Review: Fuji’s Lightest Production Bike Yet, the Altamira SL
If you think you know Fuji, you might just want to think again. When Fuji contacted us about the Altamira SL for review, I wasn’t exactly sure what to think. My parents had Fujis – beautiful old lugged steel road bikes they still have today. Though even just a few years ago, Fuji didn’t seem to be a brand that was high on most consumers’ radar. First introduced in 2011, the original Altamira was part of Fuji’s design renaissance as many of their bikes received major overhauls led by road product manager Steve Fairchild.
It seems times have changed, and the Altamira SL is among a new crop of impressive bikes from the 113 year old Fuji.
See how the Altamira SL stacked up after the break.
As mentioned in our first look at the Altamira, the SL frame uses the same C15 ultra high-modulus carbon with High Compaction Molding System that is found on the Altamira 1.1 and 1.3. The compaction method results in a wrinkle free interior carbon cavity from squeezing every last bit of epoxy from the mold. Not only does this eliminate unnecessary epoxy, but it also keeps the weight down by managing the tube wall thickness. Each company has their own term for it, but most of the big bicycle companies have something similar these days.
The entire frame including the rear dropouts use this c15 carbon while the bike is equipped with Fuji’s FC-330 carbon monocoque fork with tapered carbon steerer & carbon dropouts. Cutting weight is great and all, but what about the ride? Billed as a Competition bike in Fuji’s hierarchy, the Altamira SL may surprise you with its comfort.
Typically, top tier competition bikes can be placed right on the razor’s edge of stiffness attempting to eek out every last bit of performance. The Fuji is more subdued with an all around silky smooth ride. Sprinters or bigger riders may be left wanting a stiffer bike, but that is why Fuji has their SST with its ribbed downtube for increased stiffness. While the Altamira doesn’t immediately feel like it gives anything away in terms of stiffness, it doesn’t have that tightly wound feel of sprinting on an ultra stiff bike. It would be easy to dismiss the comfort as a result of the carbon tubulars, but swapping the wheels out to a pair of standard aluminum clinchers did little to affect the ride.
Climbing on the Altamira is amazing – though what do you expect for a 13.8 pound bike with Dura Ace pedals? Pedal forces are reigned in with a BB86 bottom bracket that is connected to an oversized down tube and chainstays, while ride comfort is maintained by the super thin seat stays and traditional round seatpost – the round post being something I still love. I get the benefits of all the integrated designs, but there is something to be said about not having issues with clamps, or easily replacing the post should there be an issue. Seated or standing, the bike dances uphill.
Just because the Altamira SL is an excellent climber, it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun on the way down. Steering precision on the front end is above average thanks to the laterally stiff carbon wheels and FC-330 fork and tapered steerer. Lean to the point that you think is the limit, then lean some more – the bike is a blast on descents. The 74.5/72.5 STA/HTA with a shorter 977mm wheelbase causes the bike to handle quickly without being twitchy.
Of course, that is as long as the conditions are dry.
Anyone who has spent time on full carbon wheels with rim brakes in the wet already knows this, but braking performance on the Altamira SL in the wet like many other carbon wheels is terrifying. Most riders considering a bike at this level should expect this and have a set of alloy wheels for wet weather riding, but since the Altamira SL comes stock with carbon tubies it seems worth noting. It’s not that Oval W932s don’t stop in the wet, it just takes awhile after the brakes are engaged to scrub the water off, heat up, and start to grip. Once you come to terms with the delay in braking, it’s manageable but not great.
Otherwise, the performance of the wheels and brakes in dry conditions is great. Braking is smooth and controlled with Reynolds Cryo Blue CTg brake pads. The tubulars on the bike for most of the review , and even riding the odd dirt, gravel, you name it section, the Vittoria Corsa Evo SC tubulars have been flawless.
Other highlights include the Oval R910SL carbon bar, which after talking to Oval product manager John Solinsky, it is clear a lot of effort went into to making a great bar. Even the top of the bar is angled back 4° for a more ergonomic sweep which paired with the 133mm compact drops makes for a very comfy bar. To compensate for the sweep and keep your hands in line with the stem there is a 10mm bump out before the sweep. Our test bike came equipped with a 40cm, which I would prefer a 42, though other than that it would stay. As for the Sram Red group, even though it’s already down a cog compared to 22 I wouldn’t be disappointed to own it. Compared with the older generation of Red, and really many other drivetrains it is really, really good. Shifting is intuitive and crisp, the front derailleur works like a champ, and best of all it is much quieter than before even with a KMC X10SL Ni-Ti plated chain.
Overall the Altamira SL proved to be an extremely impressive bike. As far as ride quality and performance it is on par with many of the superbikes of the world, and at an impressive price of $5,999. If stiffness isn’t your main concern, but an having a super light all around great riding bike that climbs like a billy goat and needs little after the purchase is, the Altamira SL is a great choice. However, riders not hyper focused on weight or not so keen on tubulars, and having multiple sets of wheels based on conditions may want to look into the cheaper, Dura Ace 9000 equipped Altamira 1.3 which comes with alloy clinchers.
Bike and Tester Sizing
At 5’8″ with a 29″ inseam I was riding what Fuji calls a S/M or 47cm frame. Thanks to the compact geometry of the frame, the 47cm has an effective seat tube of 52cm and a 53cm effective top tube which combined with a 90mm stem proved to be an excellent fit that easily matched to my Retül fit numbers. As noted, I would prefer a 42cm bar on this bike instead of the 40cm equipped.
- Extremely comfortable for a light weight competition frame
- Stupid light for a stock bike you can buy off the showroom floor
- Impressive build kit including carbon tubulars for under $6k
- Exceptional climber
- Tubulars may not be for everyone
- Saddle wouldn’t be my choice, especially on long rides
- Handlebar is a pricey change if you want a 42 instead of 40
- Dual saddle clamp bolts are a little fiddly (I didn’t have any issues with Oval’s, but I have seen a similar design from another company fail due to the individual grip wedges rotating)
- Wet weather carbon braking can be scary