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by Matt Wikstrom
February 17, 2015
When BH released the Ultralight a few years ago, it sparked a fresh round of efforts by major manufacturers to build the world’s lightest road frame. In 2015 BH refined the Ultralight to yield the Ultralight EVO that weighs in around 700g to ensure that it is still considered one of the world’s lightest road frames. CTech editor Matt Wikstrom recently spent some time on the new Ultralight EVO to find out how it lived up to its claims.
BH has been producing its Ultralight frameset for a few years following its unveiling in 2011. From the outset, BH was intent on producing a very light frameset that was equally stiff. The first iteration weighed around 750g and was actually stiffer than its other road frame design at the time, the G5.
One aspect of the Ultralight that helped BH achieve is design goals was the development of a new bottom bracket standard in collaboration with FSA. The result, BB386EVO, combined the axle and bearing dimensions of BB30 with the shell width of BB86. The oversized bottom bracket allowed larger, lighter and stiffer tubing profiles to be used when compared to other bottom bracket standards.
A year and a half ago we Ultralight for a ride in 2013 and while the low weight was a standout feature, he also found that it offered plenty of stiffness that was perfect for racing. BH now has a new version of the Ultralight, dubbed the “Ultralight EVO” that was developed by refining the design and construction of the Ultralight. The new frame sheds around 50g to hover around the 700g mark. At the same time, the front derailleur tab has been stiffened while the bike’s overall stiffness has been conserved.
BH Bikes Australia recently supplied the new Ultralight EVO with a Dura Ace Di2 for this review. The low weight of the bike was immediately apparent as I lifted it out of the box to finish assembling it.
For those who own an Ultralight, the new bike is essentially unchanged save for some refinements to its construction. This includes some modification of the carbon layup as well as some re-shaping of the bottom bracket. Add to that some extra sculpting to remove unnecessary material throughout and the result is a weight saving of 50g and a final weight of around 700g, depending on frame size.
As mentioned above, the Ultralight EVO features a BB386EVO bottom bracket. The headtube is tapered (1.125 inch upper bearing, 1.5 inch lower bearing) and the front derailleur tab is molded into the frame. The latter has been stiffened to improve the quality of front shifting, especially with motorised derailleurs.
The Ultralight EVO also continues to use a 27.2mm seatpost and sinewy seat stays, which afford obvious benefits for rider comfort. The fork appears to continue unchanged with a weight under 300g, and thus the entire frameset weighs close to 1kg, ensuring its continuing appeal for weight weenies.
The geometry of the Ultralight has not changed much since its introduction with only minor changes to the seat and head tube angles. There are five sizes on offer for the Ultralight EVO, as shown below:
The dimensions of the bike are pretty generous. The head tube on the review bike (size L) can be considered tall however the geometry will not suit riders that are more comfortable on endurance-oriented bikes (which typically have shorter top tubes for any given frame size). Interestingly, every frame size employs the same length chainstays (402mm).
The Ultralight EVO is finished with a minimum of fuss (and paint). Large BH logos adorn the down tube, forks and stays, but they don’t overwhelm the eye thanks to the hatching that is used. Bright yellow highlights add small flashes of colour to the otherwise naked carbon frame. The absence of paint helps keep the weight of the frameset low, but it’s worth noting that it can have an influence on the quality of the ride, allowing for a little more road feel to be transmitted to the rider.
The Ultralight EVO is available in Australia as a frameset for $3,499 or a complete build with Shimano’s Dura Ace or Dura Ace Di2 groupsets at a starting price of $6,999. There are no rider weight limitations for the Ultralight EVO and BH offers a lifetime warranty against materials and manufacturing defects (where a lifetime is defined as 10 years).
The bike supplied for review was a large frameset with a Dura Ace Di2 groupset (52/36 cranks, 11-25 cassette) with an internal seat post battery, Mavic Ksyrium R-Sys SLR clinchers, carbon FSA stem and bars, and a Prologo Zero II saddle. Total weight, 6.35kg sans pedals and cages; recommended retail, $9799.
For more information, visit BH Bikes Australia and their Facebook page.
BH promises that the Ultralight EVO is “designed to climb” and indeed it is. However, it proved to be more versatile than expected, offering the same ease of acceleration and race-ready responsiveness on any terrain.
I took my first ride on the Ultralight EVO in the hills and I was immediately addicted to its performance. Always, there was a sense that the bike was floating ahead of me. Every pedal stroke counted, and when I got out of the saddle, the bike gained extra energy.
The Ultralight EVO was just as aggressive and eager for acceleration on flat roads. Indeed, I was as impressed with this bike’s versatility as I was with its climbing agility. The bike’s responsiveness was always at hand and it seemed to savour every kick as much as it encouraged the next effort—the essence of a great race bike.
Compared to BH’s aero road bike, the G6, I found the Ultralight EVO was easier to ride. The steering was stable (the G6 was twitchy) and the bike was well mannered, yet I never had any trouble negotiating sharp corners at speed. Indeed, I never felt that I had to compensate for the bike’s handling, which only added to its versatility.
The only time the bike was difficult to ride was on rough chipseal roads when the front end proved to be a little too stiff for my liking. There was too much vibration for my hands to tolerate. In contrast, the rear end worked well with no undue rattle or discomfort, presumably thanks to the slender seat stays and undersized seatpost.
The Dura Ace Di2 groupset was superb, as usual, however the weight-weenies who this bike will appeal to can still go lighter (SRAM Red offers ~300g weight saving). Low profile carbon tubulars, exotic brake calipers, and a variety of boutique parts could also be substituted at great expense to save more weight, but on balance, BH have assembled a robust and practical build that suits its high end intentions.
The Ultralight EVO is full of potential. First, there is the bike’s performance in the hills, so willing to attack any climb; second, the chassis works well on all terrain save for the roughest road surfaces; third, it is a well-mannered bike with sound handling; and fourth, some will wonder how much better it could be with a lighter build.
I’ll leave it to the individual to determine which aspect appeals. Every bike that I review also auditions for my own quiver, and the Ultralight EVO is a very strong contender, such is the appeal of its blend of traits. After all, it is an exciting bike that can be ridden almost anywhere. Some enthusiasts will welcome the extra stiffness however the Ultralight EVO will suit (and inspire) aggressive racers and talented climbers that have the ability to attack again and again.