The Xenon was a good but gaudy bike last year, so fans of subtler looks will appreciate the matt stealth option on the 2013 machine. This year also sees a lighter, stiletto-style tapered fork that puts complete chassis weight well under 1,500g.
There are interesting things going on inside the frame, too, with the ‘double chamber’ design adding stiffness to the thin-walled, unidirectional carbon layup. Stevens also uses the extra wide BB86 standard for the asymmetric bottom bracket. It’s fully Di2 compatible too.
- Highs: Stiff but reasonably light and futureproofed double chamber frame that offers precise and balanced handling
- Lows: Soft spoking and heavy rear wheel dull acceleration, and you might want to change the short cranks
- Buy if: You want a keen and enjoyable all-rounder and don’t mind upgrading the wheels eventually
Conventional shifting keeps weight low on this build, which helps flatter already positive acceleration and climbing. Whatever gear you’re in or however steep the slope, the stout frame and alloy cockpit let you recruit all your muscles for the task, from your shoulder to the soles of your feet.
That does place a big load on Citec’s distinctive star-flanged wheels, though, and both ends were still twanging and settling their spokes a long way through testing.
The stout Stevens frame allows you to put your muscles into the ride
The back wheel is heavy, too, and the way this noticeably dulls acceleration was proved when we plugged in Mavic Ksyrium Elites from the Dolan. The Citecs do spin well once you’ve got going, and we’ve no complaints about the fast but faithfully grippy performance of Continental’s GP4000S tyres.
Opinion was divided by the relatively short 170mm cranks, some enjoying the easier high cadence spin, others finding them under-leveraged on steeper climbs – but distributors Hargroves are happy to change them. The wide range 11-28T 105 cassette meant we spun up most hills without too much of a heave anyway.
Descending, and the tight, dry stone wall chicanes that are so common on our test loops didn’t faze it either. Despite low weight and the fork’s tapered tips, the front goes where you want and stays there.
Fast, grippy tyres, but the back wheel’s a bit weighty
The low bottom bracket reinforces the tyres’ fast cornering grip, while the short wheelbase means you can perform quick line changes around the worst potholes. It is a taut-feeling bike, and it can get a bit rowdy on rough sections, but it’s a balanced buzz throughout the bike rather than obvious blunt trauma from one area or another.
The well-shaped Oxygen kit provides a wide range of position options to prolong comfort too.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.