The chance to test the Avanti Corsa feels like it has been a long time coming. We first saw this bike at Avanti’s 2013 launch at the Disc Velodrome in Melbourne last winter, but it wasn’t until November that we were able to ride one. In fairness it wasn’t so much the fault of Avanti. Many, many companies have had delays in the production of their 2013 range, mostly I understand, due to component issues. Even this particular bike was a pre-production unit. But if you look at some of the componentry in the pictures, you’ll understand that we weren’t complaining.
It was fortunate that Bicycling Australia was in Taupo covering the Taupo Cycle Challenge. Knowing that Avanti, as a proud NZ company, would be in attendance at what is arguably New Zealand’s biggest bike event, we called them up to beg a test ride. This particular bike on test here belongs to Avanti Group Product Manager, , Kim Struthers, so we should point out that the componentry on it isn’t standard. In an interesting sign of the times, Avanti actually apologised for the bike “only having mechanical Dura-Ace” as Di2 wasn’t available at the time.
The Corsa will be available in a range of options with the following prices. As you might expect with Sheppard Industries being the New Zealand distributor, each of the Corsa bikes is spec’d with Shimano groupsets.
Corsa DR 1.0 (Shimano 105) – $2,499.95
Corsa DR 2.0 (Shimano Ultegra) – $3,499.95
Corsa DR 3.0 (Shimano Utegra Di2) – $4,999.95
Corsa DR 4.0 (Shimano Dura-Ace 9000) – $6,999.95
Corsa DR Team Di2 (Shimano Dura-Ace Di2) – $9,999.95
Corsa DR Team Frameset – $3,499.95
There are two carbon versions as well, CR5 and CR6. Both of the Dura-Ace models are aimed at team use so are therefore blessed with the higher level CR6 carbon. Is there much difference? Well…
The Corsa is a brilliant looking bike with a number of features and I spoke to Avanti’s Road Product Manager, Stephen James, at that dealer show in Melbourne and asked him what they were trying to achieve with its design.
“We’d first developed a lot of the technology you see on the Corsa when we were designing the Chrono TT bike. The whole endeavour was called ‘Project Evo’. We felt that the elements you see on the Chrono deserved to be ridden by a wider audience, hence the birth of the Corsa.
One of the key focuses was integration and then compatibility. Integration of the quick releases, headset, spacers and the seat clamp. The idea is for it to be part of the form of the frame and not something that is bolted on afterwards, to make all that functional. We call that Universal Component Capability.”
I have a running joke with Stephen about Avanti’s, in my opinion, overuse of acronyms. And while this time they’re not pasted all over the frame, they’re still there in the marketing kit. As well as the UCC above, we have M.O.D.S. (Maximum Output Differential Stays), FEA (Fine Element Analysis), ILO (Internal Laminate Optimisation), CFD Tube Shapes (Computational Fluid Dynamics) and IQ (Integrated Quick Release). Moving along from the acronym issue, let’s have a look in more detail at these features.
M.O.D.S. is something that Avanti introduced in 2008 when they released their Quantum and Cadent bikes. It refers to the stays being of different size, with, logically the drive side being larger (40mm) than the left, which is 34mm. The pressure placed on the drive side means that more carbon is required to provide the required stiffness for a race level bike.
FEA is computer software used to develop the lay-up of carbon-fibre in the frame and analyse the structural stiffness of the frames. There’s been a huge amount of wind tunnel work done on the Corsa by Avanti, both on computer using the CFD software and in an actual wind tunnel and the focus has been to create a frame that will slice through the wind. A lot of this work was already done on the Chrono, particularly how the fork cuts through the wind, channelling it away from that down tube. The work on the seatpost is the icing on the cake. Its shape is absolutely aerodynamic and perfectly compliments the shape of the frame tubes.
ILO (Internal Laminate Optimisation) is a process used during the frame lay-up, moulding and curing cycle. This process involves not only an external steel mould to give the frame its shape but also a full internal mould to give near-perfect internal shape and repeatability. This means the full thickness of carbon laminate from the outside to the inside is correctly consolidated and no fibre bunching, wrinkling or excess resin is inside the frame. This leads to a stiffer and lighter frame. The internal mould melts out of the frame at the end of the curing cycle.
Use of ILO is consistent right through the frame and while it may add a little to the cost, is well worth it when it comes to the bike’s performance.
ACC, or Advanced Carbon Construction, describes the monocoque construction and also the carbon used. As I mentioned previously, two types of carbon are used on the Corsa frames, CR5 and CR6, although the moulds used are the same. CR6 is Avanti’s high-modulus carbon, lightweight and strong. A medium CR% level Corsa frame weighs just 900g while a CR6 is just 100g heavier without any loss of performance.
IQ, or Integrated Quick Release, is the one that’s the most noticeable, at least at first because it is indicative of the rest of the frame. You’ll see that the frames have been made with a recessed section, just the size for the front and rear quick releases. When closed these levers are consequently tucked away out of the wind. The same thing is happening at the seatpost clamp, with the bolts tucked away behind. Even the shape of the clamp flows perfectly from the frame, creating a seamless path to the seatpost. It’s the same story at the headset, which mimics the flowing shape of the seatpost clamp. Everything on this bike has been designed to allow the air to flow around it in the most efficient way possible.
Out on the Road
This is all very well, but how did it ride? I picked up Kim’s bike from the expo at the Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge and immediately felt faster, even though I was only walking to the café. There’s something great about walking through town with a bike like the Corsa, especially when it has a pair of Firecrest wheels attached. More than one head turned, with eyes pointed towards its lovely lines.
The next morning I was taken for a tour of the Taupo area by one of the local riders. Meeting me early in the morning at my hotel a bunch road past along the lake as the two of us were getting ready. We decided to chase it down and get a bit of a tow to warm our legs up before the later climbs. From the first pedal stroke the Corsa sprang into life beneath me. The combination of frame stiffness with the carbon wheels meant that we caught that bunch very quickly, and they were moving at a fair clip. With the Corsa under me it hadn’t felt like anything. I have to say here that it’s pleasing to see the Corsa DR Team Di2 spec’d with Zipp 404 clinchers. A lot of brands require you to upgrade to these wheels, but Avanti have made them standard.
Heading up the hill to Rangatira Park, the Corsa made short work of the climb. It was far better than my still-cold legs but I was beginning to see why Avanti were keen for the Genesys squad to be racing on these bikes in 2013. Plunging down into the Huka Falls the bike lapped up the downhill, although the crosswind made things a little tricky. The deep-dish wheels might have had something to do with it, but I did feel the steering was rather twitchy, perhaps more twitchy than my skills were comfortably able to cope with. In a gradual lean it was fine, excellent even, and leaning right over was brilliant. But long, straight, fast descents needed a steady hand.
Coming back into town the Corsa came into its own. Flat riding on the rivet on this bike was something else again. If you were out in front at Paris-Roubaix hoping to keep a chase group of Boonen, Cancellara and Hushovd from catching you, this would be the bike to have. The Corsa is a very impressive bike indeed and I think we can expect to see more victories from the Huon Salmon-Genesys squad this year.
A New Dragon
So we’ve looked at the technical aspects of the Corsa and its ability on the road, but how about the commercial future? For the past few years Avanti have sponsored the New Zealand team, Pure Black Racing. However, for 2013 Huon Salmon-Genesys Wealth Advisers cycling team will be using Avanti bikes, a mixture of the Corsa, Quantum and Chrono TT bike. This indicates a couple of things about where Avanti feel their business is heading.
If we go back to the split between Sheppards and Specialized in 2009, many people wondered if it would be the end of the company. Or at least the end of the company’s expansion. But exactly the opposite has been the case. Firstly Sheppards consolidated their Zero Components arm as a way of propping up the loss of Specialized’s parts and accessories. It wasn’t long after this that Scott came on board. The two companies seem to compliment each other well and the icing on the cake has been Orica-GreenEDGE’s use of Scott bikes. There’s no doubt that having one of your brands in the World Tour is good for business, but Avanti upped the ante yet again by purchasing the cycling arm of Pacific Brands. This has not only consolidated their parts and accessories line but includes bike brands Masi and Malvern Star.
The Malvern Star Oppy has been a very successful bike for the Genesys team for two years, but now they will be using Avanti bikes. The team who are now known as Huon Salmon-Genesys Wealth Advisers are one of the top teams on the Asian circuit. This means they have good exposure in countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia and with Avanti having recently opened stores in Malaysia and Singapore, there’s no doubt the exposure will help them grow. With the range of accessories and the quality of bikes such as the Corsa, I think they’ll be one of the leaders. It will be interesting to see if a company that began by making BMX parts in a kitchen can become one of the biggest bike brands in Asia. Time will tell…