Bicycle Network: Bikes 'n' Bits
Affordable road bikes
You don't have to refinance your mortgage to afford a quality road bike. Sam Patterson checked out an entry-level and a mid-range package.
Avanti Monza rrp vs Giant OCR Zero
Colnago, Bianchi, Pinarello, De Rosa … let’s face it, we’ve all dreamed of one day owning a high-end road bike, lovingly crafted by hand in a small factory in Italy. Sadly, for most of us the dream will never become a reality.
However, in recent years, the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ has been significantly reduced by bike companies such as Giant and Avanti, which have taken advantage of efficient production runs and sheer volume of sales to revolutionise bikes for the entry-level buyer.
There is no doubting the value for money, but what about the ride quality? Can a mass-produced frame from a young company based in Asia really compare with a company from cycling’s heartland that boasts one hundred years of bike-building excellence?
|Colour||Matt marine blue|
|S: 38cm, M: 42cm, L: 46cm, XL: 50cm|
|Frame||7005 DB alloy, semi-integrated 1-1/8” head tube|
|Fork||Carbonio carbon 1-1/8” alloy steerer|
|Shifters||Shimano Sora 8-speed|
|Front derailleur||Shimano Sora|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano Sora|
|Crankset||Shimano Sora, Octalink 39–52|
|Cassette||Shimano CS-HG50 13–26 8-speed|
|Bottom bracket||Shimano BB-ES30 Octalink cartridge|
|Pedals||Wellgo R3 clipless road|
|Stem||Forged alloy A-head 4-bolt clamp|
|Handlebar||Alloy, anatomic bend|
|Tyres||Specialized all condition sport 700 x 23c tubes|
|Seat post||Carbon 27.2mm micro adjust|
|Saddle||Selle Italia FK|
With no less than 17 road bikes in its range, New Zealand-based Avanti has made a big impact on the Australian market. While its top-of-the-range bikes boast a carbon monocoque frameset, its entry-level offering is the aluminium-framed Monza.
One of the striking things about the Monza is its unusually shaped downtube. The triangular cross-section provides additional stiffness, as well as a small aerodynamic benefit. The bike also has a tight rear triangle, thanks to Avanti’s traditional sloping top tube. This usually translates into sure handling and the Monza was no exception.
Out on the road I found the Monza to be really responsive. The bike was quick and lively and responded immediately when asked to accelerate. After a short period of adjustment, I was cornering confidently at speed and indeed I was more comfortable attacking corners on the Monza than the more expensive Giant.
Ride comfort was not quite as good. There is no doubt the carbon fork and cleverly chosen carbon seatpost contribute a little to softening the ride, but I still felt the bumps in the road more than I have become accustomed to on my own carbon-fibre bike.
I guess this is the trade-off you make for having the sure, responsive ride delivered by a stiff aluminium frame. The importance of comfort really depends on what sort of riding you have in mind. For the speed and handling required for short races, I am a big fan of aluminium. However, it has to be said that at the end of an endurance event such as Around the Bay in a Day, the extra jolting can enhance fatigue levels.
I can’t finish without a note on the Shimano Sora groupset. Sora is the budget product in the Shimano range and it’s fair to say you get what you pay for. This is not to say the groupset is bad. It’s just that the attention to detail leaves a little to be desired, such as the ergonomics of the brake hoods and the placement of the thumb lever you use to change gears.
Again the impact of this comes down to your riding plans. Sora is perfectly fine for a weekend warrior, but if you plan to ride a lot of miles consistently, then I would give some serious thought to an upgrade.
All in all I enjoyed the bike. Okay, it’s not the lightest, most comfortable offering on the market, but if you are entering the road market for the first time, it’s hard to beat the value for money offered by the Avanti Monza.
Giant OCR Zero
|Frame||ALUXX SL alloy: FluidFormed; composite rear end|
|Fork||Curved composite blade fork, alloy ahead|
|Brakes||Tektro GRX-41 alloy dual pivot|
|Shifters||Shimano Ultegra 20 sp|
|Front derailleur||Shimano Ultegra|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano Ultegra|
|Crankset||TruVativ Rouleur compact10 sp, GigaX crank|
|Bottom bracket||BB 36x50T|
|Pedals||Shimano R540 road clipless|
|Stem||Easton EA50 31.8mm A-head|
|Handlebar||Easton EA50 31.8mm|
|Wheelset||Shimano R550 16/20H|
|Tyres||Michelin Axial Pro Race II 700 x 23c|
|Seat post||C Tech round composite micro adjust|
|Saddle||Velo, composite base, gel, cut-out & ti rail 240g|
|RRP||$2299. Discount $1899 price from The Freedom Machine|
Giant has established a dominant position in the road market in recent years. It seems every second bike along Beach Road bears the Giant brand. It therefore felt strange that despite being an active cyclist for more than 15 years, I had never ridden a Giant before this test. I was looking forward to putting the OCR Zero through its paces.
The first thing I noticed out on the road was the smoothness of the ride once you get the OCR rolling in a straight line. The ride quality really was superb. This is no doubt largely attributable to the composite rear end of the bike - the rear stays feature carbon-fibre which, as noted above, helps absorb a large amount of jarring.
The disadvantage is that the rear end is not as tight and responsive and this was really noticeable when going from the Monza to the Giant. I have to say that under strong acceleration, the bike felt a little sloppy. For most social riders this is not a factor – you might only notice it if you are sprinting to latch onto the back of a passing pack – but for a rider with ambitions to race, it is a little more significant.
Back to the positives, the frame is amazingly light for a bike at this price point and I found it climbed really well. It is always a good sign when you are putting a test bike through its paces if you are riding up familiar hills in a gear higher than you are used to and that was the case with the Giant.
The other great feature of this bike is the Shimano Ultegra groupset. It seems hard to believe it is possible to buy an Ultegra-equipped bike for under $2,000. The purists out there will scoff at me, but I am hard-pressed to notice any significant difference between Ultegra and the top-of-the-range Dura-Ace. I have heard people complain in the past about the durability of Ultegra, but I have ridden an Ultegra-equipped bike for over 4000km and not had a problem with it. The value for money is amazing.
I want to finish by talking about the seat. Many people overlook this important feature when shopping around, but please don’t under-estimate its importance! A bad one can totally ruin a day in the saddle, especially if you are facing a journey all the way around Port Philip Bay. I found the Velo model on this bike extremely uncomfortable and the first thing I would do before buying this bike would be to replace the seat with my preferred option.
To conclude, I was suitably impressed by the value for money these well-known bike companies are offering to the entry-level marketplace. Each bike has its strengths, depending on your needs, and while they might not earn you the bragging rights associated with a European marque, they will certainly deliver you a quality ride without having to refinance your mortgage.
Sam Patterson has been a lawyer, a PR consultant, a fishmonger and a chauffeur. The one constant in his life has been cycling. He dreams of one day owning a high-end road bike, lovingly crafted by hand in a small factory in Italy.
This article first appeared the August-September 2006 issue of Ride On.
To access further articles, Bicycle Network Victoria members can log into Blink to view the Ride On Library.