ALPE D’HUEZ, France (VN) — Look knew it had a glaring omission in its line-up, namely an all-around bike that climbers can take to the mountains. That hole is now filled with an entire line dubbed the 785 Huez. The lightweight 785 Huez RS is the top-of-the-line offering with a frame that comes in at 730 grams (size S). Look also offers other build options that bring the price down to below $3,000.
I had the opportunity to take the 785 Huez RS up (and down) its namesake — twice — and I can tell you two things: First, if you’re expecting a super-responsive race bike, you’ll get it; second, there are no surprises in terms of technology and geometry, which is a good thing. (Bonus third thing: Alpe d’Huez is hard.)
In other words, Look hasn’t reinvented the all-around bike. It has simply entered the market with a very good one that’s everything you expect it to be: light, responsive, and stiff enough for those out-of-the-saddle kickers.
Like other companies vying for WorldTour attention, Look has created the frame with several types of carbon and various tube shapes, all in the name of a tailored ride that combines as little weight as possible with as much stiffness as is reasonable for the all-around category. The down tube, for example, has an almost-conical taper to it, thinning out as it extends from the burly BB65 bottom bracket (Fortuneo team model only; 785 Huez RS will have a Shimano BB86) up to the head tube.
And Look made it very clear that the frame has an optimal combination of ultra-high-modulus carbon (stiff but brittle) and lower-modulus carbons (durability and some flex) where needed for compliance. It’s not a new concept, and unless you’re looking closely, the frame’s aesthetics trend toward traditional shapes.
Look also stuck with tried-and-true geometry that mirrors its 795 aero bike. That means riders should expect a forward-and-low riding position. There are no concessions to the non-racer, not in comfort or geometry. If compliance is top on your list, look elsewhere. Similarly, if you immediately stack your stem on top of 40 millimeters of spacers, this probably isn’t the ride for you. But if you’re a climber who likes to gut it out until Strava tells you you’ve reached an HC climb or two, read on.
In Look’s pitch to us, the company says the 785 Huez is for the racer and gran fondo rider. So we put that to the test with two rides up Alpe d’Huez. First at a fairly casual pace and then at a race pace the following day. I rode the top-of-the-line 785 Huez RS in Fortuneo team colors, which has a narrower bottom bracket than the non-team version. And it did everything I wanted and needed it to do.
Its familiarity made me descend more confidently than I otherwise would have on a new bike. I could have mistaken it for an S-Works Tarmac if I closed my eyes. The Tarmac’s handling is a bit quicker, and I would characterize it as sometimes nervous; the 785 Huez RS was never nervous, yet it still walks that line closely. Alpe d’Huez features enough tight switchback turns to really put the steering to the test; no matter how far over I leaned this bike, it held the line perfectly. No extra muscling required.
In fact, climbing up Alpe d’Huez on this bike was as pleasant an affair as such a climb can be. Even with my weight over the front wheel out of the saddle, the bike felt connected and stable, yet still responsive. It was predictable and even when I was hedging toward anaerobic and shedding anything resembling good form.
The Corima 32 MCC S+ wheels are stiffer than expected, and I enjoyed climbing on them. I think they could benefit from some sort of textured brake track, though. I did get some brake shudder on the way down. The rims got plenty hot and braking power faded on the steepest parts of the descent.
Unfortunately, Look does not have plans to offer the 785 Huez in a disc-brake version, at least not yet. That shouldn’t be too surprising given most of Look’s customer base is European. The disc brake craze has not caught on there like it has in the U.S. Our test bike had 25-millimeter tires, and it was unclear whether it would be possible to fit in anything larger.
In the age of ever-advancing technology and experimentation, it was refreshing to ride a bike with traditional styling and aggressive handling characteristics. The 785 Huez RS felt familiar and therefore I felt comfortable riding more aggressively. My only nitpicks are the lack of a disc brake version, and potentially not being able to run 28-millimeter tires. Those are two features would be sensible if Look wants to work its way into a crowded American market.