- by Danny Beveridge
- Published: 28 October 2009
Part 1: Buying a bike is as easy as falling off a log. There are literally thousands of online retailers peddling thousands of pedallers. In a lot of cases, they offer items cheaper than you would find at a local bricks and mortar store.
HOWEVER… Buying the right bike can be hard.
The problem is…
No sizing chart can guarantee the jersey will fit.
No blurb can tell you how comfortable those knicks will be.
And no synonym for “laterally stiff yet vertically compliant” can ever tell you how that bike will really ride.
Today we’re publishing the first of the world’s most practical bike reviews. We won’t describe things in clich?d superlatives and in fact we’re not reviewing a bike at all! Today, we’re comparing the similarly speced Pro-Lite Gallileo with a Pro-Lite Cuneo. We’re cutting through a whole heap of marketing fluff and getting to the heart of what really matters and how it’ll affect your ride.
Also, we want to highlight the real value of expert advice when considering a purchase and give you some useful tips for when you go and test ride your dream machine.
About the brand
The Taiwanese brand Pro-Lite is more established in the US and Europe – particularly with their wheelsets which have a good reputation for quality and performance at a lower price point. Pro-Lite make a wide range of components; hubs; stems; cranks; headsets and of course frames and forks. Behind the scenes though, the bulk of their business is OEM production for other companies.
Pro-Lite gear has been previously available in certain areas of Australia from a few specialist bike shops and now the brand is looked after Pro-Lite Australia who are setting up more formal distribution Australia wide. Lets get to their bikes, the top of the line Gallileo and the entry-level Cuneo.
Paul from Cycles on Nicklin (Sunshine Coast, Queensland) supplied us with the Pro-Lite bicycles but said you shouldn’t get tied down by the setups of the test bikes. All the bicycles he sells are customised to suit your needs exactly. He and his team can talk to you about the kind of riding you do and help build a tailored package for you.
The Pro-Lite Gallileo is a full carbon monocoque frame weighing in at 1235g in the 52cm size tested. The Cuneo is all-aluminium, weighing in at approximately 1189g as tested. That’s right! 56 grams lighter than the carbon frame!
Pro-Lite call the Cuneo their “answer to scandium”. It’s made out of 7046 tubing, apparently 16% stronger and 12% lighter than the 7005 tubing that most aluminium frames are made of.
The only other differences between the two bikes were the cassettes (Shimano 105 on the Cuneo and SRAM Red on the Gallileo) and the wheels. The Gallieo was sporting Pro-Lite’s Gavia 50mm carbon rims while the Cuneo rolled on Pro-Lite’s Stelvio 30mm aluminium rims.
Both bikes had SRAM Red Groupsets and the same Pro-Lite branded seat, post, bars, stem and forks. On paper the Gallileo (with its heavier rims and frame) should have given away around 41 grams to the Cuneo but with its deep rims had a slight aerodynamic advantage.
Don’t get us wrong here, we only mention this difference because we know you want to know! That’s a small enough difference on paper that it would almost be a coin toss as to which one would win on the scales – a mouthful of water or a rear reflector would completely wipe out any difference!
On The Flat
The only obvious difference between these two bikes on the flat as far as performance is concerned should be the different wheels. To get an idea of what kind of effect these different wheels might have, we’re going to have a look at things practically as well as theoretically.
First of all was a practical test. Enough clever people have done enough research and development to tell us that the 50mm wheels on the Gallileo ought to slice through the wind better, but would we be able to tell the difference? Really?
Two test riders took a warm up ride and then tried to maintain a constant speed side by side. The two riders wore heart rate monitors and compared their individual bpm. A power meter would have been more accurate, but we weren’t interested in proving that there is a difference, but to give you an idea of how big (or small) that difference is.
The result was that after both riders swapped bikes, no consistent difference could be established. Based on both post-ride averages and on-the-fly interpretation of the data, we couldn’t say we’d found a statistically significant advantage for the Gallileo.
Why? Firstly, there were fairly strong winds on the day we tested (up to 20km/h) and also, we realised too that the different stem angles and lengths tilted things in the Cuneo’s favour. The Cuneo had a longer stem pointed downwards, compared to the Gallileo’s short stem pointed upwards. This puts the Cuneo rider in a more aerodynamic position and it appeared that this alone evened the stakes.
But to give you an idea of the absolute advantage of the deeper rims, have a look at biketechreview’s article on wheel theory. In Kraig Willett’s examples, he estimates the advantage of an aerodynamic set of wheels to be around 2.3% – 2.4% on flat terrain.
A rider on the hoods puts out around about 200 Watts at 30 km/h. In this situation, using Kraig’s calculations, these aerodynamic rims would see your speed increase to approximately 30.27km/h.
Paul advised us that the upgrade from the Stelvio aluminium rims to the Gavia carbon ones would be around $1,000. This gives you an idea of what you’re getting for that upgrade. While the absolute increase might not be that noticeable on your group rides, it’s different of course when you’re in a race situation (particularly TT’s) and every second counts. Another advantage is the stiffness and feel of the carbon wheels but we’ll discuss that in more detail later.
On The Hills
Conventional wisdom will tell you that a good hill climbing bike will be light and stiff. And clearly when it comes to climbing, the lighter the better. When the day comes that we get a chance to test a balsa-wood bike, we’ll probably confirm that at some point, stiffness is important as well.
The reality of a long slow hill climb is that the power we put into the pedals is limited by our engine. Maintaining the same cadence, you can only sustain the same amount of pedal force on a hill as you can on the flat.
Of course if you tend to grind a big gear up the hills, the force (as opposed to power) might be higher so in that case, the amount of flex may make a difference to you. We’ll go into the issue of flex in the section on sprinting – so file all of your assumptions away until then!
Subjectively, we liked the carbon Gallileo, and ironically, this might have been because it had more flex in the rear end! It’s really just an issue of feel – spinning up a hill is fundamentally no different to spinning along the flat.
We couldn’t prove the Gallileo was any faster, but nor did we expect to. If you want to know what difference you might actually achieve up the hills have a look at the table below. As tested, remember, the Cuneo should have been the lighter bike by around 41 grams.
These figures are based on an 8% gradient at 200 Watts. Weight is for rider and bike total.
At 75kg for bike and rider, a 41gram weight shaving takes speed from 10.638km/h to 10.643km/h (+0.005km/h).
At 95kg for bike and rider, a 41 gram weight shaving takes speed from 8.6305km/h to almost 8.634km/h (+0.0035km/h)
What you should note from this (besides that how small those increases are) is that each kilo you shed increases your speed by more than the last kilo you shed.
We always hear about how great a bike climbs the hills, but an important part of riding in the hills is the ability to descend. As tested, the difference in handling between the two bikes was as much a result of stem choice as frame material. One rider preferred the long stem and more solid ride of the Cuneo and the other preferred the quicker steering of the short stemmed Gallileo.
So which one is better? Well really, this is why you need to go to your bike shop and try them out yourself. Weight is weight and it’s great that you can ask about the weight of a bike without having to ride it. But the cyclist that goes up must come down, so be sure to take descending performance into consideration.
The Pro-Lite bikes can offer ascending descending characteristics to suit any rider depending on spec, but you need to work out your preferences for yourself. Herein lies the benefit of buying a bike you’ve ridden for yourself. And when you are taking a test ride, make sure the stem (and bars, etc.) you have on the bike is the same as the one you are intending to buy as they really do have a large impact on performance.