on the small, making it a tiny bit more relaxed than bikes running 72-73 degrees. The 74.5 seat angle is slightly more upright than some other bikes, and aids in reducing the saddle to handlebar reach for many riders.
The frame is in the 1100gram arena for the medium (LOOK’s stat), which isn’t super close to today’s super lights, but then you’re not paying a few grand more to save a couple hundred grams, and this ‘extra’ mass likely helps with the 566’s ride quality.
The Top Tube has an almost hunch-shaped arch a few inches back of the headtube, and although we’re used to seeing arced top tubes these days, this one is pronounced. The tube changes shape noticeably at the ‘hump’ – it’s generally larger in diameter towards the front, which presents a bigger tube to connect to the head tube and aid in strength and stiffness to the front end, while to the rear of the hump the top tube remains wide, but becomes flatter (in the vertical plain) as it moves to the seat tube. This section acts a little like a spring board – allowing enough flex to help smooth the ride.
The head tube is slightly taller than on a lot of other comparably sized bikes, the idea being to allow to higher handlebar placement – either without resorting to an ugly stack of spacers, or using less spacers than your old bike. I found that dropping the bars right down placed them perfectly for me, while I’d be using a spacer or two on a lot of other bikes. Headtube bearings are 1.125” top and bottom.
The downtube is big and beefy. Yeah – I know I’ve said that about a lot of bikes, but don’t blame me if that’s how they build ‘em these days. Besides looking cool and supplying a home for that all important brand name, it provides a solid backbone around which the rest of the ride qualities are built.
It’s squared and full width at the headtube, maximizing contact area where the tubes are joined, then gets wider (63mm at the BB junction) and becomes slightly ovalized as it meets the bottom bracket – a proven design when it comes to increasing lateral stiffness at the BB. Again, a pretty common design that works.
The shapely Rear Triangle has more curves than that bombshell Joan Holloway from Mad Men – a meeting of form and function sure to draw the eye of even the most style-conscious connoisseurs.
Both the seat stays and chain stays are shaped to perform, with pronounced squished, flattened sections in the middle of each, that are designed to allow enough vertical flex to help smooth the ride. The lateral stiffness is maintained by the combo of this curvature and shaping across both the vertical & horizontal plains.
The chainstays are 5mm longer than LOOK’s higher numbered models, and transition quickly to a flatter, wider shape about 4 inches back of the bb.
The distinct shaping is easy to see in these pics.
The seatstays share a similar shape, getting flatter and a whole lot wider in the mid-section, before transitioning to the aluminum dropouts.
The was the first time I’d ridden SRAM’s Rival Gruppo, and as their entry level priced group set, I was expecting a lot less. Rival represents the 3rd? generation of the component group after the introduction of Force back in 2007, and features a bunch of upgrades released as part of the top line RED system, that set it above the original Force in almost every aspect.
Carbon levers that are adjustable for reach, crisper “zero loss” shifting, and snazzy gloss black paint are among the most notable differences. And like the rest of SRAM’s gruppos, it worked flawlessly for me over 4 days and 13 hours of riding. My impression was that is performs as well as a much costlier Gruppo form the competitors.
The Fork is a new shape for the 566, again designed to be more complaint vertically. It’s all carbon from the steerer on down, until you reach the aluminum dropouts.
I rode this bike on 4 stages of the 2009 Tours of California, and never one to waste a race report stuck in the press room, I figured getting on the bike would be a way better way to see the action, and get to know the 566. The TOC planners had conveniently served up a series of stages that lent themselves to a perfect all around bike shake-down in a very short time.
The ride plan looked great –
• Stage 3: San Jose – Modesto: Ride the gnarly climb of Sierra Road ahead of the stage, and follow the course as far as the rain-soaked forecast would allow.
• Stage 4: Merced – Clovis: Ride the last 80km, including climb over Crane Valley Rd, and rolling hills & flats to finish.
• Stage 6: Solvang TT- Join the Road Bike Action ride through the local hills and valleys: ie: hammerfest of leg-ripping proportions.
• Stage 7: Santa Clara – Pasadena: Ride first 100km of stage over tow big climbs of Millcreek Summit, which included some 40 miles of elevation gain, plus around 20 miles of fast, twisting descending.
These 4 rides offered up an awesome mix of terrain – lots of climbing from steep and ugly to long long grinders, some very fast – and technical – descents, and enough mileage to really get used to how the bike rides.
Although we typically like to live with our review bikes for a couple of months,
these 4 days and 13+ hours of all kinds of terrain and conditions, including two days of 5+ hours of saddle time were an excellent schedule to evaluate a bike.
Just in case you needed proof this bike is race ready – here’s SoCal’s Team RaceLab on their 566’s.
This bike really does deliver in the comfort department. I only rode it with Fulcrum wheels, but they proved a nice combo, adding a stiffness I found worked well with this frame.
Day One took us over Sierra Road, and after a 30 minute warm up ride across San Jose, we went pretty much straight up, hitting grades of 9% average, but going as steep as 17%+. Ouch. We’re talking bottom gear, get outta the saddle and start digging. If a bike is gonna flex from lateral force – it’s gonna do it here. I rocked this bike side to side, standing, sitting, squirming any way I could to maintain forward momentum. I’ll tell you this bike climbs– no mush, no squish, I grunted: it climbed. Nice.
Same was true on the long climbs I did over the following days. Most notably was day 4 when I rode from Santa Clarita to Pasadena, over a relentlessly slow death of a slog into the coastal mountains. By this time I was pretty tired from a heavy week of long days chasing the race, and having already logged twice my normal hours of weekly riding. But it was here that I truly appreciated the forgiveness of the 566 frame.
Also on that final day I enjoyed two of the most fun descents of my career – (which includes a fair amount of riding on European roads). I’m talking 20-30 minutes of top gear, hands in drops, full speed twisters in virtually closed roads (we were just a few hours ahead of the race). The 566 is stable at speed, predictable in turns, and forgettable to the point you don’t have to think about what the bike is doing – . This bike went as fast as I dared, and it was I who blinked when the option for even more speed was on the table.
It’s forgiving enough to race for beginners, and responsive enough to ride in at pretty much any level. I suspect that most high-level races will prefer a bike that is just plain stiffer, but given individual levels of comfort, this bike would not emabrass on a fast, long group ride.
Maybe I’ve become spoiled, riding so many top line bikes over the past few years, but this bike absolutely rides like it should cost a bunch more than it does.
The bad news is the 2009’s sold out in the Spring. The good news is 2010 bikes arrived in July, so you can get next year’s bike now.
Get more info and find a dealer close to at LOOKCYCLE-USA.com.
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