Cell Akuna 1.1
Value-packed with all the frills
It was back in February, in our Tackling Tasmania issue, that we first introduced the latest top-of-the-line Cell Omeo 2.0. Equipped with Shimano Ultegra Di2 it was and remains the online seller’s flagship offering but unlike many of the ‘super bike’ packages available from the sport’s biggest manufacturers, the Omeo and the Akuna 1.1 on test here arrive at a fraction of the cost.
It may not be a unique selling proposition – there are others out there playing the numbers game – but price has proven to be highly effective for Cell and even more so as you look a little further down the range. In this case the Akuna 1.1 fitted with a full complement of Shimano components including 105 groupset and R501 wheels hits the mark at $1,199. A few years ago you would struggle to find a carbon bike at the level but the Akuna delivers even more with a lifetime warranty against defects in workmanship and a full complement of performance and componentry features.
“Most brands can’t offer a full Shimano ensemble at this price point so they may spec a lower level crankset and brakes but due to our factory direct model we can provide customers with the performance benefits of a complete Shimano groupset,” said Cell’s Product manager Dave Musgrove who has been responsible for designing and bringing to market the latest range from the Australian company.
The monocoque frame construction uses high-modulus unidirectional carbon fibres blended with EPO (Endurance Performance Optimisation) geometry for what Cell and Musgrove claim to be a package suitable for the kind of all day rides we would do as kids. The front end (head tube) sits a bit higher than the Omeo and the head tube angle is adjusted accordingly to provide suitable steering characteristics. However, it’s no lazy boy when it comes to handling. Just because you don’t practice yoga daily doesn’t mean you can’t rail down the namesake’s twisting Sydney descent with absolute confidence.
“The Akuna has Endurance Performance Optimisation which essentially means the geometry, ride feel and specification are all carefully considered to enhance the experience for not only long distance granfondo riders but also the majority of this bike’s target market: the newcomer to road cycling,” says Musgrove.
“The Akuna features a relatively tall head tube and slack head angle, which offers a more upright position and stable handling which is suitable for all-day rides and less flexible riders.”
Having spent a couple of months aboard this particular model, it’s fair to say the geometry delivers on its claims however, it’s a far cry from a Domane, Roubaix, Cayo, Synapse or Avail’s which sit firmly in the endurance road category. To be fair, the Akuna isn’t intended to compete with the above models but it does make a valiant effort to bridge the gap thanks to the some design alterations to the seat stays.
Combined with 25mm rubber there is a reasonable level of dampening going on and can be felt both through the feet and caboose. It’s worth touching on this area further because what is felt in the soles of one’s feet compared to the saddle can be vastly different but it can take some real consideration to isolate where exactly comfort or stiffness is coming from. Unlike its flashier brother the Akuna doesn’t get a seat tube and post ensemble designed to smooth the ride. Instead it’s the squashed and slightly curved seat stays that are charged with that job. For a bike that would allow you to get out the door with shoes, pedals and a helmet for $1,500, it’s tough to argue with.
“We were able to add additional ride comfort through specially designed seat stays, which significantly flex over rough surfaces,” says Musgrove of what’s now becoming a common feature amongst bikes in this segment.
Of course price isn’t everything and that’s where the brand’s renewed enthusiasm and focus on not just the road range but also MTB offerings, really comes to the fore. Cell has ensured that your entry into the market is affordable and that ongoing maintenance is also similarly considered. There are no one-off or proprietary components fitted anywhere and the small details like using externally routed cables (a mechanic’s dream) also didn’t happen by chance.
“Simplicity in maintenance and availability of spare parts is an area of bike design that is often overlooked but we try to keep this in mind with all new Cell models – the Akuna is included,” says Musgrove.
“The tapered head tube uses the FSA No.42 ACB standard and are readily available, likewise with the Shimano PressFit bottom bracket. External cabling may not offer the aerodynamic advantages of internal cabling but Akuna customers will appreciate the fast, simple and inexpensive process of maintaining or changing cables when needed,” he adds.
It’s fair to say Cell has experienced a rebirth of sorts over the past year and whilst the Akuna 1.1 is firmly targeted towards the value-oriented customer, you won’t find anything amiss in terms of components or ride handling. It’s a bike that will undoubtedly suit someone looking to stretch their legs further than they have before and if they do happen to fall in love with the wild world of cycling, they’ll have a trusty steed prepared to come along for what will hopefully be a long ride.
For detailed specification head to cellbikes.com.au