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Javelin Arcole.
By Tom Demerly, Mike Aderhold and Seth Kirkendall, Ian King.
Read This About Our Reviews First


 

Over the past 5 years the powerhouse tri bike brands got their start as the boutique brands of a decade ago. People look for uniqueness in triathlon bikes. Felt started with two models. Cervelo started their pitch with one model sold out of the back of a car. Among the sometimes fashion conscious and fickle spirited tri bike buyer it matters to have something no one else has. There is something special about being the new, mysterious brand. When you own it, you are the insider, the trend setter, the one who spreads the word. The big question that remains among tri bike companies is: Who is the next big brand? Who holds the next hot ticket?

A lot of factors go into a successful triathlon bike brand. There has to be sizzle and steak. The bike has to be solid and functional, appealing and fashionable. For a bike brand to be successful it has to be equal parts Betty Crocker, Anna Kournikova and Traci Lords. It has to work, people have to like it and it has to have sex appeal.

For 2006 Javelin is at the pointy end of the emerging triathlon brand spear. The brand is ready to blow up this year.

Javelin’s rise to prominence during 2006 will likely seem like a lot of famous musicians: It will seem like overnight success but is actually rooted in over a decade or more of very hard work and lots of experience sharpening the tip of the spear and forging the blade.


This is the steak: Beautiful weld quality and solid frame material.

Several factors may take Javelin to the level of the major brands during the next year and beyond. First and most importantly, the bikes are well designed and well made. Secondly, they carry a hefty amount of uniqueness and differentiation. Thirdly, Javelin has resources to introduce new models, maintain good inventory levels to keep lead times low and ship quickly. Fourth, Javelin has done their homework with sports marketing. Top pro triathletes and cyclists are winning on Javelin. The brand becomes more visible every month. Fifth, Javelin’s sales and marketing manager “Mac” McEneaney is one of the sharpest guys in the industry. And sixth, the refined, no-B.S. functional design and “niche of a niche” aura will make people want the bikes. As we go into the heat of the 2006 selling season Javelin is poised to be the emerging brand.


Javelin got their start the usual way: A small bike company. But having expanded and after scoring a few major sports marketing coups the company has shown up on the radar big time. In 2005 the TIAA/Cref Pro Cycling Team used Javelin bicycles. Top triathlon superstar Simon Lessing of the Tri Dubai Team (The new Team J. David?) and Ironman legend Michael Lovato win on Javelin now. Javelin started a grass roots sponsorship program with "Team Javelin", a middle-of-the-pack and age group sports marketing program with over 1,000 athletes in 2005. Team Javelin is open to all athletes who are evaluated after completing an application on line at www.javelintriathlonteam.com. Athletes are eligible for a 25% discount off Javelin frames and have access to the team uniforms and other significant sponsorships. Team Javelin for 2005 is long since full with applications for 2006 Team Javelin being accepted and evaluated in late '05 and through early '06.


TIAA/Cref Pro Cycling Team used the Arcole for time trials.


Powerhouse Tri Dubai athlete Simon Lessing is one of Javelin's elite Pros.


Ironman superstar Michael Lovato is another Javelin athlete.

 

I just finished 800 hard miles on a new Javelin Arcole test bike and I want to tell you about this bike. For a long list of reasons Arcole is a remarkable bike, and I loved it. It is also a very unusual bike among triathlon bikes.

The Arcole is a 7005 series all-aluminum bike using butted, multi-shaped aero tubes. Nothing unique about that, but several other factors makes it unique among triathlon and time trial bikes. Since aero-tube, aluminum tri bikes are relatively commonplace now there has to be some uniqueness and differentiation to make one bike shine over others.

 


Team Javelin athletes receive a 25% discount on Javelin frames and spread the Javelin brand.

Bike fit, dimensions and geometry should ultimately be the determining factor in your buying decision. Nothing influences performance more than bike fit. The way your bike fits your body is the single most important determining factor in how comfortable, safe and fast you will be and how well you run off the bike. Fit is one of the areas the Arcole offers some very unique opportunities.

The geometry used on the Arcole is not garden variety tri angles and dimensions- and therein lays an interesting set of opportunities. . There are four size names available: 51cm, 54cm, 57cm, and 61cm. I tested a 51cm frame and the fit was good for me. The 51cm frame has the following dimensions:

Seat tube, center of bottom bracket to absolute top of seat tube: 50.1 cm.
Seat tube, center of bottom bracket to center of top tube: 43.0 cm. (Note: Top tube is 6.5 cm deep at seatpost union, center is 3.25 cm.)
Top tube, center of seat tube to center of head tube: 52.0 cm.
Head tube, bottom to top overall dimension: 10.5 cm.

The top tube on the Javelin Arcole slopes very slightly to the rear in a semi-compact configuration. This is particularly useful for long-torso, short leg riders. The sloping top tube provides a lower bike center of gravity, more stand-over height and exposed seatpost for better standing climbing and an overall better fit for short leg, long torso riders. Again, this is largely unique to Javelin for a truly credible tri bike. With the lowered top tube the short-legged, long torso rider can rock the bike back and forth between his legs through a greater arc. The top tube won’t hit you high between the legs.


A slightly sloping top tube with the unique "whale tail" provide interesting fit opportunities.


For the long torso/short leg athlete the Arcole is a good option.


It would appear Javelin built the Arcole with no small measure of inspiration from some of Cervelo’s designs. The Arcole uses a narrow, aerodynamic 1” diameter head tube. I like that. That has been a feature of both Felt and Cervelo in the past.

The Selcof dual position head seatpost also gives a nod to Cervelo’s designs. This Selcof seatpost mimics the function of Cervelo’s variable geometry seatpost used on their Dual, P2K, P2SL, Soloist and P3 series. The Selcof post is a novel effort at providing a wide range of effective seat tube angles on the Arcole but honestly, the Selcof post is not as nice as Cervelo’s proven variable geometry post. That said, the Selcof post gets the job done and is 24% lighter than Cervelo’s variable geometry seatpost. The Cervelo alloy, aerodynamic, airfoil shaped variable geometry seatpost is 318 grams while the Selcof tips the scale at 242 grams. I decided to substitute an even lighter weight Thomson Elite zero-setback post at only 204 grams cut to the same length as the Selcof. The Thomson Elite seatpost was 16% lighter than the Selcof. This enabled me to achieve an 81 degree effective seat tube angle with very precise angular adjustment for the saddle. I notice that Javelin’s sponsored pros also use the Thomson post frequently to save a few grams over the Selcof supplied with the Arcole frame. For about $90 the Thomson post is a worthwhile upgrade. If you are a fan of carbon fiber seatposts you are out of luck here. That I am aware of, there are no 25.0 mm diameter carbon seatposts available and frankly, aluminum is probably a better material for this application.


Thomson Elite zero setback post on Left, The original equipment Selcof post on the right.


The unique Selcof post offers substantial adjustment but looks a bit gadgety and is a trifle heavy.

 

The seatpost diameter of the Arcole is a somewhat unusual 25.0 mm. This is narrower than the more typical 27.2. Also, Arcole uses predominantly round seat posts, the only type available in 25.0 mm diameter, as opposed to aero, wing shaped posts. Wind tunnel tests have produced data supporting the theory that round seatposts are actually more aerodynamic and faster than blade or wing shaped seatposts. This is likely due to the variable turbulence created by the legs rotating during the pedal stroke and constantly redirecting the boundary layer onto the sides of the post at radical yaw angles. At higher cadences this effect may be diminished. The narrow, 25 mm diameter round post of the Arcole is likely more aerodynamic than a bladed post especially in big gears at high speed and lower cadences. How much of an advantage this translates to (if any) is probably impossible to quantify, but it is a novel and logical approach to the design different from everyone else. When you use the lightweight Thomson Elite zero setback post this set-up is much lighter than any bladed quasi-aero seatpost, 46% lighter than Cervelo’s alloy bladed airfoil shaped seatpost.


The extra hardware adds weight to the Selcof post at 242 grams.


The Thomson Elite is a more elegant solution that weighs less. This is what the Javelin pros ride.


A well designed, durable and easily repaired binder bolt.

Another unique feature of the Arcole is the fully recessed aerodynamic seatpost binder bolt. This is a nice, functional design. Some aero bikes have very cobbled seatpost binder assemblies. The binder assembly on the Arcole is excellent and dependable. You may not think this is important until you take your bike out of the flight case at the site of your big race to find the proprietary bolt assembly is stripped and there is no replacement. That probably will never happen with an Arcole. The binder assembly is easy to use and works dependably. That said we accidentally rounded-out the threads on our test bike with an ill-fitting wrench. To the Arcole’s credit, the repair was simple, quick and inexpensive using standard binder bolt parts available at any bike shop. This is a big bonus for the traveling athlete.


Cable routing is the nerve center of shifting and braking.


Javelin's system is simple, light and mechanically sound.


Minimal bends in the housing make for free-running inner shift cables.

When I saw the cable routing on the Arcole I was concerned. Mac McEneaney simply said, “Try it…” The cable routing is simply a naked, oval hole bored in the frame tubing. It gave me bad flashbacks to old cable routing on the 2002 Litespeed Blade which was quite poor. There is not even the slightest attempt at a cable guide; it is just a hole in the frame. Mark “The Taskmaster” Trzeciak did the build on the bike and the cable routing while I watched. Before you dismiss this as crude let me suggest that elegance is not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to take away. There are no cheesy plastic press fit cable guides that pop out with annoying regularity. The Javelin Arcole did an end run around that problem. There is no difficulty running a bare cable through the frame. The inner cable lives safely inside cable housing the entire length inside the frame. This is a solid, simple, functional design. It prevents the intrusion of foreign matter and moisture into the cable system, but does permit it inside the frame. Drain holes will facilitate rain and wash water leaving the inside of the frame. Litespeed tried a less refined version of this cable routing on very early versions of their Blade. It didn’t work on the old Blade, and tended to seriously abrade the outside of the cable housing when you turned your handlebars. Javelin’s interpretation of the design is much cleaner and more sophisticated. The edges of the holes are not jagged and the cable moves smoothly. It works incredibly well and is ultra-simple. I like this cable routing technique. The Arcole scores big points here with the simplest, most functional internal cable routing in the industry.


The "whale tail" assembly is very deep at the top tube/seat tube union.


And then tapers down to nearly round at the head tube for comfort.


This unusual design may help the rear end stiffness of the bike, especially on standing climbs.

 

There is a couple interesting things about the shape of the tubing on the Arcole. The weird “whale tail” top tube is very deep as it melds with the seat tube, somewhat vertically bladed. The top tube tapers to a nearly round shape at the head tube. There could be any number of reasons for this configuration or no reason. One thing I do believe is it helps give the Arcole its number one selling feature: Gear mashing, wind pushing, 30+ M.P.H. stiffness in the rear end. The Arcole is the stiffest aluminum tri bike I have ever ridden. I like that.

The seat tube on the Arcole is bladed and airfoil shaped with a wheel cut out. The gap between the wheel cutout and the tire when the rear wheel is in place is large enough to render the cutout largely cosmetic in nature. For a rear wheel seat tube cut out to really work well aerodynamically the gap has to be extremely small, about two credit cards thick at most. Arcole falls short here, but the wheel cutout looks cool and the extra material may soak up some road shock but adds weight at the same time. That said, Javelin was smart to include this wheel cut-out as customers tend to like the appearance of it more so than a round seat tube.


A very clean and nicely done rear wheel cut-out.


The large gap between tire and seat tube likely compromises aerodynamic benefit.

The rear end of the Arcole is the secret to bike’s overall stiffness. The massive “Air Management Stays” for seatstays and the super-hefty 30 mm chainstays form an unyielding rear triangle that is built to transfer horsepower like a chain gang on a Roman slave ship. The rear end of this bike is bracingly stiff. You pedal: it goes. My Arcole was armed with a 54/11 top gear on 700c wheels. I could occasionally turn that gear in the right wind and terrain conditions. When I did my speed always started with the number “3”. I love the rear end of the Arcole. It is so incredibly stiff and strong. The addition of a substantial amount of material also takes the edge off the bumps. The Arcole is brutally stiff, but rides with Ironman distance comfort even in my small 51cm frame dimensions. In the larger sizes, Arcole would only get better. Think of the Arcole as an aluminum version of the new Litespeed Blade with semi-compact geometry.

I can clearly remember a Sunday solo ride on the Arcole: It was 65 miles flat out with an 8 mile run after. I tore into the Arcole with everything I had. It was one of those rare rides where there was almost no wind, the heat was rising and the only resistance was my anaerobic threshold. The Arcole was resplendid and ballsy. It is a brute of a bike. I pounded the entire ride. I swear, a bike with a stiff rear triangle is good for minutes off a half Ironman or Ironman distance bike split. This bike is the Pontiac GTO hot rod of the tri bike world. It is a muscle car. When you pedal, you hear Metallica songs.


The huge, deep seat stays are the girders that make the rear end so powerful.


The blade shape and hour-glass chain stays add strength and stiffness.


Braking is excellent at the rear wheel- no mushiness with a solid brake bridge in big seat stays.

With this muscle car motif comes do-it-yourself maintainability and tough crash survivability. The Arcole is one of the few exotic tri bikes to still use a replaceable rear derailleur hanger. That is important, especially if you travel to races. The new generation of super tri bikes with integrated, non-replaceable derailleur hangers is a disaster waiting to happen. One boot in the wrong place on your flight case and your frame is destroyed. With a replaceable hanger you simply put a spare hanger in your race tool bag. This could save your frame and your race.


The replaceable derailleur hanger is a critical component for athletes who have a bike knocked over in transition or roughed up in a flight case.


In the larger frame sizes the Arcole is better than almost any other aluminum tri bike. It is also a strong option for some riders in the smaller sizes if you want excellent stiffness.

 

The current version of the Arcole will never be a light bike. The Zero bladed, aero carbon fiber fork it came with was an absolute pig- it weighed an oppressive 522 grams. I replaced it with my favorite Easton EC90 Aero carbon fiber, bladed, carbon steer tube fork complete with carbon dropouts weighing in at a feathery 316 grams. This was an incredible 41% weight savings over the original fork. The fork supplied with the Arcole is really too heavy for a nice bike. The Arcole frame is a trifle portly weight-wise on its own. When you add the original anvil-weight fork and the heavy Selcof seatpost the whole package could double as the anchor on the Titanic. When you buy an Arcole you have to put it on a diet and ditch the original fork and the Selcof seatpost. If you replace them with the Thomson Elite seatpost and the Easton EC90 Aero fork you save 244 grams or just over a half pound (53 one hundredths of a pound to be exact) . This may seem like a pain, but I argue the main fuselage of the Arcole and its awesome stiffness is worth it. Perhaps Javelin can do an “Arcole UL” that is sold with the lighter components in the package for an extra $300. It would be worth it.

Overall, the Javelin Arcole has to be considered one of the top four aluminum triathlon bikes available alongside the Guru Cron-Alu, Cervelo P3SL and the Cannondale Slice Aero frame. It is unique in many ways from these frames with different tubing, geometry, design, durability and stiffness. The Arcole stands alone from these other bikes and compliments them each as a viable alternative for riders who want a balls-out; unyielding super race bike that turns big gears into small bike splits.

For the rider who wants top notch workmanship and mechanical performa nce, incredible high speed ride quality and rear end stiffness the Arcole belongs on your short list. If you are a long torso, short leg rider above 5’8” tall who likes to mash the big gears the Arcole could be a match made in heaven. And if you want something no one else has this is the time to buy an Arcole, but I wager you won’t be alone for long….

 

© Tom Demerly, Bikesport Inc.
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