Supra full carbon wheels look great and handle well in a wide range of wind conditions but they’ve no weight advantage and braking performance is less consistent.

Sensa Aquila SL

Sensa Aquila SL, £2,050

merlincycles.co.uk

Overview

Dutch firm Intersens has been producing bikes for 25 years and long established direct sell dealer Merlin Cycles imports their premium Sensa range. This includes the Aquila SL, a fully future proofed, lightweight and distinctively smooth carbon framed all rounder.

The intentionally sprung character of the Aquila is confirmed as soon as you see the super skinny A frame seat stays at the back of the bike. What’s less obvious is the tube wall tweaking that keeps the front end remarkably smooth despite massive box section down and top tubes which connect with the fat, round seat tube via a big box press fit bottom bracket. While there’s no aero profiling elsewhere (the Calabria is Sensa’s dedicated low drag dragster) the gear cables run internally and it’s fully Di2 electric gear compatible thanks to the relevant wiring holes and a battery mount under the offside chain stay.

Our sample bike was supplied with the wide-range, mechanical Ultegra 6800 gears rather than electric spec though and completed with the same Deda RHM and Zero cockpit equipment as the Dolan. This would normally cost £1,585 with Shimano RS11 wheels but to hit our test budget Merlin added full carbon clincher wheels from house brand Supra for just a £500 upcharge.

How it rides

The immediate impression as soon as you sit on the Sensa and set off is the outstandingly buoyant and floated ride feel from the thin walled carbon tubes and super thin seat stays. That’s amplified by the vibration absorbing character of the full carbon wheels and ‘more like 25mm than 23mm’ high volume, super supple Schwalbe One tyres. The net result is that the Aquila SL is the smoothest ride on test by a big margin and the mid height head tube also promotes a slightly more upright, relaxed ride position. In other words if you’re looking for maximum mileage with minimum stress for training, exploring or sportive riding then the Sensa is an excellent choice.

If you start to push the pace hard though, the Aquila SL is unsurprisingly softer through the pedals than the other bikes here. Despite the full carbon construction the Supra wheels are no lighter than the hybrid carbon/alloy wheels of the other bikes here so there’s no leap in acceleration from them either. That means you’re better off taking advantage of the wide ratio 11-28 rear cassette and compact 50/34 tooth chainrings to spin up climbs rather than trying to stomp out serious torque. While the broad rounded profile means the wheels themselves handle fine at higher speed and in gusty conditions when we tried them in other bikes the Aquila SL lacks a bit of muscle when it comes to keeping them on track. Although the Ultegra brakes themselves are excellent the carbon rims mean less consistent braking – particularly in the wet – than the alloy rimmed wheels on the other bikes in the test. Consequently, while the geometry is fine it’s naturally a cautious rather than cavalier descender and corner taker.

Verdict

An outstandingly smooth and effortlessly enjoyable long distance cruiser with a good value spec, but less convincing when you start pushing hard.

Score: 7