BIKE TESTS: MOTOBECANE IMMORTAL FORCE
November 27, 2009


Motobecane’s Immortal Force cuts an honest profile. Its moderately oversized tubes are connected by smooth, arched junctions, which telegraphs that its frame is made from carbon fiber. There is a refreshing lack of the contorted profiling and muscle-car styling ridges that are so fashionable these days. Instead, its graphics are subtle, and its component selection is on the conservative side of the spectrum. What the Immortal Force isn’t, is a two-wheeled 700C Las Vegas showgirl. What it is, is a lay-down-the-power-and-make-it-happen race bike that sells for only $2995.



THE FRAME
The Immortal Force uses conventional semi-monocoque construction, where the front section is molded in one piece, and then mated to the rear stays. The maker calls out high-modulus carbon material but does not substantiate it with a specific type. Most quality frame makers in Asia use the very rigid high-modulus carbon to enhance strength or stiffness in specific locations throughout the frame. We suspect the Motobecane shares a similar construction. Dropouts, both on the carbon fork and frame, are aluminum, which makes for a long-lasting, though slightly heavier, structure. In spite of the pressure to opt for a dual-diameter head tube and fork steerer, Motobecane chose the conventional 1-1/8-inch system, which will benefit anyone who plans to upgrade to an aftermarket fork.

THE NUMBERS
Our 56-centimeter test bike’s numbers are as conservative as its profile, with 73-degree head and seat angles and a 56-centimeter top tube. Five sizes are offered (50, 53, 56, 59 and 62 centimeters). The Immortal Force, built up with Shimano’s 2010 Ultegra ensemble, weighs 16.9 pounds—not ProTour light, but still in the ballpark for a racer.

THE PARTS
Motobecane gave RBA our first chance to put substantial time on Shimano’s completely redesigned 6700 Ultegra group. While the 2010 Ultegra warrants a separate article, it surpasses its predecessors by such a margin that it boosts the performance and value of the Immortal Force. For starters, the 6700 group is 151 grams lighter than last year’s. The matte silver and polished crankset is styled like Dura-Ace 7800, and the large chainring uses Shimano’s Hollowglide construction—just like Dura-Ace. Brakes are new, with reconfigured leverage ratios, and the Dual-Control levers feature comfortable, carbon fiber brake handles, internal cable routing and Dura-Ace-inspired ergonomic hoods. Even the chain is new—an asymmetrical design with slotted plates to shave off some weight—and the Ultegra 2010 offers more cassette ratios than any Shimano ensemble. Our bike had standard crankset gearing (39x53) paired with an 11x28 cassette. After going on about Ultegra 6700, you may be interested about the Motobecane’s choice of XRP Vuelta Team Superlight wheels, Vittoria Rubino Pro tires, and its aluminum Ritchey Pro handlebar, seatpost and stem. The handlebar features wild-looking drops with an improbable S-bend that turned out to be quite effective.

THE RIDE

The Immortal Force rewards you with a smooth ride without compromising its frame stiffness when the moment arrives for an all-out effort. While there is plenty of lateral rigidity for a strong sprinter, the price of that stiffness comes with a diminished sense of energy when pedaling out of the saddle. That said, the Force responded quickly when we closed gaps and powered to milemarker sprints on Saturday training races.

Where the Motobecane moves to the front of the group is when the descents become tight and twisty. The Immortal Force sets up for the turns fluidly, settles in and then exits with conviction. The Vittoria Rubino Pro 700x23c clinchers roll fast and stick to the road, and we had a chance to check their wear because our test bike’s balance was biased more towards the front than most. Under hard braking (stopping is much improved over previous Ultegras), the rear wheel could skid unless the rider moved back on the saddle. While on the subject of Ultegra, the brake levers are very comfortable, with a wider, more finger-friendly profile, and the hoods are decidedly more ergonomic as well. Shifting forces, however, are stiffer than with the previous group.

THE?VERDICT
Motobecane assembled a great performance value that can uphold its racing heritage at a high level—without breaking the bank. The Immortal Force backs up its performance with a well-designed, durable frame and a professional quality component group that is disguised in Shimano’s Ultegra graphics. Motobecane has developed more than a carbon-framed racer—the Immortal Force is an invitation to go racing for enthusiasts who may have been turned away by overpriced ProTour hardware. 

PRICE: $2995
INFO: www.motobecane.com
WEIGHT: 16.9 pounds

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