- by Danny Beveridge
- Published: 28 October 2009
continued from Part 1
Part 2: Pro-Lite Gallileo and Cuneo road bikes test by Danny Beveridge.
In the Sprint
Everyone knows that if your wheels or your frame flexes in the sprint, you lose power.
The thing is… everyone’s wrong.
When a frame flexes, it stores energy. That energy doesn’t get transferred to the wheels straight away. But as anyone knows, when you let go of a compressed spring, the energy you stored in it comes bursting out. In the case of a bike, only the smallest fraction of energy gets lost as heat or sound energy.
An exception to this rule occurs when you provide the bike another outlet for this energy. This happens when you unweight the back wheel for example. Alternatively, if the amount of flex causes the wheel to rub its brake pads or the frame, the resulting friction can rob the rider of some speed.
So how do the Pro-Lites stack up in this regard? Neither bike is the stiffest in the world, but both of them performed adequately. The Gallileo appeared to flex a little more in the frame than the Cuneo and both had quite a different ride character.
What was very noticeable was the flex in the Stelvio wheels on the Cuneo. The Cuneo aluminium 30mm rims actually broke the Golden Rule… Thou shalt not flex so much that rim rubs brake pad. In one attempt, a rider actually managed to shift the caliper in its mount! Pro-Lite have suggested that caliper may not have been perfectly centred and as a new bike, the brake setup and rim clearance may need some fine tuning after the first few rides.
Conversely, the Pro-Lite Gavia (50mm Carbon Fibre) rims were unflappable. If it’s the sprint that matters, these won’t let you down. Pro-Lite are very proud of their “Bolzano” hubs and if you’re interested, you can read up on the technology on their website. It certainly seems to live up to the hype as the end result is a very solid wheel.
As mentioned, both bikes had quite a different sprint character. The Cuneo tracked straight and felt more solid, which in turn made the rider more confident to stomp on it harder.
Conversely, the Gallileo danced around a little more under power. This had advantages too, the bike followed the rider more closely and as a result, pedal stroke was straighter and directly though the top of the pedal.
It should come as no surprise that the absolute performance difference between the two bikes isn’t measurable without a power meter. More important than technical data is how you feel on the bike. Nothing beats trying before you buy to find out what works for you.
Although we often attribute the ride characteristics of a bike to the frame, the reality is that the frame alone doesn’t reveal the whole story.
For one thing – the wheels are the first things through which road shocks are transmitted. The stiffness of the wheels and the length of the spokes determine how much of the road “noise” will even make it to the forks and dropouts. From there, the length of the stem and the amount of seatpost showing will have a big impact on how strong those vibrations are by the time they reach the contact point. Finally, the saddle, bars and bar tape offer a level of shock absorbtion.
The Gallileo was at a huge disadvantage here. It had significantly stiffer wheels, shorter spokes and a shorter stem – and it showed. The Gallileo seemed to pick up every little bump whereas the Cuneo seemed a lot less affected by the bumps.
Does that mean aluminium dampens vibrations better than carbon fibre? Of course not, with such differences in contact points, it would be unfair to compare them directly. Comfort is not just down to the frame material. A decision should not be made on frame material alone without any consideration of the other attributes.
But which material does dampen vibration the best? The truth is, it doesn’t matter. Technically speaking, steel (the supposed benchmark for a comfortable ride) has some of the worst vibration dampening characteristics of any material! Comfort is not the same as ‘vibration dampening’ and this is a topic we’ll get into in more detail in another feature.
What does this mean for you? You can’t rely on just the frame material alone to predict how a bike will ride. Comfort is about geometry, tubing size, tubing shape, tubing thickness and even the type of stem! (Again!!)
There were a few things that really stood out in our tests.
First and foremost was the performance of the Cuneo frame. The 7046 tubing really gave the Gallileo a run for its money. While there are reasons to go for a full carbon frame, the Cuneo made us question nearly all of our assumptions. So much for an ‘entry-level’ frame, and yet it can be had for an ‘entry-level’ $535! (not including the fork).
Another top performer was the Pro-Lite San Carlo saddle. Pro-Lite don’t have a huge range of saddles and this seems to make sense. If you can have professional-level performance without paying hundreds of dollars, why would you need hundreds of intermediate models? This saddle easily competes with the Selle Italia SLR we have on another bike.
The Gavia wheelset was just brilliant. Although people tend to overestimate the aerodynamic advantage you can obtain from wheels like these, they really were great wheels – particularly in the sprint where their stiffness came into play. To be fair, though, we’d have to also praise the the Stelvio’s too. With bladed spokes and 30mm rims, we expect a powermeter to show they’re quite aerodynamic in their own right. And while quite a bit softer than the Gavia’s, this did seem to make the ride quality a lot smoother.
Another surprise was how often the issue of stem choice came up. Your choice of stem can make a huge difference to aerodynamics, steering and comfort. The differences due to stem choice really put some of the other aspects into perspective.
The affordability of the Pro-Lite equipment in general was really impressive too. The Stelvio and Gavia rims offer features not generally available anywhere else at their price point. And good value for money are the tubular versions of the Gavia (circa $1299 for a full race wheelset). We’ve already mentioned how highly we rate the Cuneo, but the Gallileo is tremendous value in its own right – test it against frames of considerably higher cost and compare for yourself.
Pro-Lite Stelvio 30mm Alloy Clincher Wheelset $550
Pro-Lite Gavia 50mm Full Carbon Clincher Wheelset $1799 ($1299 for tubular)
Pro-Lite Cuneo Frame $499rrp or $800rrp as a frameset with fork & headset
Pro-Lite Gallileo Frame $1799rrp or $2100rrp as a frameset with fork & headset
Our short test shows that Cuneo and Gallileo from Pro-Lite are certainly bikes that you could fall in love with, not least because of their combination of performance and affordability.
By just glancing at the bikes and checking out the specs, though, there is no way to predict how each bike would perform. In our tests, there was a lot of traditional wisdom either disproven, or proven insignificant.
We can’t stress how important it is to get on the saddle and try them out! So get out there, get on the saddle and see for yourself – and end up with a bike that suits you perfectly.
Test Bikes and expert advice were provided by Paul at Cycles on Nicklin.
Shop 1 727 Nicklin Way, Currimundi Qld 4551, Ph: 07 5309 5174
You can see more information and pricing for Pro-Lite products in Australia online: www.pro-liteoz.com
Read Part 1 of the two part review.