Look is one of the great brands in road cycling. History making innovation, race winning designs, and French heritage. What more can you want? Over the past few years, Look's bike designs have focused on increased integration, beginning with the launch of the 695 in 2010.
This past year Look announced a new model to sit atop of their road lineup, the 795. While the naming of the 795 follows Look’s typical pattern, it may be more accurately described as the 695 Evo (or 2.0). What we mean is, while there are many differences between the 695 and the 795, they do feel very much as different versions of the same bike. Perhaps Look wanted to avoid using cycling’s hottest buzz word? We don’t know. Whatever the case, the design changes from the 695 to the 795 is not nearly as dramatic as, say, going from the 595 to the 695. In essence, the 795 takes the basic design principles of the 695, adds the stem integration of the 675, and better aerodynamics. As a result of all of the overlap, and given that the 695 is going to remain in the lineup, we are going to consider this a review of both the 695 and the 795, pointing out the differences along the way.
To further complicate the Look lineup, each of the models will be offered in two versions: Light and Aerolight. The Light versions use regular caliper brakes, while the Aerolight has fork integrated and under chainstay direct mount brakes. So if you are following along, that is 4 versions of the same basic chassis. All of which retail for over $5k for the frameset! This strategy reminds us of Porsche, with many variations of the same model. It seems to work out pretty good for Porsche, so we can’t question it too much (grin).
Common to all models is the ZED2 crank. It is a one piece carbon design that uses a massive 65mm bottom bracket, and weighs a mere 320g. The ZED2 uses a unique 'tri-lobe' nut that allows the crank arms to have adjustable length. In addition, the spider accepts both standard and compact chainrings.
On the builds, rings are now supplied by FSA instead of Praxis. Word from Look’s mechanic is that while they liked the Praxis rings, the FSA rings are slightly stiffer, for a very minute improvement in shift quality. They are also a little cheaper too. New this year is an adaptor bottom bracket for those out there who would like to run Shimano or Campy cranks to match the rest of their groupset. We did not really find the ZED2 to be lacking in any way, it is very stiff, but it is always nice to have the option we guess.
Also found on both bikes is an update to the C-Stem adjustable stem. This new design is called AEROSTEM, and it is, not surprisingly, more aerodynamic. The bar clamping bolts are tucked in behind the bar and covered by a little magnetic cover. The 795 features a rubberized skirt to smooth the transition from the stem to frame. The stem is adjustable from +17 to -13 degrees, allowing you (or your fitter) many options in order to find the right fit to the frame.
This brings us to one of the biggest issues that we have with the 695/795 collection of bikes: sizing. Currently, the 795 is being offered in 5 sizes, and the 695 in 6. The 795 has based its sizing on a linear stack/reach progression. With each size increase, stack goes up 24mm and reach 10mm. While it is nice to see Look embracing stack and reach, five sizes feel like too few. Maybe they did a population study and found that their size range will cover X% of the population and they said: good enough! In fact, the 795 covers a wider range of stack/reach than the 695, but because there are less sizes, it means that the jumps between sizes are more dramatic. The sizing may work for you, but, overall, we consider this a significant negative.
The integrated brakes on the Aerolight models are definitely the best integrated brakes that we have used. However, they are still no match for proper calipers. As a 200 pound cyclist, I demand a lot out of my brakes so a smaller rider may have a more favorable experience. Ultimately, I found that they lacked both power and feel relative to my DA9000 calipers. Add to that how much easier calipers are to work on, and you can see why we prefer the 'Light' versions over the 'Aerolight' ones. One feature to note: the Aerolight versions are not compatible with Campagnolo drivetrains due to a difference in braking pull ratios.
All of the models that we rode were equipped with Di2 (the Campy EPS battery does not play nice with the 795 frames). I don't know if there is a bike that makes a better case for the use of electronic shifting than the 795. The ability to run wires (which don't care about the radius of the bend) is very useful when trying to integrate the cables of a bike. Kudos to Look for coming up with a clean system that works with both electronic and mechanical, but it looks like a nightmare to re-cable. While I imagine that the majority of people who buy these bikes leave the wrenching to the professionals, the ability and ease of working on our bikes is an important factor to us. Luckily the 695 is a little more conventional in its cabling.
Cabling routing aside, Look does claim that the changes made to the 795 make fit adjustments easier. The new seatmast is adjusted with a half turn of an allen key, and changing the angle of the aerostem is a more straight forward procedure. That is great for the press circuit, but once my bike is dialed in, I will be re-cabling my bike far more than I will be adjusting the stem angle.
Enough with the spec's, how does it ride? Pretty fast. The bottom bracket (and crank) are as about as stiff as we have ever experienced. Any extra input at the pedals and the bike launches forward without a hint of hesitation. Acceleration numbers were no doubt helped by the high end wheels on all of the builds: some had Zipp 404s, while others had Mavic Cosmic Carbone Ultimates.
As I mentioned above, we preferred the braking of the bikes with standard calipers. In our opinion, confident braking will make you much faster than the any aero gains ever will, and you can't have a truly fast bike if it doesn't stop well. A very stiff and precise front end compliments the bikes racy good looks.
These bikes are meant to be the ultimate in road bikes. This typically means racing bikes, and the ride is in-line with that assumption. While not unduly harsh, it definitely isn't what you would call an endurance bike. It does a good job of communicating the road surface, while eliminating buzz and still keeping you firmly planted on the road and saddle. However, it doesn't surprise me that Look discontinued the SR (super rigid) version of the 695 a few years ago.
The Look 695/795 offer a compelling package of heritage and integration. When it comes down to it, our top pick is the original. The 795 takes the concept a step further, but it does so at a cost that, in our minds, is too much to pay.
Look 695 Light: Plenty of adjustability, still sexy and exotic.
+1 Appeal: Storied French brand...
-0.5 Value At $5k for the frameset it is still expensive, but at least it includes a stem and crank.
And at the bottom, the flagship...
Look 795 Aerolight: Significantly more money, Campy compatibility issues, worse braking, and only five sizes. It is striking to look at, but there are far better bikes at this price point, even within the same brand (grin)
-1 Value: It commands a $2600 premium over the 695 Light, making it an outrageous $7600 for the frameset.
-0.5 Ease of use, mechanics