Over the years I have written many bike and product reviews, but this is the first time I am writing about a bike that is 9 years old. It is interesting to evaluate something looking through the lens of time.
And the bike holds up very well!
Owning a bike shop (Bethel Cycle) that specialized in making custom bikes, I was lucky to have some awesome custom bikes. This bike, a custom Guru Evelo R has a special place in my heart and has some history. In fact it is the only custom bike I didn’t sell off over the years.
Here is the story…
In 2009 I won the USAT Duathlon National Championships and my dream was to become the World Champion for Team USA at the hilly ITU World Championship race in Gion Spain in 2011. I custom designed this bike for that race.
The bike leg in Gion went along the sea for a bit then hit a steep 3 mile climb followed by a technical descent back down to the sea. I felt that I could climb and descend better on a bike with drop road handlebars (road bike style) with clip on aerobars, rather than tri bars. But I didn’t want to sacrifice too much speed on the shorter flat sections, so I wanted drop bar handlebars (road style) and clip-on aerobars with triathlon geometry clip on aero bars and a decent aero position.
The problem was that this bike didn’t exist, and still doesn’t today.
If you put drop bars on a steep seat angled tri bike the bars are much too close, and putting on a very long stem puts too much weight on the front wheel which is not good for high speed descending or handling.
The solution was designing a custom bike which I called a “DBTB” or Drop Bar Tri Bike. I did have a choice of custom bike vendors but I really liked what my friends from Montreal, Guru, were doing with custom carbon. Not only were they making great custom bikes, but they were in the forefront on bike fitting technology. They were the first to make a computer driven fitting bike called the “DFU”, Dynamic Fitting Unit and we had one!
(Sidebar: I acted as a consultant for Cannondale and their parent company Doral, who eventually bought the fitting technology from Guru).
With the DFU fitting bike you can make the tube lengths and angles whatever you want, so I started by using my tri bike seat position and then from there dialing in the cockpit reach to my road bike handlebars (this resulted in a very long top tube). I threw some road bars on the DFU and did some minor tweaks and voila, DBRB!
Guru had a few models that I could choose from, but I chose the Evelo-R for a few reasons. I wanted the front end of the bike to be stiff and not flex during high speed descents. The Evelo-R had a nice stout fork with an oversized steerer tube, oversized headset bearings and oversized BB30 bottom bracket bearings. Keep in mind this was 10+ years ago when these technologies were not common on most road or tri bikes.
I consulted with one of the owners and designers, Robert Pinazza to dial in the geometry and handing for the bike. I wanted the bike to be more responsive than a tri bike in the handling department but also stable on high speed descents. With a pure custom bike the designer can tweak the fork rake, fork trail, wheelbase and head and seat tube angle to tune the ride.
Robert nailed it! They also custom painted the bike in Red, White and Blue to match my National Champion kit!
The bike felt like some of the best dialed in road bikes I have owned. The closest comparison would be the Colnago C50. But with the steeper seat angle and resulting hip angle I was able to get low in the front on both the drop bars and clip on aerobars. I pushed the bike hard in the hills of Northwest Connecticut and it shined!
The bike rocked in Spain! I didn’t achieve my dream of winning but I did get on the podium. The bike was awesome. I was in first after the bike leg, but suffered from some bad leg cramps at the start of the second run. I worked through the cramps and finished strong passing two people in the last 200 yards to take 3rd place. Later I saw I was only 8 seconds out of first.
Recently I dusted off the Guru for a training weekend at Clermont, the Florida hills. The bike was like a trusty old friend. It shined on the climbs and descents and was comfortable for 3 long back to back to back days in the saddle. I only wished there was longer climbs that 250 ft risers in Clermont.
The World Championships are near Amsterdam this year and I will be racing in the draft legal sprint distance duathlon. There are no hills, but since no aerobars are allowed in the draft legal race the Guru may just be my bike of choice as I can ride in a lower more aero position.
I still have my dream, and I may call on my old friend for help in Holland!