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Resisting the temptation to go for a budget-compromised carbon frame, Hoy's mid-range Sa Calobra 003 places extra emphasis on build quality, ride feel and on the componentry that really matters at this price.
There are three Sa Calobra models in Chris Hoy's road range. All use exactly the same geometry and all have tapered full carbon forks, but the £1000 003 and £1300 004 use a superior 6066 triple butted aluminium frame compared to the slightly weightier 6061 aluminium frame on the £850 002. Presumably there'll be a lower budget 001 model at some point too.
The Sa Calobra 003's drivetrain has Shimano 105 shifters and gear mechs and Shimano RS 10 wheels, 16 spokes front, 20 rear. Continental's Ultra Sport 25mm tyres are listed on the spec' sheet but Grand Sport Race 23mm tyres were fitted to our test bike: we'd be happy with either but would favour the extra comfort of Ultra Sport 25s. Tektro R540 brakes are more wooden, less well modulated, in feel than the Shimano alternative, but they're better stoppers than some of the anonymous brakes on bikes at this price.
The FSA Omega crankset has 34/50 rings, a favoured combination for non-racers. The Hoy branded compact handlebar, stem, saddle and seat post are all acceptably decent offerings and we liked the swivel bolted configuration of the wrap-around seat clamp. The complete bike weighs in at almost exactly 9kg/19.84lbs before you add your choice of pedals, average for a £1000 bike and light enough to combine with the obvious drive stiffness to make it a very sprightly climber. My test period was a month of steady rides including holiday outings into the Pyrenees where the 34/25 smallest and 50/12 biggest gears were subjected to frequent use: my personal choice on a bike like this would be a 28 or 30 biggest cassette sprocket, but that's easily changed.
Hoy worked exclusively with Evans Cycles, and in particular with established designer James Olsen, on the bikes bearing his name. The three road bikes and four city bikes have been the first to emerge, but a look at the Hoy Bikes web site reveals plans for kids bikes and track bikes later in the year.
There's masses of useful information on the web site about the thoughts and design processes behind the bikes, including a run down of the reasoning behind the shaping detail of the aluminium frames in a market where so many riders are seduced by low cost carbon frames.
It's obviously no surprise that Hoy has a penchant for stiffness in power transfer, but some might find it surprising that reasonable comfort is the first thing that impresses when you climb on the Sa Calobra. The semi-compact frame design and tube configurations conspire with the componentry choices to do a pretty decent job of dispersing the harder edges of road shock, and on rough roads there's some noticeable rearward shock absorption in the skinny seat post and saddle.
The bike is named after the Sa Calobra climb in Majorca, which just happens to be a place I visited twice during a holiday riding week in the spring. There's not much in the way of accommodation in Sa Calobra so for most riders it's a wonderful drop with 26 hairpins down to the coast for coffee followed by a 10k climb back up: Sir Chris apparently used this climb as part of his early season training programme and we were happy to find that our large test sample felt immediately at ease on both long steady and short grunter ascents. The semi compact frame has a 55cm seat tube (bottom bracket centre to top), a 57cm horizontal top tube (centre to centre) and comes with a 120mm stem. There's masses of saddle rail and stem height adjustment potential.
The triple butted aluminium frame is thoroughly practical in its tubing profiles. The top tube is oversized at the head tube end to give the strongest possible weld contact area into the tapered (1.5in lower 1.125in upper) head tube. The down tube morphs from round at the head tube to massively ovalised into the bottom bracket, giving as much lateral drive support as possible. Neat double pass welds keep the aesthetics clean as well as boosting durability.
The chain stays are shaped to aid drive stiffness but help to maintain decent comfort on rough roads in unison with the slimline seat stays. Given the creaking issues we've had with a few press-fit bottom brackets on £1000 bikes, we are happy that the bottom bracket is a threaded unit. Cable guides are slotted for ease of maintenance, there are two sets of bottle bosses but no rack/guard eyelets.
The silky black finish with contrasting brushed aluminium detail conspires to create a smart but subtle looking bike, and we particularly like the distinctive coloured ring highlights on the top tube, handlebar and seat post mimicking the painted lines in a velodrome. The thick black topcoat seems hard wearing too. The finer finishing detail of the Hoy is well thought out, with crank lengths and bar widths varying between sizes and a more generous than usual spread of seven frame sizes on offer (XXS to XL).
Asked about the thinking behind the Hoy brand launch Sir Chris explains that he would like to think that the brand will help to make cycling more accessible to people of all ages: 'Cycling has been a central part of my life from an early age and has helped me achieve so much. I want to help people experience the power and enjoyment of cycling, as well as demystifying it and making it accessible to all. That's why I decided to create a brand that embodies this vision and my passion.'
So does the Sa Colobra 003 manage that? Well, there are aluminium framed bikes with better componentry at the same price (especially if you're willing to buy mail order) but we haven't ridden many that handle all types of roads as well as this. By focusing the fine detail of design on a superb aluminium frame instead of trying to squeeze a carbon frame into the budget, Hoy distributors Evans Cycles have created a machine that feels like more than the sum of its parts.
Three riders spent time with the Sa Colobra and not one of them could find anything to fault it in terms of ride feel or handling prowess. It's not trying to be a thoroughbred race bike but neither is it a bike aimed at beginners. It's an all-round speed machine that manages to be exciting, stable, comfortable and totally predictable all at the same time.
A very nicely put together aluminium frame and a level of performance that's hard to beat.
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Make and model: HOY Sa Calobra 003
Size tested: 56
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
6061 butted and heat treated Aluminium frame, carbon fork. FSA Omega 34/50 cranks. Shimano 105 gear mechs and shifters. Shimano RS10 wheels. Continental Ultrasport 25mm tyres listed but Grand Sport Race 23s fitted. Tektro RS40 brakes. Hoy branded finishing parts.
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Effectively sits in between race and fast everyday road use. Good sportif bike.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Far better than an entry level aluminium frame. Reasonably tidy welds, but not excellent. Generally well finished though, with geometry that should suit almost anyone.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
6061 heat treated butted aluminium frame. Carbon bladed fork with an aluminium steerer.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
73.5 seat angle, 72.5 head on M/L frames. Varies on other sizes. Our L bike had a 57cm top tube
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Felt spot on with a 120mm stem. Lots of fore/aft saddle adjustment and washer stem height adjustment
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
More comfortable than we expected for an aluminium frame. The bigger 25mm tyres would still be recommended (our sample came with 23s)
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Frame tube profiles made it incredibly stiff around the bottom bracket, so very efficient in drive power.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Dead neutral, in the best sense.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Very direct responses in climbing and sprinting. Initial acceleration and general handling not as lively as a more costly thoroughbred race bike but this makes it easier to like for relative beginners.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Excellent bar shape. Good reach. 25mm tyres would have added a bit more comfort.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
For the price, all fine. The budget minimally spoked Shimano wheels are simply average in the stiffness stakes.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
A larger biggest cassette sprocket would make the bike more beginner friendly on big/steep climbs. We struggled occasionally in the Pyrenees on a 34/25.
Dead stable and confident ride when just bowling along
Dealt with hills better than most 20lb bikes
Difficult to fault Shimano 105
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
A 28 sprocket on the cassette would have been a real bonus on long/steep climbs.
We've seen better wheels on a £1000 bike.
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
We'd definitely go for 25mm tyres, which should have been fitted anyway.
Hoy finishing kit all appears acceptably good but we don't have any long term experience yet
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Compact bar shape likes by most riders. Bar width varies between sizes.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
Saddle comfort simply average.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? No.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Age: 58 Height: 181 Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Merlin Ti My best bike is: Ibis Silk SL
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,