Vintage Look Carbon – the Pros
Part of the pleasure of watching the Tour de France when I was young was to see the developments in bike design and technology every year. It was a similar experience to watching a new Formula One season begin, when the drivers would unveil their new cars for the races ahead, always slightly improved and enhanced. During the early 1990’s the French brand Look were at the forefront of bike design and were pioneers of these carbon fibre frames, as well, of course, as their revolutionary automatic pedals. For me with my ten year old steel bike in 1993, these carbon Look frames seemed out of this world, designed and available only for the brilliant riders of the day, like Laurent Jalabert and Luc Leblanc.
Back in the ’90’s, the biggest changes to frame design were most noticeable in the time trails of the Tour, and boy, did we see some innovations. Looking back, some of these concept carbon frames seem brutally weird and futuristic, bold visions of designers that were at work at firms like Look and Banesto. I personally found the appearance of these dazzling aero carbon bikes, mixed in amongst the more traditional round-tubed frames that were still being ridden, rather unsettling. Bike aerodynamics was becoming a science, and some of the frames looked as if they were built by Nasa. I can’t say that they were attractive, some of the early carbon TT frames, with bizarrely shaped tails and tubes, were downright ugly things, some I would even call grotesque. These innovations were deforming the notion of the traditional bicycle shape, but were at the same time were momentous and exciting. We knew there was no going back: this was the future.
Developments to bike technology in the early 1990’s would change the riding experience forever. As well as the introduction of carbon fibre frames for sale in bike shops, Shimano breakthrough STI shifter technology would make gear changes so much simpler, safer and more efficient for everyone. The Look 131 bike is really on the cusp of this revolution, as steel bikes were still being ridden in this period in professional racing and carbon frames were still not dominant as they are today. However, in just ten years, cycling had leapt into a different technological era, after nearly one hundred years of steel frames and more basic derailleur shifting. Here is a good catalogue resource page for the Look bikes of this era.
It was quite a simple restoration in the end, a change of handlebars ( which I already had in storage ) and an installation of Shimano 600 STI shifters from the same year as the frame ( 1995 ). The bike doesn’t feel any lighter than a high end Reynolds 531 bike of the same era, but the carbon tubes are in great shape with absolutely no cracks anywhere to be found. Whether the lugs can be trusted to maintain their strength over the coming decades is questionable, but as long as the bike is ridden carefully I believe this frame could be being ridden for many years to come. The quality of the frame build and materials, being driven by a bulletproof Shimano 600 transmission, makes you think that anything is possible. Though the finish of the Shimano 600 chain rings could have been better.