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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2011 5:11 am 
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Location: Bay Area
A few months ago I needed a new frame and I had the choice of purchasing a floor model Photon, or Tarmac SL-3. Having just come off a 2009 Tarmac Pro SL and recently tested several other frames I determined that there was no way the new iteration of the Tarmac could possibly compare. Furthermore, after reading so much about how dreamy the ride of the Photon was I just had to have it.

I was very impressed initially. The bike seemed very stiff, it soaked up road buzz better than the old Tarmac, and it seemed to handle pretty well. It had the 'extra layup' so I assumed it was due to that. I was impressed. The ride quality was far better than I thought was possible and I enjoyed everything about the frame aside from the looks (I think it looks kinda hideous).

I rode the bike from July until this past week. I rode thousands of miles on it in the Alps and Juras, took it on spirited group rides, training races, you name it. Its been through every type of riding that a hobbyist could possibly do. Its had different tubular wheels on it (Fulcrum Racing Speeds, rented LW Gen IIIs, Zipp 404s), tubeless setups, wide rimmed setups, multiple random training wheel setups, several saddles, posts, stem angles and lengths, bars, bartapes, etc. I can say that whatever discrepancies I have with the frame aren't due to bad parts or a bad fit. I've been Retul'ed by a former Masters TT champ and I'm damn confident of my fit on the bike.

I've also tested other bikes in the meantime. LOTS. I've tried a BMC Team Machine, a Colnago CX-1, a Cannondale SuperSix, a Cannondale CAAD10 (shorter ride), a Specialized Allez, a Van Dessel Rivet, several different cross bikes, a Pinarello Prince (shorter test), and a few other short rides here and there. Rating these bikes isn't the point of this review, but I've ridden everything from super stiff to super plush adjusted to the same fit specs and with the same saddle and wheels.

Onto the review:

Stiffness: 7/10
This frame is stiffer than I'd expect and had a stiff BB, but I found it lacking even with the extra layup. My Van Dessel Gin and Trombones was even quite a bit stiffer at the BB and the front end. When I got Retul'ed I found out that my old fit on my Tarmac had placed me over the front end too much and I found it to be a bit noticeable at times. It wasn't until I actually tried a SuperSix and rode a new SL-3 that I realized exactly how not stiff my Guru was. The Edge fork helps the front end quite a bit, but the bike felt whippy and sluggish in a sprint and out of the saddle climbing/under hard accelerations. I would go so far as to say that I found even the Team Machine to have a stiffer bb/front and reviews claim that that bike is rather plush by modern standards. I feel sorry for the people that didn't get the extra layup. I would easily accept 100 more grams to have a stiffer bb/chainstay setup. It wasn't until I switched to my current bike that I noticed exactly how sluggish the Guru felt in such situations. The front end has quite a bit of whip and the high BB only helps to accentuate this due to the fact that it effects side to side motion in such situations. For something that retails for $4900 I'd say that it underperforms in this category to a pretty big degree.

Ride Quality: 8/10
The Guru did ride smoother than all of the aluminum bikes I rode, the SuperSix, and the Prince. It definitely blew my old Tarmac Pro SL out of the water in this category, but again, it isn't that remarkable. I now own an SL-3 and find the ride to be far smoother over every single possible type of terrain. I'm riding the same parts, on the same roads, and on the same rides and I was almost shocked to realize that the frame wasn't exactly what I thought it was. Also, I will note that when it came back to me sans ISP the ride was noticeably less comfortable then before. Again, I know the SL-3 isn't the be all and end all of frames, but I would expect that a company that is able to handmake its bikes would somehow be able to tune it for a smoother ride than something that is mass produced in a factory overseas. I would normally blame the stiffness for a harsh ride, but this wasn't exactly stiff either. I would honestly say that the stiffness was lacking enough and the ride quality wasn't amazing enough to warrant purchasing this frame over a CAAD10, Tarmac, or anything I've tried in the same general price range (keep in mind I got my SL-3 through a team deal so its the same as buying a non-team CAAD). Yes, I would take an aluminum CAAD over the 'Dream Bike of the Year' almost any day unless I was doing 8 hour per day Gran Fondos.

Geometry is custom so I can't fault them for that and I will say that the geometry was not to my liking. The bike had a 68mm bb drop, a 72.5 degree HTA, a 73.5 degree STA, chainstays as long as my cross bike, and a fairly tall head tube. It doesn't fit my style of riding, but worked well in the Alps when I was doing a lot of touring. I didn't find the bike to be too stable, but I have not let this impact the score since its changeable.

Build Quality: 4/10
I won't delve into the cracking problems I had with this frame too much since thats already been documented all over this forum, however, I will mention that its rather peculiar that I've managed to not break frames from other manufacturers doing the same type of riding/racing at the same weight with the same riding style. I'm not that hard on my bikes. Anyways, the finish is what I would say is abysmal. The Photon logos began to randomly flake off (when it was white logoed) and then the clearcoat started to crack. You could tell the paint job was rushed because there were obvious areas where you could tell they didn't spray the frame evenly and allow it to cure right and there was build up from where the paint pooled on the masking tape. I've seen Fujis from Performance Bike with better paint jobs. When I got the bike back the second time the paint was even worse. It looked like some kid bought spray paint, made a stencil and threw it up real quick. The color didn't match the color guide on the website and the clearcoat was worse than before. It started chipping and flaking after two weeks and seemed to be more dull than the first time. I know people aren't buying this bike because they want a ridiculous paint job-there are Colnagos and Pinarellos out there to satisfy that desire, but the frame costs what it does and shouldn't have such an awful attention to detail. People would be better off ordering it completely raw and riding it like that.

Customer Service: 5/10
Everyone is already familiar with my first set of problems with Guru and after being extensively PM'ed by other Guru owners, I'm not the only one with a problem lets just say that. I realize that Guru is a niche company with a very small production capability, but to have every single thing questioned and have to go through the process of shipping the frame back, having it inspected, and trying to prove it wasn't my fault is rather annoying. The turn around time is pretty long, so if I were to have a problem during race season I'd be without a frame for a month. Since I've already established that the frame has no comparative stiffness or ride quality advantages over any other frames that cost half as much and the paint quality is terrible, then I would hope that maybe the money buys you something in the customer service department. I received extremely prompt service after I publicized my problem, but it shouldn't come to that. Phil was pleasant to deal with and I recommend that if anyone has questions about their frame or potential products to go to him.

Overall summary:
This frame doesn't do a damn thing that any commercially available frame doesn't already do and for far less (with the exception of the Prince). A few of the frames I rode were not as smooth, or maybe not as stiff, but several were both, had better paint (a model painted by a 14 year old would have better paint honestly), and much better customer service/warranty reputations. I want a stiff, reactive race frame thats reactive in all senses. Snappy, not twitchy; stiff, but not punishing; and durable. I'm not too concerned about looks, but I'd prefer that I get my money's worth in terms of finish quality. I also would like easy-to-deal-with customer service in case of crashes or frame breakages during the race season. The Photon is batting 0 for 0 on all of these. Make no mistake its not the worst bike I've ever ridden and is still better than the 2009 Tarmac I came off of before that, but I must say that it is not deserving of a dream bike of the year rating unless that award is based on paying a lot for something unique that really isn't. There are a lot of readily available bikes out there that do what it does and far better. Its not a bad bike, but its not great either. I hope that others that get Gurus have better luck and find the ride better.

Final rating: 25.5/40

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2011 8:53 am 
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Moved this to the road forum as it better belongs here.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2011 9:49 am 
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Wow!
That's an in-depth review and seems to be about as well balanced as you could get. The bottom line is that the Guru is "good but not worth the £££", basically.
Others may ride the exact same F&F and decide that it is worth the money simply because it's something different. Looked at objectively though, it isn't.
Great review. Good work, sir.

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2011 10:49 am 
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Reading your review I would say you've been very easy with them, if it were me I would be demanding this and that ...... I wouldn't put up with service and quality like that.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2011 4:02 pm 
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Yah, I'd rather not focus on that experience, but on how I think the frame stacks up against others regardless of price. Its essentially nothing special and I think a CAAD10 would be a better buy

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2011 4:31 pm 
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Balanced, considered, scrupulously fair review. Thanks!


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2011 6:02 pm 
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Awesome review.

You simply don't get stuff like this in commercial media. Obviously one could say there's a penalty to be paid for a super-light frame, but the Guru is only in the same weight class as Cervelo in practice, and heavier than the Scott.

I've had an irrational attraction to the Guru. Unlike you, I love its look. But it hardly seems like the top choice for custom carbon, all things considered, including the somewhat inflated mass numbers from real-world models.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2011 12:02 am 
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Dear Weight Weenies,

We've been following this thread for a few days here at Guru and initially decided to stay quiet because we're busy making bike frames. At the urging of a few dealers though, we thought it critical to point out a few facts:

1) This custom geometry EP frame was made for a dealer and was used as a demo. Kwalker purchased it second-hand by his own admission. It's literally in the first line of his initial post. As everyone knows, second-hand frames/bikes are not covered under warranty and that was our response to Kwalker when he came to us with a crack in the seatmast. After Kwalker posted on WW that we don't take care of our customers, we felt compelled to help. I personally took care of the frame from A to Z. We converted the Integrated Mast into a standard 27.2, completely sanded down the frame and re-painted to his specifications, all at NO COST. Before he replies that he got the wrong yellow, please note that he confused the name Booster Yellow with Neon Yellow on our color selector. He asked for Booster Yellow and got Booster Yellow.

2) Before being shipped back to Kwalker, I made sure that the frame was inspected by our Quality Control inspector, two different engineers and myself. I also issued Kwalker a lifetime warranty on the frame, which is still valid.

3) The review is laughable at best. How on earth can you compare the stiffness or ride qualities of stock aluminum frames or stock carbon race frames that weigh upwards of 1100 grams to a custom carbon SUPERLIGHT??!! Those stiffer carbon bikes have 40% more material in them, so yeah, they’re probably going to be stiffer. A balanced, fair review would compare a custom superlight against other custom superlights.

Bottom line: The Guru Photon is not meant to be all things to all people. It is a Custom Carbon Superlight made in Canada. Each frame is made by hand, with a special focus on craftsmanship and attention to detail. We pride ourselves on our customer service, but frankly when you buy an ex-dealer’s second-hand custom EP frame or you buy a frame on eBay, you should not expect the same treatment as someone who went into a high-end shop and purchased a frame for full price.

As stated earlier, we issued a lifetime warranty and will honor it. If you feel the paint is not up to your standards, by all means send it in and we will re-paint at our cost.

Phil


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2011 12:09 am 
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KWalker wrote:
...Customer Service: 5/10...


I am sorry to say this, but I don't think you should be complaining about Guru's customer service in this situation. They fixed your second-hand frame for free when they didn't really have to IMO. We also don't know any details about the other Guru owners who you say you received PMs from; for all we know, their situation could be similar to yours.

As for the rest of the review, I am going to have to agree with the GuruPhil's post; compare apples to apples please.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2011 12:36 am 
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GuruPhil wrote:
Dear Weight Weenies,

We've been following this thread for a few days here at Guru and initially decided to stay quiet because we're busy making bike frames. At the urging of a few dealers though, we thought it critical to point out a few facts:

1) This custom geometry EP frame was made for a dealer and was used as a demo. Kwalker purchased it second-hand by his own admission. It's literally in the first line of his initial post. As everyone knows, second-hand frames/bikes are not covered under warranty and that was our response to Kwalker when he came to us with a crack in the seatmast. After Kwalker posted on WW that we don't take care of our customers, we felt compelled to help. I personally took care of the frame from A to Z. We converted the Integrated Mast into a standard 27.2, completely sanded down the frame and re-painted to his specifications, all at NO COST. Before he replies that he got the wrong yellow, please note that he confused the name Booster Yellow with Neon Yellow on our color selector. He asked for Booster Yellow and got Booster Yellow.


There is only one yellow on there and it doesn't match, but I cared more about the quality of paint rather than the color itself. The pooling problem is mainly on the silver Photon logo and the cracking and chipping paint happened on both paint jobs. Batting 0 for 0 there. You need to go back and re-read my post. I did not like your service, but the review was about many aspects of the bike particularly those that affect its performance.
Quote:
2) Before being shipped back to Kwalker, I made sure that the frame was inspected by our Quality Control inspector, two different engineers and myself. I also issued Kwalker a lifetime warranty on the frame, which is still valid.
I noted in the review that the this didn't impact my assessment of the quality of the bike.

Quote:
3) The review is laughable at best. How on earth can you compare the stiffness or ride qualities of stock aluminum frames or stock carbon race frames that weigh upwards of 1100 grams to a custom carbon SUPERLIGHT??!! Those stiffer carbon bikes have 40% more material in them, so yeah, they’re probably going to be stiffer. A balanced, fair review would compare a custom superlight against other custom superlights.


My Photon frame weighed 900 grams. My Tarmac weighs a bit under 1,100. Thats less than 25% The SuperSix weighs about the same in the same size as does the Team Machine. So, of the bikes I said I tested only the Prince is truly 40% heavier. As the title noted it wasn't a test of superbikes against superbikes, but against the claims that this truly is "Dream Bike of the Year" and worthy of that title. The only area it wins over any other frame I've ridden is in terms of how low the number on the scale is. Would you say that a Mini Cooper is more of a dream car than a Veyron just because it weighs less despite the fact that it can't compare in any way whatsoever in terms of performance? I don't think so. Its a comparison of a frame that is supposed to not sacrifice anything to achieve low weight and it obviously does. Your own posts here claim that the extra weave stiffens it up, but it clearly falls short. Yah, aluminum frames are heavier, but the point of this review was to review the performance of the bike irrespective of weight. This also doesn't dispute the claim that the modulus carbon used in this frame is appropriate for the intended use. What is truly laughable is the fact that you did not address any of my qualms with the bike or any of its actual shortcomings. Surely you can't honestly feel that a $4,900 frame should have a poor ride quality and lack stiffness to achieve a low weight. Your marketing material claims that nothing is sacrificed to achieve such weight numbers and that your 'engineering' and strategic build allows for the bike to outperform heavier models by using superior construction. Maybe post up some torsional test numbers and prove that my claims aren't accurate or something to show that that I'm wrong.
Quote:
Bottom line: The Guru Photon is not meant to be all things to all people. It is a Custom Carbon Superlight made in Canada. Each frame is made by hand, with a special focus on craftsmanship and attention to detail. We pride ourselves on our customer service, but frankly when you buy an ex-dealer’s second-hand custom EP frame or you buy a frame on eBay, you should not expect the same treatment as someone who went into a high-end shop and purchased a frame for full price.


This makes sense if I was reviewing warranty claim service but I wasn't. A bike that sat as a floor model should perform the same as all others should it not? Shouldn't all Photons be of the same ride and build quality regardless of who gets them? It would be ridiculous to assume that this is honestly an excuse for the lack of frame stiffness and ride quality. Also, you yourself told me there is no difference in ride quality between the ISP and non-ISP frame when there clearly was. Other Guru owners that contacted me told me that you told them the opposite when they custom ordered your build. You obviously do not pride yourself on customer service. I had a race frame crack two years ago. I sent pics of the crack that day and had a new bike on the road in two days. It was ruled a defect just like my ISP was. I didn't have to send it in, pay international shipping charges, and wait to tell me if it would be covered or not.
Quote:
As stated earlier, we issued a lifetime warranty and will honor it. If you feel the paint is not up to your standards, by all means send it in and we will re-paint at our cost.

Phil


I have since sold the frame to someone that will now use it as a decoration. I have a full season of racing coming up with training races starting this weekend and like many riders I can't just send my bike off to be repaired for 6 weeks the second time in 3 months. Like many others I just want a reliable bike that I can ride. If this frame was so well engineered I wouldn't expect it to need so much attention.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2011 12:38 am 
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fa63 wrote:
KWalker wrote:
...Customer Service: 5/10...


I am sorry to say this, but I don't think you should be complaining about Guru's customer service in this situation. They fixed your second-hand frame for free when they didn't really have to IMO. We also don't know any details about the other Guru owners who you say you received PMs from; for all we know, their situation could be similar to yours.

As for the rest of the review, I am going to have to agree with the GuruPhil's post; compare apples to apples please.


So you think that when I'm evaluating stiffness and ride quality for what is build as the best and most desirable frame available I shouldn't compare it to other frames that I've ridden? How can I rate it then? And what does it matter if I compare it to a Crumpton or a Serotta? I said in my post that I need a stiff frame for racing and that it doesn't deliver. If its truly a dream bike then it should deliver or else its more of a pipe dream bike.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2011 1:07 am 
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KWalker wrote:
So you think that when I'm evaluating stiffness and ride quality for what is build as the best and most desirable frame available I shouldn't compare it to other frames that I've ridden? How can I rate it then? And what does it matter if I compare it to a Crumpton or a Serotta? I said in my post that I need a stiff frame for racing and that it doesn't deliver. If its truly a dream bike then it should deliver or else its more of a pipe dream bike.


While you are free to compare it to other frames you have ridden, I just think it is unfair for you to criticize a custom frame on its stiffness and ride quality when the frame was not custom built to your preferred ride characteristics but to someone else's. Maybe the original owner ordered it to be not so stiff? Maybe your definition of a dream bike does not agree with the original owner's?

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2011 1:18 am 
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fa63 wrote:
KWalker wrote:
So you think that when I'm evaluating stiffness and ride quality for what is build as the best and most desirable frame available I shouldn't compare it to other frames that I've ridden? How can I rate it then? And what does it matter if I compare it to a Crumpton or a Serotta? I said in my post that I need a stiff frame for racing and that it doesn't deliver. If its truly a dream bike then it should deliver or else its more of a pipe dream bike.


While you are free to compare it to other frames you have ridden, I just think it is unfair for you to criticize a custom frame on its stiffness and ride quality when the frame was not custom built to your preferred ride characteristics but to someone else's. Maybe the original owner ordered it to be not so stiff? Maybe your definition of a dream bike does not agree with the original owner's?


I know the original owner very well. They own a shop that was interested in becoming a Guru dealer. The owner is a very good Masters/Cat 1 racer who asked for a stiff and snappy race frame. He got Guru's extra layup, which was supposedly strategically placed at joints soas to eliminate torsional flexion while retaining vertical compliance. His demands were the same as mine. There is a good reason the bike was sold and the shop isn't a Guru dealer and that a few other shops in the area have also dropped Guru (2 in my town).

I was going off of Bicycling Magazine's 'Dream Bike of the Year' award that Guru uses in their marketing material.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2011 1:24 am 
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Great review!! I will never buy another Guru and if asked will always tell anyone who listens NOT to buy one. I owned a tri bike back in 03. it was called the tri light i think. I owned it only 5 months and the paint began to literally fall apart. I called the company and they said I didnt take care of it and they would not honor the warrantee!! They said i must have stored it outside! Yeah like i stored my 4,000 dollar bike outside! I had to pay 350 dollars and shipping to have them repaint it! and it came back to me with paint that never cured! I sold it right away and have always told anyone to not buy from Guru!!!


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 10, 2011 1:31 am 
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1) There may be an issue with the clearcoat pooling or flaking because we rushed this frame for you at your request in under 10 days and a clearcoat needs 30 days to fully harden. Please send it in and we'll sand it down and re-paint it.
2) This was to indicate our commitment to customer service and build quality.
3) Your Photon weighs that much because you bought somebody else's custom geometry and layup. We wouldn't have recommended the specific layup for your build and you would have easily had a sub-800 frame.

"Dream Bike of the Year" applies only to other dream bike type bikes. I think you should read the article, as I don't think you understand the category. IE: Custom made or superlight by niche manufacturers. If you're going to compare, then as fa63 mentioned, compare apples to apples.

I would never in a million years compare a Bugatti Veyron to a Mini Cooper, that's a ridiculous comparison. One is a hand-made million dollar supercar and the other is a $30K car pumped out by the thousands in factories. What would be the point of that kind of comparison? Similarly, what is the point of a comparison between the Guru Photon (Custom Carbon Superlight made in North America) and the Cannondale CAAD10 (Stock Aluminum made in Asia)? We have nothing but the highest regard for Cannondale, but there is no basis for this type of comparison.

"the point of this review was to review the performance of the bike irrespective of weight"

Doesn't seem like a fair review then and frankly your entire review seems like a misguided attempt to bash us and our company, even though we have gone above and beyond for you.

Since I'm the marketing manager and since I write all of our copy, I can assure you that at no point have we ever said this is the stiffest frame in the world. Very simply, it's stiff for it's weight.

"This makes sense if I was reviewing warranty claim service but I wasn't. A bike that sat as a floor model should perform the same as all others should it not?"


Again, you're a little confused. Even though, the dealer had it on his floor, it was not a floor bike. Floor bikes are made in stock sizes. The frame you purchased was custom made for someone else. So no, it would not perform nearly as well as a frame custom built for you. Performance Through Custom is our company tagline after all...

"I have a full season of racing coming up with training races starting this weekend and like many riders I can't just send my bike off to be repaired for 6 weeks the second time in 3 months. Like many others I just want a reliable bike that I can ride. If this frame was so well engineered I wouldn't expect it to need so much attention."

Another bash... We got your frame back to you in 10 days. I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience of having to send it in for repair, but warranty issues occur for every manufacturer. We're a custom builder based in North America. We manufacture all of our frames in house one at a time, therefore replacement frames are impossible to stock.

I wish you the best of luck in your racing career.

Phil


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