The last time we had a First Look at a Louis Garneau was when we saw their Course skinsuits designed for high temperatures during last Sea Otter. In fact, for the last few years, we have focused exclusively on the company’s clothing, such as base layers, gloves and arm warmers. Although their cyclocross bikes have been marketed to Canada and Japan, they have not had a American bicycle shop distribution network for their bicycles in over five years.
At Interbike 2014, we were pleasantly surprised to see that Garneau is planning to make a return to the United States with a dual lineup of cyclocross bikes: the Steeple X and the Steeple Xc Elite.
Whether it’s clothing or bicycles, Louis Garneau is a brand known for its design, and like many successful designs, the details in their cyclocross bikes express more than a loud paint job could. Both 2015 models, available in late-November or even as far back as December, will be black, with the Steeple X given a green fading to yellow underbelly and the Steeple Xc Elite accented with grey and red.
The Steeple X, Garneau’s aluminum model, is made with what they call Hydro-Nerv technology. The shaping of the tubing, particularly the concave top tube and down tube, are designed with power transfer and vibration dampening in mind. Not only might this dampen the effects of a long ride in the saddle, but it also could help with the jarring affects of a cyclocross course, as we saw at the Boulder Cup last weekend.
When we asked the designers at Interbike if the Steeple X could be used as an adventure bike or for a gravel race, they scoffed. “An adventure race?” they asked me, “There are so many things adventure racing could mean.” They pointed to their aluminum Steeple X and told me that their cyclocross bike was more than suitable as a jack-of-all-trades bike, proficient at the cyclocross course and adventure races.
While the wheels on both setups help keep the cost at bay, the Alex rims of the Steeple Xc Elite are also tubeless compatible, convenient for endurance gravel races.
For the carbon frame, Garneau’s Steeple is of a monocoque construction, using a process they call “No Void Molding,” which increases stiffness and deceases weight, presumably by a similar process that Niner employs to avoid resin pools. Regardless, to our eyes, it looks like Louis Garneau has really done their homework with this frame, as it’s remarkably similar to our 2013/2014 Editors’ Award-winning Bailey Cyclocross Disc frameset that we awarded best frameset due to its versatility, tire clearance and options, and race-oriented geometry.
If we’re accurate in our assessment that it’s the same frame, owners will enjoy massive mud clearance or the ability to use 29er tires, all with a standard 42.5cm chainstay and 6.5cm bottom bracket drop. This opens the possibilities for monster cross and gravel adventures.
Jamis choose thick wheels and 700x33c tubeless Clement Crusade tires for their display bikes at Outdoor Demo, and comparatively, the narrow tires Garneau chose for their displays gives them a slightly unfair advantage. Even so, the front and rear room for mud clearance on both Steeples is astonishing. The Steeple Xc Elite is shown above, and gets a benefit from the broad possibilities of carbon fiber molding, but even its aluminum brother sports plenty of room in the stays.
The Steeple X prides itself as an affordable race rig. At $1,599, it comes equipped with Shimano 105 11-speed, mechanical disc brakes, and carbon forks (with an aluminum steerer tube). The package is impressive at the price point, perhaps giving a potential buyer a little wiggle room to splurge on wheels for race day.
The Steeple Xc Elite is the full racing package at $3299.99. As with current trends, Garneau opted to put a thru-axle on its top-of-the-line cyclocross bike, and their fork was made in house and has a carbon steerer tube, which they call the Uni-T cross carbon disc. The bike also comes with Shimano RS785 hydraulic calipers and an Ultegra 11-speed group set.
The blacks and greys of the frame are given light red touches from the parts; everything from anodized hubs and skewers to cable ends. With availability still months away, at least we can say the Steeple models are visibly a showstopper.
Frame: Steeple-Xc Disc, RTCC1 Carbon with no void monocoque
Fork: Garneau Uni-T cross carbon disc, 15mm thru axle, 1-1/8” to 1-1/2” steerer
Shifters/Derailleurs: Shimano Ultergra 11-speed
Crankset: Shimano RS500 46/36
Brakes: Shimano RS785 hydraulic
Wheels: Alex Tubeless Compatible
Frame: Steeple-X Disc, S-66 XLT butted-alloy with Hydro-Nerv technology
Fork: Garneau Synergy cross carbon disc, 1-1/8” to 1-1/2” alloy steerer
Shifters/Derailleurs: Shimano 105 11-speed
Crankset: Shimano RS500 46/36
Brakes: Shimano R317 mechanical
Wheels: Weinmann XC180