So I have good news and bad news!
As is customary with good news, bad news stories I’ll start with the good news. I had the honour to test, review and probably break the new Cabal Aero 1.0 road race machine.
The bad news is that it didn’t break and it’s not like I didn’t put the watts down in true Ion Göttlich fashion!
Before we start with the review let's get to know Cabal. Cabal is a Cape Town-based company, started by Jon Colledge and Andrew Bloom, Jon and Andrew started Cabal to offer a better, more complete bike to the market. Number 1 to get people a better price on frame and component technology, by offering bikes direct from the factory, and secondly, to offer people a bike off-the-peg that fits them properly. When you order a bike with Cabal you get a free basic bike-fit within certain major city centers. Cabal’s mantra is For The Love of the Ride (#4TLOTR). Those two things, being on the best possible bike for the money and making sure it fits you perfectly, both contribute to that.
Some Tech Talk
Open mold frames can be seen as an elephant in the room so I’d like to give you all my opinionated facts on the topic.
While the technically correct term is an “open design”, this simply refers to the non-proprietary nature of the mould in that any manufacturer can effectively rent the mould to produce frames thereby forgoing the expensive tooling costs involved with creating a private mould.
This doesn't mean all “open design” frames are created equal and with the same love and care! There are so many complex variables to consider from the grade of carbon and resins used to the manufacturing process that all affects the quality of the final product. Needless to say it's rather risky to just go out there and source you own frame willy-nilly!
Cabal have spent time face to face with suppliers and visiting factories, observing manufacturing processes and materials to settle on a manufacturer they were prepared to put their name behind. Picture me carrying the nice pink elephant outside the proverbial room so we have space to do some solid indoor training!
One of the options I love about Cabal is that they offer 3 aero wheels sets separately if needed. Let's face it wheels are always the first and best upgrade to any bike.
You have 3 choices , the CRC40, CRC50 and the CRC80. Check out the site for some nerd and geek info. https://ridecabal.com
My Test Ride
When you first lay your eyes on the Cabal it feels like it is taunting or daring you to get on and see what you are made of. It’s aggressive but understated with a grey matte finish with a beautiful pinstripe down the centre of the frame, less is more and The Aero 1.0 is on point with some amazing Capetonian Design. At a glance I would have liked to see an integrated stem on an aero bike but it's not exactly a deal breaker by any means. The main reason Cabal don't do an integrated bar/stem is because they care about the fit more than the aesthetic / aero advantage of that specific part of the bike. Being able to offer a customised fit offers bigger performance advantages long term than an aero setup that fits poorly, the logic is sound.
Another advantage in my opinion to the fact that it doesn’t have an integrated stem or steering system is that current setup is perfect for the road racer on a budget or a triathlete that wants to race road races and compete in Ironman. You could slap on a shorter stem and tri-bars and convert this road machine into a TT bike without much trouble at all.
I decided to take the Cabal Aero 1.0 out on one of my favourite training rides through cape town to Noordhoek and back. This is a very popular route with all local cyclists as well as the many tourist cyclists that make their way to Cape Town. The diverse route is perfect for a bike test and bound to give me an idea of how the bike would handle over various terrains. Starting in town riding through Seapoint dodging taxis as If it were Mark Cavendish switching you in the final 200m of the Champs-Élysées the Cabal was nippy and agile. Soon I'm on the open road through Llandudno and down Into the beautiful Hout bay I flew at 75 km without much effort at all down Suikerbossie (first person that mentions my weight gets a slap ;).
The newly paved Chapmans Peak drive is so bumpy you feel like you Racing in Flanders along the pavè! #cheaproadworks. With the Aero 1.0 gliding over the rough Chapmans surface, I decided to see what she could handle.
The Cabal Aero 1.0 was sturdy and responsive never did I feel like it was twitchy or a brat. Out the saddle, I got up this short but steep little climb at the base or Chapmans Peak, my intention was to put down some devastating watts. The response The Cabal Aero 1.0 gave was pure acceleration and I felt the bike going with me up the climb and giving back exactly what I gave it! I flew into the first bend that is rather bumpy and uneven patch, as with most aero bikes with short rear stays there is no or very little give.The stiff rear end results in the back wheel starting to bounce and it becomes harder to get the watts to stick to the ground, the remedy – just harden up and sit your ass down in the saddle and ride it like a Belgian, leave the dancing on the pedals to the rhythmic Spaniards like Contador.
Once seated the Cabal Aero 1.0 felt steady, never losing a beat. That familiar and beautiful sound of the deep section carbon rims singing to your wheezing breath.
Up and over Chappies and down the other side into Noordhoek. Through the tight bends of Chapmans the bike felt solid and responsive, the short wheelbase does feel a little cheeky on the descents but it didn't feel like The Aero 1.0 hated me and wanted me to die at all.
Decided to cruise back towards Cape Town and enjoy the bike and the scenery, after all, why else do we ride?
My final test would be up the Glen, a 10 - 12% climb that would give me an idea of how the Aero 1.0 climbs. While in the saddle climbing feels fluid and I tended to sit towards the front of the saddle since this felt like I had little more power over the pedals. As with most aero bikes out the saddle on a steep climb felt a little more laborious, I would imagine it has to do with the frame geometry being more aggressive. I never quite felt like I could get over the bars as easy as you do with a classic fondo or climbing bike. I noticed a little flex off the front end but this was due to the standard stem and handlebar rather than the frame flexing.
I challenge anyone to get a racing machine of this quality at the cost of R48,900. It's just not possible to beat that price and get everything that the Cabal Aero 1.0 brings to the road.
Overall I would 100% recommend the Cabal Aero 1.0 as a fast and good all round racing machine purely because of all the options you have with few or little of the aero bike pitfalls from the past.