Thursday, August 14, 2014

First Ride -- Focus Cayo Evo Di2

This bike is new to me as of yesterday.

The Focus Cayo Evo Di2
I rode it 25 miles from home out Beach Drive and back, adjusting the fit as I rode.   I swapped out the saddle for my white WTB Rocket V, added a cheap carbon WB cage, and added my cheap spare Look Keo pedals.

1.  The Bike

It is sure ugly!  The picture does not do it justice.  There are 11 instances of "Focus" written on the frame set, one of my bugaboos about modern mass-production bikes.  The paint design, which looks in the above picture like a mix of stripes and naked carbon, is not that at all.  It is a weird pattern that reminds me of a kid's painting with sponges in elementary school.  On the other hand, the white tape, white saddle, and red-and-black coloration work pretty well in general.

The tube shapes are inelegant.  Consider first that big-ass head-tube.  Frame-makers advertise benefits of stiffness in the front end, which surely exist, but at what cost?  And the down-tube is simply enormous.  Think bottom-bracket width all the way, without visible tapering.  The sloping top-tube leaves several centimeters of seat-tube above the junction for reasons that escape me.

The fork has a weird jog just below the junction with the head-tube and the stays are curved out from the seat-tube.  Finally, the seat-stays are joined with a solid carbon piece above the rear brake, painted with some gosh-awful line design that looks something like a hill depicted on a contour map.

Summary about carbon bikes generally, with the Cayo Evo Di2 serving as a serious offender:  carbon is billed as great because it can be molded into any shape. The problem is that a bike should be made with round tubes and a parallelogram design.  Any other shape may have performance advantages, but it will never look good.

2.  The Frameset

The Focus is noticeably stiff.  Adding power from a stop or coast causes the bike to veer weirdly, requiring me to pay close attention to the steering.  The result must be that when I hold the line straight I get better linear power transfer -- that is certainly the argument favoring stiffness, anyway -- but holding a straight line will take practice.

(Interesting side-note:  metal flexes during pedaling, permitting the wheels to hold their line.  The flex is not permanent, so the force from the rebound is transferred into motion.  Thus, flexion does not necessarily equal inefficiency and stiffness does not necessarily equal greater forward speed.  Cite to JH and Bicycle Quarterly for this wisdom.  But if stiffness leads to side-to-side motion, with a bike following a slight slalom pattern down the road, that does necessarily mean a stiff frame slows you down vis-a-vis one that you can ride straight.  I'm still assuming operator error on my part, but I will be curious to see whether it gets better with experience.)

Bumps and ripples on the road are more noticeable than on the Gunnar.  It is weird to say that, as I tend to disbelieve those kind of things are that noticeable, but it is true.  I frequently wondered whether I had a flat when it turned out I was simply feeling pavement undulations transferred from the wheel into the frame and into my arse.  It wasn't uncomfortable, just unsettling.  I suppose I will get used to it.  I will certainly try running 28 mm tires instead of the stock 24 mm Continentals, which was the idea all along.

The bike is very stable and comfortable at speed, with the caveat that my high speed on the Beach Drive out-and-back is around 35 mph.

3.  The Gearing

I'm running a standard crank and 11-28 rear for the first time in many years.  (The triathlon bike, at 52-36 front, is the closest I have.)  It takes getting used to.  Normal spinning gears are in the 20s in the back, rather than in the 17-19 range on the compact crank.  That would be fine but that the spacing gets bigger when shifting between the larger cogs, which means more awkward shifts.  Again, I just need to get used to it.

4.  The Groupset

Full Ultegra 6770 Di2:  it is lovely to behold in a dark gray with internally-routed wires and cables.

I won't bore you with a paean to Di2, about which I have never read a criticism.  It does everything the reviewers have been saying it does since it came out.  It does threaten to make even a well-tuned cabled groupset feel awkward.  I will add a few words about how a traditionalist (me) perceives the benefits.

Moving from the cabled group, the precision of the shifts is the first thing you notice.  Moving with confidence between the big rings, with no fear of a dropped chain, is a wondrous thing.  (No matter how carefully I set the screws, after several hundred miles between tunes on the cabled groups things seem to work loose and I drop chains.  It has happened in normal use and it has happened in races.)  I was much more likely to use the small ring when climbing than I am on the Gunnar, when I find it convenient to shift with the rear derailleur and stand in the big ring when the hill gets steeper.

The speed of shifting is the next thing you notice.  I am accustomed to feeling the chain lift and settle on the next ring or cog, requiring a turn or three of the cranks.  Not so here.  Shifts happen in less than the time it takes me to turn the crank a single time; engagement is immediate.  That is almost completely good.  One disquieting phenomenon:  when I am shifting between cogs separated in size by two teeth, rather than on tooth, the substantial up-shift or down-shift happens quickly enough that I notice it much more than I would if I had to back off the power to help ease the chain onto the new cog.  In 25 miles I did not quite get used to the feeling.

And auto-trimming:  I can run big-big or small-small without chain rub on the front derailleur.  A good thing?  Maybe, maybe not; chain rub reminds me to shift into a more efficient gear combination, but the auto-trimming sure does permit shifting without thinking about it.

5.  The Summary

I wanted Di2 and I got it cheap.  I thought a carbon frame might go faster and, based on one ride, I think it might.  The Focus Cayo Evo Di2 should serve as a good drop-bar race steed.  I'm not selling the Gunnar anytime soon, though!


Unknown said...

Another benefit of Di2 is that you can add a satellite thumb shifter for climbing! (Though I haven't done so.),std.jpg?user=,20140814,673BBF75

sam said...

I'm pleased to read this review.

I definitely noticed the same 'veering' that you mention when I first got my Kestrel. You adjust pretty quickly. But I concur that the perceived speed of a stiff carbon frame never seems to result in actual improved performance. I suppose it's similar to the "feeling" of speed you get from a rock-hard 700x21 tire.

Your comments about Di2 make it awfully tempting.

Nate said...

Thanks for the review, Max. Just shot you an email!

-Nate from Jenson

sam said...

How does the size feel, relative to your Ritchey (the only one of your bikes for which I have recent context)?

Max said...

Comparable. Definitely longer in the top tube. Would say the standover height is about the same (though I'd have to build the Ritchey to be sure), but I have slightly less seatpost visible. Bottom bracket is probably a tiny bit lower to the ground. Somewhat hard to compare as the Ritchey has that unique short and tall cross geometry.