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MSRP : $5999.00
Issue : Dec 2009
Then We first reviewed the BH Cristal women's bike for our April 2009 Buyer's Guide, and wrote: "The Cristal has the precise, intuitive handling of a race bike, but tweaks to the head angle, seat angle and chainstay length help maintain stability. It motors on the straights, accelerates well and climbs as if it were born in the mountains." Those qualities are no doubt enhanced by the lightweight carbon frame built with much subtle shaping, including what BH calls a "channel" along the down tubeit not only provides a groove for the cables, but also, BH says, helps dissipate churning air, leading to a more aerodynamic frame. We also liked the spec; with Shimano Dura-Ace 7900 drivetrain and brakes, we found that "shifts are quick and reliable; the brakes grab fast and strong."
NOW The Cristal is built to race, yet we took it on a 520-mile weeklong charity ride. Even loaded down with a nonwireless computer and the biggest seat bag on earth, the bike kept its composure, offering nimble handling, all-day comfort and even plenty of speed on one day that averaged around 20 mph for 80 hilly miles. And its stable, predictable ride kept us upright at the end of a hard 105-mile day when we were so spent the last 20 miles were a blur.
For balance, we had a race-minded tester ride the Cristal. And although she loves her Orbea Orca, she raved about this bike, from its light weight to its responsiveness. She especially noted that the Cristal's combination of stable handling and female-friendly geometry gave her the confidence to sprint aggressively.
So far, the only casualty on our test bike has been the tires; after a season, the Vittoria Diamante Pro Lights developed a few slits. All other spec is holding up just fine.
VERDICT The more we ride the Cristal, the more we want to ride it. We're on and off test bikes and our personal bikes all the time, and climbing on the Cristal after time away always feels good. The fit and the smooth ride are just plain comfortable, and the Shimano 7900 group doesn't get in the way of speedy rides, quick gear changes or even clumsy ones.Christine Bucher