What's Cool In Road Cycling

Best Of PEZ ’10: PEZ Reviews The Cyfac Absolu

This is one of those product reviews that was always in the cards. PEZ have had a fair share of goods from the tip-top custom builders in North America and it’s about damn time we branched out a little and brought you a taste of what’s available from over the ocean.

It’s been a long time since I last worked with Cyfac, logging a few miles on their stock Tigre model, so Cyfac and Pez both thought it might be nice to roll something again. This time though, we wanted to make sure we had a representation of what Cyfac can do when they build to suit. And while most people know how fantastic Cyfac are at complex paint schemes, we wanted this bike to have a bit of flair, but really show off the craftsmanship underneath. With that in mind…

Click the thumbnail for a biggie view or, for a HUGE pic click HERE

Cyfac have grown in recognition in the US since our review 5 years ago, but when people pretty frequently ask me about high end custom carbon, I still need to explain to a few, where to look for examples of the company craft.

Of course, the brand recognition in Europe is still quite a bit higher… Cyfac are known for serving up custom frames for individuals. They are also famous in Euro Race circles for being the bail-out service for bicycle brands that pay to play in the pro peloton. BUT unlike lots of brands whose days making frames for others stopped 10 years ago, when one metal bike looked enough like another that paint was all that was needed to pirate one brand for another, Cyfac are still in that game.

Possibly the most substantial difference between Cyfac and most other custom builders is that Cyfac build with more tube shape than several more recognized Custom Shops.

This not only allows Cyfac to custom replicate tubes that allow its frames to blend in well under the paint of other brands. They also bring a very different aesthetic to custom carbon than the more industrial tube and lug or tube to tube designs…

This is generally where Pez run 8-10 production shots like this:

We would normally walk you, picture by picture, through the extremely detailed process that shows why a custom carbon frame can take 10+ times the man hours versus most stock carbon frames (Cyfac’s stock bikes are built virtually the same as their custom…).

This time though, I think while a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a thousand pictures…

The video will walk you through:
– cutting the tubes to spec,
– hand finishing some details,
– setting the tubes at the proper angles,
– tacking the tubes of the main triangle in place
– setting the rear stays
At this point, the frames get more hand finishing than most high end stock frames get as a finished product.
– Then comes the carbon lay up (Stratification)
– several different layers (all hand trimmed by location and use) for stiffness, strength and impact reinforcing. The amounts and lengths of these layers not only add strength, they differ in length and thickness to help tune the ride.
-Then a very carefully laid top layer that should match well with the weave pattern of the tube set (mind you a tube set chosen depending on consumer demand).

Have a look…

What you’re seeing is essentially how several well made stock frames are fabricated, with a couple of critical differences.

First, the tubes are cut for stock frames in high quantities. That means if you cut 10 or 100 of the same tubes, you’ve spread the man hours and money over those tubes…

Second, the manufacturing of most stock bikes stops at about the 1:20 point in the video. The entire stratification process for a lot of companies comes in the form of paint over filler. That’s why you see black painted joints on so many bikes these days. On other stock bikes, even less work was done in setting up a mold for the whole of the front triangle than is done in tube to tube. (Less work not meaning necessarily a worse product).

I don’t mean that there are not some fantastic stock bikes to be had even in the case that the process has no custom element and takes far fewer steps, but the justification of price point is, for Cyfac, pretty exceptional when you understand what parts make up a frame and the multiple steps that go in to putting it together specifically for an individual and or even in the case of very small run stock bicycles.

Hide the detail?
We’ve shown you Cyfac’s Paint schemes in the past. Loads of color choices (thousands more than this)

And Cyfac can skin your ride end to end with multiple layers and patterns designed to accent the more modern lines of the Absolu…

The finishing section at Cyfac is fantastic at putting your personal pallet on board for sure. But after learning about how much work goes in to each individual frame and how detail oriented the placement of every last fiber is in the stratification process, I simply couldn’t bring myself to cover it all up.

We talked through a pattern that would leave the BB area more exposed, show the head, top and down joints and do something to accent the ISP seat tube, but not cover it or hide the shape in the way that paint patterns often do… Frankly I thought it would be a breeze, and I was “doing them a favor” by coming up with something with some style and a bit of color but not much detail work…

It never occurred to me that Cyfac have no decals until I watched them sweat the details trimming out…

They also set everything by hand pattern, meaning the tiny detail I asked for of a French flag banner tapering from the top tube up the seat tube would mean a painfully thin strip of paint. Followed by another and another, all needing to be hand trimmed and detailed. I also thought it would be a nice pattern to have a red, white and blue head badge and that if we ran the colors on the head badge off to their own sides I would effectively have a bike that Matched 95% of the clothing I had depending on what side of the group I rode on that day…

All simple right?

Have a look. This Video doesn’t show you the other two times they painted and masked the bike for the Red and White sections (or the final Matte clear coats they painted on the bike bars and stem), but does show you a bit of the work that goes into an “easy” finish…

After being sent the video, I felt like a bit of a tool and tried to apologize for having them do the detail work. I was sure that because I wanted everything essentially raw it would be an easy decal gig. I had no idea that they had to then paint on all of the teeny weenie wording and the logos were special etc… I felt a lot better when the reply was “Hey, it really was a relatively simple job. That kind of detail and more is what we do every day.” I felt a bit better, but that level of detail is quite a way past what virtually all stock and several custom shops will do as standard.

Bringing it all together
I guess all that makes for a pretty reasonable walk around the bike. As I said, I wanted it red one side, blue the other, clear to carbon insignia on white. The head tube it’s self flares at the top and bottom to take the hidden set cups.

The fork has lean lines that match well with the frame’s mid-large sized tubes. It’s a solid unit that tossed in a pronounced rib for a bit of reinforcement side to side…

And also tossed in a bulge at the bottom, lending more meat at the end, also for stability:

The Top tube is wide at the head tube and has substantial shaping on the top and bottom. There’s a bit of a dip in the center of the top (and bottom) somewhat like a figure 8 laid on its side, tapering back to oval at the seat tube.

Like the top tube, the down tube gets the pucker on bottom…

And top…

The tubes in the shot below actually show the open end / “figure 8” well…

The tube shape isn’t a simple aesthetic. Cyfac have worked pretty hard to develop tube shapes and define the carbon lay in constructing them. In fact Pez have a little past experience with the same CATIA software used in forming multiple shapes along with FEA analysis for the suggested mechanical character of the units created for a few other industries that play with Carbon.

The net effect of the sideways 8’s as placed in the bike are tubes that have better side flex resistance than vertical load resistance, while remaining fairly torsion resistant.

So it’s not all just about the carbon wrapping for Cyfac. The tube stock isn’t too shabby stand alone…

The seat tube for the Absolu is an ISP design.

I’ll be the first to admit that I feel like ISP is simply an aesthetic benefit for most designs unless some damper system is involved. The performance benefits suggested are at best a stretch to define in a fashion that would be relatively important to anyone (other than those wishing to struggle more while packing their bikes). But who’s to say that Aaesthetics are not enough to have a go?? Especially when Cyfac nail the painting detail so accurately that the red white and blue paint designed to run up the seat tube to accentuate the ISP lines up dead perfectly even in the seat clamp.

Cutting the ISP is also a stress point for some, but simply prepping a bit with some tape in case you slip a little and using the easy guide provided.

Measure twice (or 5 times if you’re me) and cut once. Cyfac also have a few spacers that allow a range of adjustment that I have found allows for the difference in rail heights of at least 7 saddles…

And if you decide at day’s end to fully toss in the towel, the seat tube goes from ISP taper to round…

That means you should be able to cut down the ISP section, make a stress relief cut, grab a post clamp and standard seat post and convert the bike over (make sure to discuss this with Cyfac).

What’s certain is that ISP makes for a very clean look on the Absolu…

Out back, the seat stays tie in with a Cyfac Signature split tail…

The seat stays are a triangular shape and separate right and left side pieces with brake bridge and brace joining them together.

Added stiffness isn’t any sort of advantage at the seat tube / chain stay junction in this location so Cyfac made the contact point a bit more complex simply to make vibration work a little harder by changing fiber direction. That it also looks pretty good is a side benefit…

While the seat stays only have a slight bend, the chain stays have more shape. Narrow near the BB as expected to help clear your feet, and then flared out to take a standard road hub.

The chain stays are more of a “D” shape, flat inside and rounded out…

They form up toward the BB in a higher stack height and are an all round more lean look than a lot of modern designs that seem to go for a large an area as possible.

The contact points are well thought for the Absolu… The rear drop outs are metal shielded around solid carbon and the hanger is replaceable.

Another pucker point on some light carbon frames is the front hanger clamping area. Cyfac take no chances with this either using a reinforced section with enough range for large rings or compacts…

Another well handled detail are the cable stops… Internal routing for the rear brake and well formed gear stops that keep things nice and narrow.

As we take a slight turn away from the frame itself and get ready to pay attention to that other essential ingredient to a custom bike (see below), note this: We chose to spec that Absolu with a design that fit my needs. Cyfac can design the Absolu to fit your specific needs and desires all the way down to whether you’re looking for BB30, Di2 internal integration, or 1 1/4″ x 1 1/8″ fork/head tube. These are available within the spectrum of both custom and stock geometry builds for small upcharges to cover the incremental time necessary. Like everything with the Cyfac custom experience, all you need to do is get with your Cyfac dealer and ask.

Yeah, but a custom fit bike needs fitting
Of course none of this build quality amounts to much unless the fit is correct. Because I have a little experience in where I like my hands, feet and ass in relation to the BB and wheel axles, I could have simply dialed up the numbers and shipped them off. But I really wanted to see how the Postural Fit system worked with me as a subject… (We covered it a long while ago, and it’s changed a bit since then). So I jumped on a jet and went to the absolute opposite of the weather I’ve visited in the last few bike factories I visited…

How could you go wrong with a town named “Oceanside, California”?

I zipped over to Rivet Cycle Sport and found one of the nicest shops I’ve seen tucked into one of the smallest spaces I’ve seen used as a shop. I found you don’t need a lot of room when you know what you’re doing and you’ve selected very good products…

Owner Matt Simpson also had a customer on hand who was willing to stand in for a few photos. Of course things turned to bike talk and that had our photo subject asking questions about what products could be used without service, nonstop for a few thousand miles…

A few more questions (because this is the last man on the planet that has time to talk about his accomplishments when his goals are far more important) I discovered that I was speaking to ultra extreme endurance athlete, David Goggins.

Not your typical endurance athlete (he looks like the meat on most “real” endurance athletes wouldn’t make him an adequate omelet …), you can read a little more about him at DavidGoggins.com and better yet, start finding ways to donate to Specialops.org like I have.

Anyhoo, the system seems extremely simple, but it’s a bit like a duck on water (a duck with 2700 legs). The system takes a few select measures (more than those shown here)

And then sets using the 9 measures taken (all corresponding very well with the simple contact points on a bike) and adding scoring based on a few questions about the rider and what he wants from the bike. This is all run through a data analysis system created in part by using 20 years of fitting study from France’s Lyon Sports Med Center (60,000 plus fits) and works to create a suggested geometry and contact points.

That said, I was suspect simply because fitting tends to be an art learned over a period of time rather than being a part of a static formula, but I was game.

Poof. The thing kicks out geometry that is basically dead on to my selection for the past couple of project bikes. I also threw this system a curve and selected a more stable geometry and less emphasis on “race”. The difference was a slight tweak in the wheel base and head angle versus my last couple of builds. And that’s pretty much exactly what the difference should have been given my electing a bit different focus.

Now I will qualify that I don’t see how this system could account for some of the more complex issues that come to fitting. Namely medical issues and things like substantial leg length differences are not a part of the system. That’s something you need a guy like Matt for. But I can say that this isn’t a bad model for the vast majority of healthy cyclists looking for a performance fit. And Cyfac will be releasing an updated version very shortly. (Much more info is available clicking here here.

Parts is Parts…
Project bikes are simply not project bikes without top kit… Getting a Cyfac and loading it with a stock gruppo and plain parts would simply not be worth mentioning. Talking about SRAM shifting well can sometimes take up half of a review at other publications.

I think you probably already know the stuff works really well, but I have to toss up a shot anyway because not everyone has seen the new SRAM Flat, meant to go together with all of the matte finished carbon bikes and parts produced lately.

Sure it’s just a nice Red lever, but because I asked Cyfac for a flat finished clear coat to better show the carbon and give the bike a certain look and this bike was going to be Cyfac’s display bike for NAHBS, I had to hand rub the levers a little to make sure the finish matched (no, there’s no SRAM “flat”).

We got the stock SLC 2 bars from ZIPP, along with the SL145 stem in their standard gloss coat.

But I swapped the black face plate for their chromed faceplate from an older production run, filled in the colored logos with a little wax (jewelers trick) to keep from taking the color off and knocked out a brushed matte face. I also knocked down the gloss finish on the bars and stem and shipped em to France to be sprayed matte along with the frame. They wound up working out pretty well…

And no way I could let the gloss headset spacer stand…

That got the same one handed man love as the SRAM levers…

Since details are details, we (yes, like every other magazine, we means “I”) had to swap the standard Nokon housing cables for Jagwire Rip Cord.

No way I could leave that silver sticking out when the black cable (left…) looks so, eh, not there…

I also had to make an additional swap that was pleasure and pain all at once.

EE Cycleworks cranks might be the nicest cog turners on the market, except that they’re not quite on the market. These are fully functioning prototypes and had to find their way back home. So while we had em on the bike at NAHBS…

yep, that’s the complete cranks and hardware…

We switched to the also nice and readily available (and Matte finished to match the bike) Easton EC90 Crankset for the long haul.

And we capped the cranks off with a little taste of France in LOOK Cycles new Blade pedals…

Cyfac’s own custom painted cages (one red and one blue…)

HandleBra Bar Tape is pretty much the default grip on everything I own at this point and this set was custom stitched with white accent stripes to pick up the bike detail a bit…

EE Cycleworks didn’t come completely off the bike, as they have updated their already fantastic brake sets.

A change to the return spring, different geometry and a design that’s at home on skinny wheels or Fat boys like Zipp’s OS newer 303’s made these an easy grab.

Last Butt not at all least is the choice in saddles…

Selle San Marco make my current saddle of choice in their still relatively light, massively channeled Mantra. If this thing puts pressure on your perineum, all I can say is congratulations… Climb off the bike, buy a ticket to LA and start your adult film career. For us normal folks, there is ample side support but the channel size and shape makes this support me well and allow mega freedom in the middle (and vents well). Saddles are personal and this one’s mine.

Right, it’s beautiful custom carbon with all the bells and whistles, but do the bells and whistles play music?

Of course they do…

The bike itself tipped the NAHBS scales at 12 pounds and change. Now take off a proto set of wheels and cranks. Heck, skip over the Zipp Carbon tubulars and add a set of American Classic Magnesium metal Clinchers and standard Easton Cranks, Bottle cages, Look Pedals, double wrap the bars for comfort, use a saddle with plenty of padding… 13.9.

That said, scales are extremely poor judges of ride quality. In fact the latest bikes that seem to get to the lowest weights tend to fail the smoothness test. Smooth and Stiff combined seems to be where a few custom carbon guys really make a difference versus stock. Cyfac are one of those top guys in this class and the Absolu is a very smooth ride despite both it’s low weight and it’s appearance.

Bikes can “look” harsh? Of course you can’t judge ride by looks, but you can spot trends. A lot of multi-coque, molded bikes with similar modern lines and low weight also tend to share high Mod carbon, high pressure molding and they wind up with less built in smoothness.

Some companies have too much emphasis on meeting the demands of a marketing department that can’t sell anything but a number.

The Absolu gives vibe feed back like a bike that weighs a lot more (and has lugs). Yet it gives up little in responsiveness. The complete frame has a bit of flex, but not as much as you might think given the ride smoothness. It responds very well standing, sprinting and holds a line VERY well. The fork is solid and the rest of the frame moves as a unit. No surprises.

The geometry that suited my taste for this bike might not be to your liking, but it performed as requested, very stable, Not what some call “racy” or twitchy at all.

I’ve had it suggested that “twitchy” = “fast” and is always part of the character that comes with the “latest tech”. That’s pure bullsh!t.

Any bike with custom geometry can be made twitchy using 50 year old technology (add flexy and you have the double crap-whammy as relates to handling). The build method with Cyfac is very similar to several cutting edge, tube to tube frames, both production and custom. I know a couple of companies that have a lot less refined process and tube tech than Cyfac. Their tech ends with meium quality tubes, quick bonding and way less detailed joint finishing. Cyfac sweat a lot more detail from start to finish.

One place other companies don’t seem to stop short of Cyfac is cost.

Inexpensive is all relative, but Cyfac’s retail for a custom Absolu will start in the range of $6899, which includes frame, fork, ceramic headset, and cages. Standard geometry with any Absolu paint scheme (colors can be chosen a la carte) is $4999.

There are no surprises here for anyone that knows much about Cyfac.

This is a relatively small custom shop that started out like a lot of fantastic builders did. One man had a passion for bikes. He rode and raced and rode some more… When that didn’t pay the bills well enough, he stayed with his passion having learned building skills working for one of his teams sponsors.

Francis Quillon developed started like that, branching out on his own, working from his garage and became well known for providing team racers with custom frames built to better suit their needs, ready to paint in someone else’s colors. In fact, that’s how the Cyfac name came to pass. CYcles Fabrique Artisanal Cadre. Loosely put: “Custom Race Frames…”

The company has grown some. Situated in one of the most beautiful places on earth (The Loir Valley) Cyfac is no place near “large” but they producing around 1000 frames per year. They have a great spot in the market, handling things the same way all very small shops due, but simply doing it on a slightly bigger scale. The company very recently sold to people that could simply still be called “family”. It’s managing director Aymeric Le Brun and a long time customer Eric Sakalowsky who also distributed the frames through his company VeloEuropa are both rooted in cycling and have a desire for a future for Cyfac that resembles it’s past.

One of the interesting notes is that while the company has its roots firmly in race provision and still provides custom frames to the pro peloton, Cyfac have no interest at all in playing the current Pro Tour level pay-to-play game.

Building 1000 frames a year and working in a very close knit group of people, they have simply found a very happy place. They can make frames fairly quickly and service passionate customers. If they were to play with teams on a larger scale, that would require two to three months of shutting off the people that count. They just don’t want to do that… And why should they?. Teams can still order custom and pay for it like everyone else… And they do.

Possibly the best description I have after meeting the folks at Cyfac is “calm”. Rather than the go go marketing , heavy hype and pressure for growth and the suggestion of the next big thing, Cyfac seem to be far more concerned with long term satisfaction for both their customers and the people that make up the company.

That might not ever equate to CYFAC being the biggest or the most popular, but it sure makes for a very good custom bicycle.

Have Fun,
Charles Manantan

Thanks for looking. If you have other experiences with gear, or something to add, drop us a line. We don’t claim to know everything (we just imply it at times). Give us a pat on the back if you like the reviews, or a slap in the head if you feel the need!

PezCycling News and the author ask that you contact the manufacturers before using any products we test here. Only the manufacturer can provide accurate and complete information on proper use and or installation of products as well as any conditional information or product limitations.

Send your comments to: [email protected]

Like PEZ? Why not subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive updates and reminders on what's cool in road cycling?

Comments are closed.