What do we all dream of? Big lottery win? To nail that promotion? Since the day we were overtook by the deep rim guys in our infamous first and last triathlon, we have always kept the hope of riding a bike like theirs. Sounding like a futuristic freight train approaching, 'woh' was our expression when we very quickly dropped by whatever speed demon was in control of those machines. When Evo2Max got in touch and suggested we tried and tested one of their range, just a quick glance of their fleet and it threw me back to that moment. Bikes which would not be out of place out of Tron and designed with the aero-heads in mind, Evo2Max screams attention and speed. We were privileged to ride this in the Red Bull Timelaps and pencilled in some rides to get used to what lies beneath the striking pink decals and 90mm rims!
MODEL: Nebular R-9
SIZES: Options - XS-49cm / S-52cm / M-54cm / L-56cm / XL-59cm
GROUPSET: On review - Ultegra Di2 11spd 53/39fr 11/28r
SADDLE: On review - Fizik Antares VSX
WHEELS: On review - Wheels: Evo Momentum R1 90mm
WHEEL SIZE: On review - Mavix 700X25C
HUBS: Options - Sealed cartridge or ceramic
SPOKES: Options - Straight pull or Sapim CX ray aero
STEM: 100mm Evo2Max integrated carbon H'bars 42mm width
WIDTH: Options - 400mm / 420mm / 440mm
WEAVE: High Modulus Toray T700
BRAKE: Options - Shimano, Sram and Campagnolo Direct mount
WEIGHT: On 54cm : Frame 1150g, Fork 399g, Post 185g Stem 320g
HEAD TUBE: 1-1/8
Nervous would be an understatement. Not just because it was our first (and hopefully start of many!) bike review but this particular bike is a loan from Chris Hopkinson who used it in his 12hr Record attempt. If you look at his palmares, you wonder if there's a point of driving if he can ride far distances in ultra quick times?! I was informed it came with a Shimano Ultegra groupset with Di2 shifters. Hold on! As they say, s*** just got real. The only time we have used electronic shifters was on our MTB stag adeventure in Wales (don't ask my bro' what he was wearing for the ride - let's just say he was more ready for a gig than an off road bike ride!). Bless my Mum but she took delivery of our present and just by lifting the box, there was no weight to it.
Once home and like a kid at Christmas, we unravelled our parcel and got to work putting it together. The reveal of the deep rims was like finding the holy grail. My Fulcrums on my Tarmac looked like sheets of paper in comparison - thin! Must admit, this was my first time putting a bike together but found it relatively easy with a multi-tool providing all the answers. Knowing how much tension for each bolt was a judgement I didn't want to get wrong because of the fully carbon frame, bars and seatpost. The seatpost had an integrated clamp unlike my Tarmac which has a clamp bolt on the outside. Clever and probably an example of marginal gains. I put the bike on the bike stand and checked over the shifters but not knowing too much about Di2, we did a bit of YouTubing and worked out there was plenty of charge left but I had none of the equipment if I needed to charge the battery up so hopefully and like Nick Boyle one time, not become stuck in gear very very far from home! Spinning those rims though, I think the whole house shook! We had the garage doors open at the time and even the boy a couple of doors down stopped to watch outside our house...dream on kid!
We had Chris Detsicas (our maintenance guru) have a little spot check over the Nebular and after tweaking and changing a few bits, we were ready. Just rolling off our driveway, it was like a Tornado Jet was beginning it's taxi on the runway. The aerodynamic sounds from the rims were bouncing off the tarmac and even scared an early morning riser just walking up to the shop to get their newspaper. We did feel a tad anxious because it's such a huge step up from our ordinary Tarmac. It's a few years old now and although we have loved every second of it (when it works!) but when you ride a machine like this which has a sole purpose to break speed limits, it shocks you into another world of tech'. We were wary of what sort of attention it would bring because being pink, it wouldn't be great at hide and seek and we noticed a few cars drive past with it's passengers gawping at it.
Our first ride included popping into a few local bike stores just to check a stem bolt size that we needed to replace. Even these little tweaks reminded us of the basic maintenance we need to consider for all our bikes. It felt like we had signed up for a course in Aero Design and Maintenance because you've got listen to every piece of feedback and response with bikes like these. You can get away with just hopping onto our Tarmac and start pedalling. With bikes like the Nebular, adjusting and adapting is the way to approach your rides so you can get the best out of the bike and it can get the best out of you. Anyway, with Sam and Chris at our side, we rolled into Richmond Park to give the bike a few test runs. You normally get a few high spec bikes at the weekends when the city workers bring in their 'Porsches' for a spin but we got the feeling the Evo2Max pulled in a lot of attention. For looks, we love it. We love the Tron-esque style graphics, the pink is not as bold as you think it would be. In this department, it's got bundles of character.
We had to remind ourselves when judging the feel of the bike because it's set up for Chris Hopkinson specifically. The reach to the bars was much shorter than our Tarmac (yes, yes, move the seat we know but we wanted to tweak it as we go without tampering with the generic set up). It took us most of the ride though to get used to the electronic shifters because the levers are set up so close together obviously for quick and efficient shifting. Luckily, the wind was pretty non-existent because with these wheels, we think nearby Heathrow airport might of needed to squeeze in another departure in their timetable. Now it could be because we've gone from 40mm to 90mm rims but we did feel the front wheel twitch often. Not being set up could be another reason but it was too early to give a fair judgement on this. Now and then, we put the hammer down to see what the acceleration was like and it was extremely positive. Being Richmond Park and it being a busy Sunday, we couldn't let the reigns fully off but I did feel you got more effort for your buck. All in all, an interesting first test ride. It does feel because of the tech' that comes with this bike and it's aggressive feel, this bike will need pampering to keep happy, I just hope the wife doesn't get jealous!
This bike is a full on racer so it's not the sort of bike you plan to do an Audax on. But if Chris Hopkinson took the 12hour record on this thing, the bike has to deal with the added stresses and requirements that comes with riding for a long period of time. We planned a ride with Chris and a couple of newbies in the form of Stephen and Liam with the latter upping the pink wars with his Bianchi accompanied by a pair of very lush Zipp wheels. The route was to take us into Surrey via Green Dene, over Houndhouse, up Tanhurst and then rest stop at a Tanhouse cafe in Newdigate. After refuelling, it was back over Box with a quick descent through Epsom and it's roundabouts before an afternoon nap back home!
No dramas this time setting the bike up and we were away to Richmond Park to meet the other two with Chris. The rims (and this will be repeated a lot!) clears the road. If you like some sound on your rides, these wheels deliver that plenty. If you happen to be fluent in the dialect aero-nism, the sound translates as 'ride faster, go faster'! It was more of a cruise up to Green Dene but the roads are not great around this way as locla riders know. We did try to avoid potholes and divets where we could but when we did hit one, the bike responded strongly, never felt the wheels would buckle or flip me sideways. I was wary of the tyres though as Chris pointed out, in his opinion, the choice of the Mavics are not known for being great in the wet. Hoppo' might disagree or have them on their for a certain purpose but we didn't want to risk anything.
First climb of the day was the very timid Green Dene. In the past when we started out cycling, any sort of climb would ruin us. We were now at a stage where we could find a competitive cadence to maintain and being around the others who were better riders than us, the Nebular coped well with this type of gradient. Houndhouse was up next and is a bit longer then Green Dene with a couple of ramps. Again, the gradient never gets silly and the bike coped well, feeling light enough to move around when needed. The descent down to Peaslake is a fun one and this was another discipline I wanted to explore on the Nebular as what goes up, must come down. You really don't need to push too much, the aero benefits come into play here as you if tuck in, the wheels step up and you're cutting through the air. We do believe the brakes pads are carbon (could be wrong!) but they are needed. Under braking and it's more to do with riding knowledge but like in any vehicle, braking and turning don't work well together. We kept this in mind but when we did need to turn on braking (to miss a bump or pothole), we got the feeling the bike didn't enjoy it.
Chris made us go up over Radnor Road which is gravelly at the best of time and I knew the descent would be hairy. The tyres actually performed well on the rougher surface but it did not enjoy the road on the way down. The others were either more risky than me or more confident with their bikes but they quickly opened up a sizeable gap This was probably due to the tyres not responding well to any greasy leaves or muck as you will find out when we took on some other descents further in the ride. Chris took the other two up the steep and painful Tanhurst. We were sick at the site of leaves so decided to climb up Leith Hill Road and try to join them on the descent down. This was up Leith does have some steep sections that rise into the mid-teens and this is where the Nebular probably loses it's advantage. Comparing performance and feel, it was on par with my own Tarmac, you're in the territory of marginal gains and lighter more climbing specific bikes. Didn't feel like I was pushing squares at all but gone was the luxury of having an easy cadence. There are other factors in play, this specific bike runs a 28-11 at the back whereas I've recently swapped my Tarmac cassette for a 32-11 and you feel the difference in having that bigger sprocket at the rear.
It was at this point though that due to the position of the seat, I began to feel uncomfortable in my knees. My riding position was all wrong, I was too hunched forward which was straining my knees. I didn't have enough reach in my arms and although I was keeping pace with the group, I knew I would pay for this much warranted adjustment. This still didn't stop us from playing about and on the roll down from Leith, we jumped ahead (Stephen's reaction to the increase in noise on Chris' video says it all!). The bike does launch you away and then once your acceleration plateaus, it's then down to the rider to maintain that pace. We did take turns on the front although Chris took this as an indication to practice some time-trialling! For about 20minutes, no one said a word!
After our hot chocolate at the nicely nestled Tanhouse Cafe, we aimed for the final climb of the day, Box Hill. We did at one point join/overtake/join/be overtook by the Kingston Wheelers chaingang. On one pass, a female rider did shout out 'like your wheels!'. What is it about these wheels?! As Surrey riders know, Box is lovely to climb thanks to it's smooth surface which was relaid before the Olympics. The Nebular had no qualms tackling this iconic British climb but our legs were beginning to flag thanks to the pace of the ride and the riding position. We managed to stay with the others down the descent (most of the time). We noticed in the sweeping bends, the bike came to life. You can tuck in again and let the bike's aero setup do all the work. It's definitely a 'recovery' bike - when you need to get back onto a group or make up ground, the aero benefits gives you that opportunity to make up lost ground.
The last push was in the Horton roundabouts, we had lost the others at this point as the knees didn't like the mini climb out of Epsom so we consequently dropped back. The roundabouts are full of sweeping and slightly downhill straights so you can really keep a speed going. The speedo' was showing 28-29mph for a good mile and a half and we still felt we had a lot more to give. We did throw one more sprint in just before Kingston just to give Stephen and Liam a send off with the sound of the wheels.
In terms of endurance, it's surprisingly comfortable. You expect a hard ride because of it's time-trial/triathlon core but we wouldn't say it's less comfortable than our Tarmac. Obviously our issue was setting up the riding position correctly, we don'y know how Hoppo' rides like that but suppose it has it's aero' gains. We would rather have our knees in tact thanks!
Before we could undertake our next test, we had to do something about our riding position. So with Chris' suggestion of just matching up the Nebular with our own Tarmac in terms of saddle position, short term it should do fine. Obviously having a proper bike fit for whatever bike you ride is the best way forward. Hoppo' uses a Fizik saddle which does come with some packed padding and for his type of challenges, we can see why. This adjustment ended up to work wonders.
We popped the bike into the back of the car and drove down to Hillingdon Cycle Circuit, the closest closed road track to us and during the week, free to use. There was a slight headwind at the top of the circuit but apart from that, it was a beautiful autumn day for a speed test. We had a few sprint laps in mind with a 30 min' time-trial test planned. After a short warm up, we decided to up the pace and see what the bike could do around here. Down the back straight, it was fighting with a slight cross wind but tucking into the drops, the deep rims were coping well. The circuit has a slight rise for breakaway attempts (roughly 150m at 2-3%) and although there was a tailwind in this section, the bike loved it. It just confirmed our report on the endurance test that on slight or gradual inclines, it responds positively. We were hitting 22-24mph up here and still keeping a smooth cadence. After this rise, the circuit dips into a hairpin then rises again for a sharper much much shorter climb. The proper racers probably don't get out of the saddle for this and we don't normally either. But we decided to throw the bike side to side to keep the speed up and you could feel the bike respond to the need in acceleration. Anything longer though at that gradient, we feel you'd lose this attribute. The road then sweeps to the left to open up into the back straight. You could feel the change in wind direction here though and it was hard to increase the acceleration. The wheels actually felt quite stable even though in this section of the circuit, the surrounding terrain is quite open to the elements.
Next up was our time-trial test. This doubled up for prep' for our Red Bull Timelaps attempt. We need to know we could feel comfortable on this bike at a competitive speed for a longer duration than a couple of minutes. At this point, a family came onto the circuit to cycle round and on the first pass, one of the little girls shouted 'WOH!'. I found out after she liked the pink wheels! These wheels should have their own chat show, they seem to be that popular! We knew where to push on the circuit and where to hold off slightly and let the bike take over and we managed to maintain a 21mph pace over 30 minutes. The riding position adjustment worked wonders and it did feel very similar to our Tarmac set up. We had more play from side to side if we needed to get out of the saddle. One thing we did notice was some flexing in the top tube. You could see it when rocking the bars going up the rise after the sweeping dip. It's clear this is not a true climbing bike and that's visually obvious. It's not made for sharp corners and handling out of the seat. It's at it's optimum best when you're tucked into the drops with a cadence you feel you can push for eternity and any rise which doesn't go into Alpine territory. That's when the Nebular shows it's true colours.
So it was the weekend of the Red Bull Timelaps, what we have been leading this review up to. A 25hr endurance race held in the tranquil setting of Windsor Great Park. The route would be a little lumpy with a small kick then the main climb coming just before you return on the home straight so there was plenty of opportunities to see how the Nebular would perform on different terrain and at competitive speeds.
Now, seeing this bike on the road would be like spotting a Bugatti Veyron driving around, it's a very unique brand but thanks to the decals and design, a defo' head turner. As we were unloading the van to take equipment over to the village, a team had parked up beside, a guy poked his head out the window and shouted 'Who's Evo is that?!'. This really did shock us as he knew the exact bike and the guys behind Evo2Max, small world it turns out!
Rolling the bike into the pen, we knew people were looking. Was it the pink? Was it because they've never come across Evo2Max before? Or was something stuck to our cleats?! Either way, we were really looking forward to see what this thing could do against the best. We were the 4th rider to go in our team and our plan was to stick 1hr on, 3hrs off. The idea was to blast the hour hopefully within a group then recover. Final quick check over the bike, grabbed our armband from Chris Detsicas and after a short jog to the end of the transition zone, we clipped in and we were away. The usual sound of the rims just bellowed off the tarmac and the first few riders we had passed thought a steam train was coming. The bike was easy to hold above 20mph (I know not as you fast elite guys but we were pleased!). It was a fast first hour, average speed didn't drop below 21mph even though we were on our own for most of the time. We couldn't find a group to settle in so we were banking on the aero advantage of the bike to help us through.
We took it easy in the tighter corners though, this wasn't our bike and we didn't want to make that awkward call to Andy and Chris at Evo2Max explaining the bike would be coming back to them in pieces! The main descent after the kick of Slans/Manor Hill could be argued as sketchy. There was an early accident on this section so again, cautious was the card we played but it flew through the timid chicane. We tucked into the bars and the dip threw us into the main climb. I was expecting here for the bike to be a bit sluggish but as we noticed on our endurance ride, this bike performs well on slight gradual climbs which was exactly what Breakheart Hill was. On our first climb up and it could of been the race, fresh legs or adrenaline but we smashed our PB up here and rolled onto to complete another 4 laps before we came in for the changeover. We did have a fan on one lap who latched onto our wheel and shouted 'notinthepeloton'. I did ask how did you know, he said he noticed the bike, stupid question really in hindsight!
We had slightly recovered and ready to jump back on the Nebular. But as we rolled off from the transition zone, literally 10metres into the lap, the rear tyre caught a puncture somehow. Absolutely fuming so we had to run back to the pits to change the tube. Just to make it clear this is not the bike's fault at all, it's more of an experience issue when owning one of these bikes but we somehow managed to drop the valve extender into the rim itself. Thoughts did go into our head as to how the hell do you get it out of the rim especially with it being one solid piece of equipment?! Short story, we had to switch to the Tarmac for the night runs and fortunately, the Wiggle mechanic in the morning managed to fish out the valve extender with a spoke. This only gave us one more session to use the Nebular in the race which so happened to be the last run before the race ended.
The wind had picked up through the night so there was a nasty headwind on the home straight and a crosswind at the northern part of the course. Worried us a little obviously because of the deep rims but there was no way I'm bowing out of the race on a whim. So we tucked into the drops when we could and focused on catching the rider in front each time. My legs let me down a little on the rises around the circuit but then the bike would pull me back in contention on the straights. Started to feel a little more confident in the corners too but like I said, it wasn't my bike so I made sure I took the racing line wide out of the corner to keep as upright without causing too much drag. The tweak I made in the speed tests helped immensely as times I thought I was back on my Tarmac, just shows how important your personal set up is. Hitting the headwind ont he home straight did make you focus more attentively in keeping the bike in a straight line but I never felt I was out of control. The bike stood it's ground well against the elements. We also started to see the benefits of the Di2 system aswell. Once your mind gets used to feel of electonic change instead of the clunk of manual gearing, if you're an elite racer, those marginal milliseconds could be the different between a win or somewhere else on the podium. The charge in the battery has also held really well, we were expecting a battery problem somewhere but it never came. The home straight was lined up with the riders who had already finished their stints and we rolled under the arch to the sound of the carbon rims coming to a final stop. Although we only managed 2 runs on the Nebular, it never felt out of place and for an average commuter such as myself, it levelled the playing field out for us.
You have to remind yourself you have just read a review from someone who has dreamed of riding one of this aero beasts for a very long time. You see and hear the sound of deep rims and carbon frames on your weekend rides and you just wonder what the buzz is about. The buzz is reall let me tell you.
You also have to remind yourself this is our first bike review and what a way to start with the Evo2Max Nebular. If the pros reviewed this, they would probably nitpick at every aspect and although we have tried to look at every criteria we can, we have been focusing on all the enjoyment aspects of the Nebular and there has been plenty. Let's start with the rims. You only ride 90mm rims if you race, pure and simple. You wouldn't commute unless you're loaded or really want to get to work early! You can't beat the sound of these rims, compared to all the other wheels at the Timelaps, despite having pink decals, they had a dark deep rolling sound, similar to the monster out of Stranger Things! Only get them on the flat or a gentle rise and they come to life.
Looks aren't everything but it's your bike, your partner, look after it and it'll look after you. The colour and design concepts are eye-catching but actually quite subtle in the flesh. It's a very photogenic bike but it's not as brash as you might think. We adore the Tron-esque style graphics, the pink flows well throughout the bike but if pink is not your thing, they custom build so get your pallet out.
The bike is equipped with a Shimano Ultegra Di2 setup with a 28-11 cassette, similar gear ratio to what we did have on the Tarmac (we've moved up to a 32-11 to have more options on the hills). It's fiddly to get used to if this is your first time, does take a few rides to familiarise yourself as the shifters are closer together we feel than your usual manual ones but they compliment the performance aspect of the bike well. You do end up noticing the instant changing and the electronic buzz does make you feel have been sucked into the Tron world. On a side note on electronics, it was hard to find a mount for the GoPro and Garmin to fit on the bars as the bars and stem are integrated (all one piece). You would have to speak to the guys at Evo2Max if this could be worked around but we had to attach the Garmin on the stem which meant it was right underneath our chin when checking data, not ideal but not a 3rd world problem though.
The handling is probably where you'll find personal preference and maybe riding talent comes into play. It's clear to see the bike has a fundamental core of aerodynamics. It's designed to go fast first in a straight line. Andy and Hoppo' are time-trialists by heart so it is designed for this market. It could of been the case that because it wasn't our bike that we didn't feel confident throwing it into the corners or that we have never ridden Mavic tyres before but it prefers your sweeping bends. Tighter corners and it asks you to be more cautious or step off the gas a little. Again, this could be down to our own riding ability but definitely an area of the bike where maybe development could be made if you want to make it a circuit racer.
If you're shopping in the market for an aero racer, it would be very easy to spend stupid amounts of money and not realising what your're getting. The Nebular sits well in this price range, a custom build with a 105 groupset will set you back £2598 whereas a bike like Hoppos you're looking at around £3500 depending on your requested specification. Don't like the colour? For a small added fee, you can request your own colour scheme. Haven't got the dough up front? No worries, they offer finance. Either way, this is an unique bike, you don't see many around down our way and we even heard a couple of guys in the Red Bull village trying to work out what it was! It definitely defines what notinthepeloton is, don't be like everyone else, be you, be different. Nebular is actually Latin for interstellar cloud, well, this bike is definitely from another galaxy!
For more information, range of bikes and products and pricing visit www.evo2max.com