Tour De France, mid 1980’s, and that rivalry: LeMond v Hinault. It’s become one of the great events in the history of the race, and I was in my teens at the time. I remember seeing those Look bikes and wishing I had one. LeMond’s 1986 winning KG 86 bike has become an icon, a bike that was ahead of its time. Not forgetting that the battle between Hinault and Lemond led to one of the greatest Tour De France races ever. It was built with carbon fibre while others were riding steel. It was all very impressive to me, and so naturally I was always keen on the the KG series of bikes that came later, built on that reputation of progressive technology.
Winners Get Remembered
Neither LeMond nor Hinault got poster space in my room as a kid. The best British rider in this period was Robert Millar, a rake-thin Scotsman who was as tough as nails in the mountains. He rode a Peugeot ( I’ve mentioned this before ), the PY-10FC, which also had carbon fibre tubes with aluminium lugs. However, its rear triangle was made of Vitus 979, and the bike was not white but black with the iconic Peugeot decals. By 1986, Millar had moved to the Panasonic team and was riding an Eddie Merckx, see it here. Robert Millar never won the Tour De France so his bike will never have the kudos of LeMond’s KG86, yet it is interesting to note that Look was not the only ones building carbon fibre bikes in the mid 1980’s.
The Look KG271
The KG 271 was brought out by Look in 1999, but this one I owned was from a bit later, I think about 2003. I liked the fact that it still retained some of the KG86’s engineering, using the aluminium lugs to secure the carbon tubes just like that of Tour De France winning bike. The forks were also aluminium, and that was the main difference between the 271 and the more expensive 281, which had carbon forks. The difference between them in weight was nominal, just 100 grams: the KG271 frameset weighed in at 1850 grams. Frame geometry was different on this bike to LeMond’s 1986 bike: the seat tube was at 72°3, instead of 73°3 degrees, and it had vertical dropouts. Look also guaranteed that the carbon wouldn’t deform.
The KG 86 had lovely carbon weaving, and was made by TVT for Look. Not this KG271, alas. It was made in Asia and not France, and neither could it count as a vintage bike as it s only 15 years old. However, it retains some of the spirit of LeMond’s bike, and is quite different from the monocoque carbon bike frames made today. Indeed, I walked past one of the latest carbon frames other day in Halfords, and couldn’t distinguish as first if it was indeed carbon or aluminium. Technology has changed a lot just in the last 15 years. With an Ultegra 9 speed transmission, brakes and crankset, and emboldened with a Mavic Kysrium wheelset, why, you may ask, did I sell it? The answer is quite simple: it was too damn big.