Today we’re going to talk about something a bit different. I’ve uploaded my daily picture from Taiwan after midnight but WordPress considers it as it if was posted on the 5th due to different timezones. I may have to change the name of the project to:”Taiwan:A Picture a Day, unless I post too early, in which case it will 2 pictures a day followed by a no-pic day”. I’ll see if the title fits.
BACK IN TOPIC! Let’s talk about bicycles.
I’ve bought this bike, the Fuji Gran Fondo 2.7, around a month and a half ago and I’ve been riding it on many different surfaces. As you can tell from how dirty it looks in the pictures I’ve also enjoyed a bit of off-road by the sea.
Some technical stuff first:
Frame: C5 high-modulus carbon, integrated head tube w/ 1 1/2″ lower, internal cable routing, oversized PIIS BB86 shell, double water bottle mounts, Rear triangle C5 high-modulus carbon thin seatstays, oversized ETC chainstays, forged-alloy dropout w/ replaceable hanger
Fork: FC-440 carbon monocoque w/ tapered carbon steerer & carbon dropout
Front Derailleur: Shimano Tiagra, braze-on mount
Rear Derailleur: Shimano Tiagra, 10-speed
Shifters: Shimano Tiagra STI shifter/brake combo, Flight Deck-compatible, 20-speed
Chainset: Oval 520 forged alloy with 50/34t Praxis ring
Bottom Bracket: Press-fit BB86 sealed bearing
Cassette: Shimano Tiagra, 12-30T, 10-speed
Chain: KMC X10, 10-speed
Brakeset: Tektro R540 forged-alloy dual pivot w/ cartridge pads
Handlebars: Oval 310 butted 6061 alloy, 31.8mm
Stem: Oval 313 3D-forged 6061 alloy, 31.8mm, +/- 7 degrees
Headset: FSA Orbit C-40, 1 1/8″ upper – 1 1/2″ lower, integrated
Wheelset: Vera Corsa double-wall aero alloy clincher
Tyres: Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slick, 60 tpi, 700c x 25mm, folding
Saddle: Oval R500 w/ CrMo hollow rails
Seatpost: Oval 905, carbon 31.6mm x 350mm
Weight: 19.10lbs / 8.68kg (disclaimer: this weight is from the manufacturer and I don’t know to which size they refer. Mine is 8.3kg for the 53cm model)
If you’re into cycling you probably have two questions in your mind:
a) Why did you pick up a full carbon bike for touring?
b) Why did you pick a relatively heavy carbon bike with Tiagra components and stock wheels?
By the end of my review, everything will be explained.
Let’s talk about the purpose of this bike. Is it a racing bike? Nope. It’s an endurance bike. I personally find regular road bikes to be extremely uncomfortable due to the extremely low position of the handlebars. The Gran Fondo series from Fuji, as well as the Ride series from Merida and many others, are all built in order to fix that problem. The frame has a slightly more relaxed geometry and the handlebar is a bit higher than usual, which leads to an overall increased comfort for my back. Some people may argue:”With a more upright position you’re less aerodynamic and you’re not optimizing your power transmission to the pedals”, well, if my back starts to feel hurt after 40kms then my power transmission has to be invested into pushing the bike with my arms on the side of the road, so I can definitely live with that sub-obtimal configuration..
I don’t like steel because the weight of the bike saps my spirit while riding uphill, and while I consider alloy good for city bikes or recreational road bikes, if I have a 100kms ride across the mountains ahead of me I want something stiffer. So this bike has all the right features for me: reasonably light, stiff carbon frame, relaxed geometry.
Components are fine as well. I’d have preferred a shinier 105 or Ultegra set but that would have increased the price by a lot, and the 2.5 version of this bike is one of the worst looking bikes I’ve ever seen in term of color. It’s just that ugly, so utterly ugly that I don’t even dare to find a picture of that to link it here. If you dare, Google Fuji Gran Fondo 2.5 and be prepared for the horror. In terms of performance Tiagra works perfectly fine, and since all the 10 speed Shimano sets are interchangeable it will be easier in the future to replace broken/wore out parts with something a bit better. Luckily I don’t suffer too much by Upgraditis, I tend to upgrade/replace stuff only when it gets broken/damaged or if I need something very specific.
So, Tiagra is pretty good, what about the rest of the components? The chainset is phenomenal. Well, let me rephrase: the crank arms are pretty “meh”, but the Praxis 50/34t rings are phenomenal. It’s very uncommon to find this kind of component in a mid-spec bike like this one, so I was pretty impressed by the choice made by Fuji here. If you’ve never heard of Praxis, they’re cold forged rings, which means an ice elemental is spending his own existence hammering them until he’ll finally manage to produce the perfect equipment. At least that’s what I’ve heard.
The chain is from Kmc, a pretty solid choice. Some people tend to prefer Shimano, but quite a lot of Shimano chains are actually made from Kmc, so moneywise it makes sense to stick with Kmc.
Brakes are from Tektro, a very common choice in order to shave off a bit of production cost. I neither love them nor hate them, but there’s a lot of room for improvement here.
All the bits and pieces are branded Oval, which is Fuji’s own brand of components. It’s hard to give you an opinion about the saddle because everyone has different requirements when it comes to the “lower part” of our body. It’s not the worst saddle I’ve ever tried (that title goes to a saddle from Scott that I threw in the rubbish after one week), but it’s far from being comfortable for me. The seatpost is full carbon, which is pretty nice. Handlebars are made of alloy which makes perfect sense to me. Upgrading to carbon handlebars is not giving you much in terms of weight saving, but it’s a major investment. Everything good so far! So it’s a pretty awesome bike, and….
NOT THE WHEELS.
Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but I kept the painful part for the end of my review. Just by noticing the number of spokes you may start to think that this is a heavy wheelset. And you wouldn’t be wrong. The good news is: it’s not a HORRIBLE wheelset either. Considering that it’s a stock set of wheels they’re actually pretty reasonable, they feel much better than the last stock set I used a few years ago (some Alex Rims that felt like a bag of bricks). They’re pretty tough too, which is quite useful if you’re like me and you ride your road bike even where there are no roads. But honestly, if you plan to do a lot of proper road riding, be it on flat roads or uphill, you should seriously consider upgrading the wheels, and keep the Vera Corsa set for the winter as a training set that will work fine on harsh roads. The Vittoria Zaffiro tires are not a bad set at all, but I prefer Continental GP4000s.
Done talking about the components, how’s the ride? The ride is very smooth and comfortable. You’ll not get the same results you may achieve from a sub-8kg bike with a more race oriented geometry, but that’s not the purpose of this bike. The full carbon frame and fork do a good job and the ride is extremely pleasant. If you’re looking for some ego-boosting KOTH on Strava this is not the bike for you, but if you enjoy long rides you’ll love it. UNLESS you spend a lot of time riding uphill, in which case you may want to upgrade the wheelset asap.
So, let’s recap:
Full carbon frame, fork and seatpost.
Tiagra Components + Praxis rings.
Enjoyable and relaxed ride
Not the fastest or lightest carbon bike out there.
Brakes are a bit weak and especially if you tend to corner aggressively you should replace them (at least the pads).
Wheels have a lot of room for improvement.
I decided to write the price under the PLUS category, but that depends highly on your country. To give you an idea, in most countries the retail price is around 2000us$. A lot of stores will offer it at much less than that, personally I got for just a bit more than 800us$ because it was the model that had been used for the Test Ride day, and the fact that the bikes are assembled not far from where I live means that the regular price would be around 1200us$.
If you want a great wheelset to match the bike, go for Campagnolo Zonda. They’re light, won’t break the bank and the colors from Campagnolo are a match made in heaven for this bike.