People are using road bikes for much more than rolling up and down Beach Road... some riders expect one bike to take on gravel, dirt, trails, climbing, touring, racing and the commute. This has bike manufacturers scrambling to produce the ubiquitous bike. Has Avanti come close with their Corsa SL 2 Disc?
MIKE BOUDRIE / IMAGES JARROD MCSHANE
When I picked up the Corsa SL2 Disc, the first thing the struck me was the massive tubing and super shiny gloss red finish, a stark contrast to the never ending pile of matte black bikes rolling off production lines around the world. Loaded with Shimano's previous generation Ultegra 6800 groupset with a 52/36T compact crankset and 11-28T 105 cassette, and the excellent RS685 hydro disc (140mm rotor), DT Swiss R24 Spline Disc Wheelset, 3T handlebar and stem and Prologo saddle the Corsa SL is a nicely spec'd bike at a RRP of A$4,500.
Build and finish quality was nice, and over 5 weeks of riding this bike in some pretty horrible conditions, the bike always washed up nicely. When riding gravel, I heard those distinctive sounds of stones hitting carbon and on closer inspection found no damage to the paintwork.
When test riding bikes I always try to use the Giant Defy and/or TCR as a benchmark. They are both excellent bikes that I'd bet many manufactures are trying to match or beat. If a bike is better than this benchmark, I'd say it's pretty good and worth a look. So how did the Avanti go on this measure? Well it's difficult to say. The Corsa SL2 is a strange creature. On paper it's not dissimilar in shape to the TCR with the same effective top tube length head tube angle and height and a slightly shorter wheelbase. But to ride I found it felt a lot more like the Defy despite a significantly shorter wheelbase and a more aggressive geometry. Hmmm.
So what does this actually mean?
Out on the road the Corsa SL felt instantly friendly to ride. It's what I would call a 'no surprises bike', it felt stable, and at speed did not feel skittish. On gravel and less smooth surfaces this is a nice feature, offering a predictable ride.
On Longer rides it was comfortable and relatively compliant on coarse road surfaces. Riding in the wet was easily handled and stopping power and feel is excellent from Shimano's hydro discs. They really do offer excellent braking. On longer stretches of gravel the bike handled things nicely, but as things got a bit sandy it battled, I would have liked to see 28mm tyres over the 25mm it comes standard with.
The Corsa SL came in at a pretty respectable 7.93kgs for our size large (excluding pedals and cages). Not exactly super light but solid at this price point and there's room to take some weight out with upgraded wheels and finishing kit down the track.
The groupset did not miss a beat, mainly Ultegra 6800 this is still an excellent option and offers bang for you buck that is hard to beat, The only non ultegra part of the set up is the 105 cassette that is still an excellent piece of kit.
Finishing kit is also great at this price point, 3T make great bars and stems (I use them on my own bike) and it's nice to see Avanti using these over own brand bits.
My only gripe with the finishing kit was the seat post, I think it was too short for the frame. It basically was not long enough to get to my correct saddle hight even on a large frame with an effective top tube of 58. I felt pretty stretched out on the bike with its 130mm stem and there's no way I'd be on an XL.
The other slight issue I had with the ride was that the bike did not feel very alive, the ride was a bit dulled and does not give that feel you get from a more responsive frame set. There is little in the way of snappy acceleration feel when you put the power down, it feels more like you are building energy in the frame that is then feed out smoothly to the wheels.
Saying all this, I managed some solid strava segment times on the Corsa SL 2 Disc even through I actually did not feel like I was flying along at the time.
This is a solid and nice looking bike from Avanti, it's a very useful tool for gravel, road, or whatever you choose to throw at it. It has a relatively comfortable ride given its geometry, it's also faster than it feels, pointing toward a nice stable frame. However, I do think it's in for a tough time sitting between the Defy and TCR as it may just be trying to be a bit too much, where other bikes are more focused on a specific use.
Head over to Avantiplus to check out the Corsa SL 2 Disc.