Remember the original Sensa Giulia? Cast your mind back to April 2013. A group of Japanese students has just made the world’s longest roll cake at 130.68m (well someone had to use up those 2,682 eggs); Ant and Dec (aka PJ & Duncan) have finally bagged a Number 1 with the return of their 1994 hit Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble (the ‘h’ was a nod to both wrestling and the rhumba dance), and Cyclist issue 6 has just hit the shelves. And in it? A review of the Sensa Giulia.
It had a carbon frame and full Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 groupset, and yet it cost just £2,699. I can remember that day and I can remember wondering how on earth the price could be right – carbon bikes still had cachet back then, and the groupset was the best part of two grand alone.
Fast forward to today and the Giulia is back amidst our pages, only this time it’s with Ultegra and this time I’m going to try incredibly hard to spell its name right. I before the U…
Sensa bikes hail from Holland, where like the majority of top-end manufacturers the company assembles its bikes from imported parts, hence the ‘Hand built’ graphic, rather than ‘Hand made in Holland’, on every frame.
As such, the design could be seen as quite Dutch, in that Holland is flat, and Holland is windy, and the Giulia Evo borrows heavily from the NACA handbook, which is somewhat like a tattoo artist’s catalogue only instead of koi-carp sleeves it’s full of airfoil shapes developed by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.
Thus this isn’t a bike that has been wind-tunnel-tested per se, but it has been designed around proven wind-cheating shapes, from the tall, truncated down tube to the thin seatstays and narrow head tube.
That said, this isn’t in fact the true Sensa aero flagship; that esteem goes to the Giulia Evo Aero, which has the same frame but built instead with a one-piece, internally routed bar/stem combo up front. Still, shod with 50mm wheels you get to understand at which fête the Giulia Evo is setting out its stall – straight-line speed.
I say straight-line speed for two reasons. First, because with 50mm deep wheels and the tall tubes there’s a decent amount of surface area for side-winds to act on, and while it ultimately wasn’t a problem, a few freak gusts blowing through hedgerow gaps did remind me I was riding an aero bike.
But the pay-off was that when I got my body position low and pedalled like fury, the bike surged forward and helped me hold it there like a true-blue (well, red) aero racer.
Because of this, sprinting on the Giulia is also a pleasing experience. The frameset is very stiff, so too the wheels, and that plus its aero pretensions conspire to make out-the-saddle, in-the-drops efforts a fun, teeth-gritting experience. And I needed to grit those teeth, because the knock-on effect of all this is, you guessed it, comfort.
Understood in context
On the scale of one to ‘pub bench on a winter’s day’, the Giulia comes in at around a seven, teetering just on the edge of where ‘firm’ meets ‘uncomfortable’, and saved only by running the tyres at relatively low pressures.
I’d suggest that a trade-up to a pair of 28mm tubeless tyres from the supplied 25mm tubed Schwalbes (the wheels support this) would provide noticeable comfort gains without affecting much else, such is the negligible difference in weight between 25mm and 28mm tyres these days.
Speaking of which, you may have noticed from perusing the stats on the previous page that this is not the lightest bike, tipping my scales at 8.4kg. That’s not crazy, but among today’s flock of disc brake racers, it’s not all that light either.
However, the stiffness and sporty geometry of the frame do help to offset the feeling of heaviness by creating a responsive platform. And the kicker here – just as it was eight years ago – is that the Giulia Evo comes in at just a shade over three grand.
I’m not going to say three grand is cheap, but then no race bikes are cheap; cheap stopped a long time ago, probably around the time farm boys stopped racing butchers’ bikes at the Tour. Whether that’s OK is a discussion for another day, but I’d suggest that on the spectrum of road bikes now, a disc-braked, carbon-wheeled, Ultegra-equipped, 8.4kg aero-road bike coming in at £3,099 is decent value.
That’s not to say Sensa is alone with such offerings – there are a number of other brands doing sterling work at this price point too – but it does speak to how far bikes have come in eight years, and how closely Sensa has stuck to its 2013 Giulia blueprint: a lot of bike for not insane money.
Pick of the kit
Santini Redux Vigor jersey, £160, zyrofisher.co.uk
Santini boasts the Redux Vigor jersey has a ‘super aero jersey cut’, and it’s not wrong. The Redux Vigor (careful, there are other Reduxes out there) does indeed do the figure-hugging thing, particularly around the arms and shoulders, but it also does a superb job of not feeling tight, especially for a rider who isn’t exactly punching at a race weight but still wants to feel fast (clue: that’s me).
The material is lightweight but still does a decent job of shielding from the wind, and it has pockets that are roomy but don’t sag.
• Buy the Santini Redux Vigor jersey from Wiggle
It’s one faster
If you want to go up an aero notch then the Giulia Evo Aero is for you (£3,357.60), featuring a one-piece bar that affords full internal cabling for a slicker look and presumably less drag.
Rough with the smooth
The Giulia GF (£3,357.60) promises to dial up the all-day comfort and versatility, with more relaxed geometry than the Giulia Evo and clearance for up to 32mm tyres, making this an all-road bike in waiting.
|Frame||Sensa Giulia Evo Disc|
|Groupset||Shimano Ultegra R8000|
|Brakes||Shimano Ultegra R8000|
|Chainset||Shimano Ultegra R8000|
|Cassette||Shimano Ultegra R8000|
|Bars||Supra Speed Line|
|Stem||Supra Speed Line|
|Seatpost||Supra Carbon Aero|
|Saddle||San Marco Concur|
|Wheels||Supra RFC 50 Elite Carbon Disc, Schwalbe One Performance 25mm tyres|