Product Reviews April 4, 2010

Red Bull Carbon SL 4400 Review

As I'm writing this review, a Red Bull one, two are leading the Malaysian Grand Prix. Red Bull are equally well known for holding air races across the world. Basically pilots with a screw loose pit themselves against each other in a test of speed and precision flying. It makes spectacular viewing but heaven knows what their pants look like afterwards! Currently in the 2010 Air Race Championship, two English chaps, Paul Bonhomme and Nigel Lamb head the leader-board. I can only hope that when I go to Mallorca later this month, they are not at the helm of my easyjet Airbus. otherwise I'm going to be in alot of trouble. 

So how does this relate to a road bike? Well Red Bull have produced a couple of bikes, the most expensive of which is the Carbon SL 4400. It costs about £2500. There is an Aluminium frame version available if you have £1000 less to spend. The optimum combination for a road bike is a blend of stiffness (for pedalling efficiency - allowing the rider to translate the most power possible from their foot into forward motion)  and comfort (so you can spend extended periods in the saddle), thus enjoying the riding experience. Our German friends seem to have got one element of this equation nailed down to a tee - the stiffness - but designed the ride for a robot - or at least a bottom with a high pain threshold. Or very padded cycling shorts. You might even wish to stuff  a cushion down there for good measure! What do we conclude? Hard-riding efficiency is all very well if you regularly travel on Germanic roads, but I dare say the pot holes in the UK might make for an altogether different challenge for British riders. I suppose it's the obvious thing to do to make a bike that is as stiff as the SL 4400 if you have the appropriate surface at your regular disposal - afterall it's a bit like SAP - just so damn logical. But that doesn't help us in Blighty does it? (While I'm here if you happen to be on the A275 be careful of the man-trap sized pot hole between Offham and Cooksbridge - it's the size of a small mine).

So what of the bike itself?  It's very responsive, because it's so stiff - so you can deliver power through the transmission and into the wheels very quickly. This results in an exciting ride and allows you to get up to speed very quickly. The frame is made from Aerospace grade carbon fibre, T30/T40 using HOC technology. It comes with either Easton EA70 wheels, (so that's always going to go down well with me) or DT Swiss R1600s. Component wise the SL4400 is built around a SRAM Force gear-set with a FSA oversized headset and handlebars, Race Face seat-post, combined with a Selle Italia SLR XC saddle. Put this package together and you get a bike that weights alittle under 7 kilos (without pedals) on a 57cm frame. 

So there you have it. A well specified bike but only suitable if you happen to live on a test circuit. However, cycling round the roads of Britain might mean you want to consider something more forgiving on your backside.......

Cycling Plus 'Bike of the Year'

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Registered No. 6993486

38 Salisbury Road
West Sussex
BN11 1RD