Look has launched a disc-brake version of the super-light 785 Huez climbing bike with the promise of better performance on both sides of the hill
The original Look 785 Huez RS was the French brand’s first dedicated climbing bike and it was launched on top of its namesake mountain, Alpe d’Huez, just before the 2017 Tour de France. There was so much interest in it that Look ran out of demo bikes for foreign journalists to test and I instead grovelled up the 21 famous hairpins – twice – on a spare 765, Look’s entry-level sportive bike, which weighed at least 2kg more than the 5.9kg 785 Huez RS.
However, I did get to test the Look 785 Huez RS in the UK later that year, and to make up for it I did multiple ascents of Box Hill (which fortunately has only a seventh the number of hairpins) and relished every single one.
With its 730g frame, SRAM eTap groupset and Corima 32 MCC S+ wheels it absolutely flew.
Now Look has reeingineered the 785 for disc brakes – although the rim-brake bike is still in the range. Its rationale is that disc brakes will now enable you to perform safely on both slopes of the hill. With the frame and fork beefed up slightly and built up with the SRAM Red eTap HRD groupset (11-speed version – our test took place before the new 12-speed groupset was launched) the all-up figure has crept up to 7kg for this, the top-of-the-range model. Does that matter?
Well, the ride quality is as sublime as before. It is incredibly comfortable and incredibly springy – as if potential energy has been trapped between the nano-layers of ultra-high-modulus carbon, of which five different types are used.
OK, it’s not 5.9kg any more but the Look 785 Huez RS Disc still feels wonderfully light, especially for a disc-brake bike. Giving it a nudge on another local uphill Strava segment I got my fastest time out of 143 previous attempts.
The frame is relatively traditional looking compared to some of Look’s more radical creations of the past but up close there’s lot of clever stuff: Look’s Zed2 crankset is an innovative single-piece construction that fits into a proprietary 65mm BB shell. It also features a three-lobed nut that can be rotated to achieve 170mm, 172.5mm or 175mm crank lengths.
Look aimed the 785 at everyday riders as well as the Fortuneo pro team it sponsored at the time of the launch, so with this in mind it has the classic 73° ‘parallel’ geometry (size medium) and supplies perfectly balanced handling on the downhills.
But disc brakes v rim brakes is cycling’s Brexit debate (except far more serious, obviously) and although I count myself as a rim-mainer, if you’ll forgive the terrible pun, unlike Parliament I can still be persuaded by a good disc argument and I don’t see one here. Other brands have aero bikes with discs that are closer to the UCI’s weight limit – the 2019 S-Works Venge weighs 6.9kg for example – so since the 785 doesn’t have any aero credentials at all it needs to stay super-light if it’s to stake its claim as one of the world’s best climbing bikes.
The Look 785 Huez RS Disc is a wonderful, elegant bike that supplies a high-quality ride experience and the top model is equipped with arguably the best disc groupset there is. However, it is at its awesome best as a pure climbing bike in the original, lighter rim-brake version.