Bicycle ride quality is hard to describe, but is easy to feel when you are on a bike. With all the bikes I have ridden in the past few months I have made sure to include a couple of common riding challenges/issues. I made sure to hit pot holes. The roads around here have plenty of holes and the guy in front of you when you are in a pace line doesn’t always see them or point them out. Everytime I hit one it feels like a jolt of energy all the way up into my teeth. We ride canyons so hill climbing is a big deal. I tried sprinting to look for flex in the bottom bracket then I looked for chip sealed roads. The idea was to get an idea for vibration on both the large bumps and the constant smaller road noise. I was looking for both abrupt (the kind I can feel in my teeth) and constant energy transfer into my legs and lower back. My biggest complaint with my current bike (aluminum frame) is that the hard bumps feel like someone has punched me. The constant vibration is less noticable until I have been on the bike for a long time. The combination of the two contribute most to fatigue on my longer rides.
Two bikes seemed to solve that problem for me – the Time and the Calfee. I rode a couple of Serotta bikes, a titanium Fierte and a full carbon HSG. I rode an Orbea Orca and I tried out a Cannondale System Six (with SRAM Force). The Orca was a disappointment. It looks cool, but the ride is not especially elegant. It is insane light and very stiff, but the dampening quality was nothing like the Time or the Calfee. The System Six was fun. If I limited myself to rides under 40 miles I might go with it just because it is fun. It didn’t dampen the road as well as these other bikes, but it was stuff and it liked to go fast. The novelty of SRAM on the bike made my test ride all the more interesting. It is the kind of bike you like to date, but not one that you marry (I only get to buy one expensive bike so for me the bike choice is like marrage. However, I do live in Utah so multiple wives = multiple bikes? Anyway……).
I have been talking with Craig Calfee over email. He is a great guy and is willing to answer customer emails. I had a chance to ride one of his bikes when I was in Portland (the low end Luna). I found it to be similar in comfort to the Time bikes. I like it a bit better than the Time bikes just because it is more unique. One other bike I am considering is a custom built ti bike from Karl Strong. Since it is custom I will never be able to ride it before I buy it so that one is a big debate for me. However, I have to believe that the custom model will fit perfectly. Everyone tells me he is a master at building frames. I worry that titanium won’t dampen the road like carbon, but then I also worry that carbon won’t last like titanium.
There aren’t many bikes that impress me any more. I did some research and found that almost everything is made in Taiwan or China. Time weaves their own carbon and then forms the tubes in house. I talked with Karl for about an hour. He is impressive. I would go with him before Serotta or Seven, because he is a one man shop (in Bozeman, Montana). He designs the bike and then welds it for you. I thought that was pretty cool. Calfee hand makes their bikes in California. Craig Calfee is a neat guy and everything I have read says that he is the master of carbon. He told me that he as fixed a lot of Orcas lately. If I had money to blow I would buy one of his bamboo bikes just for kicks.
So what do I do? I keep waiting and thinking. Chosing a bike seems like a personal thing. Although there are some I love and hate I am sure others will have a different opinion (I don’t imagine my dislike of the Orca will go over well with Orbea fans).
In the mean time I have started debating buying a mountain bike and returning to the sport that I loved when I was a bit younger. Santa Cruz’s Superlight is supposed to be a sweet ride. I used to think mountain biking was dangerous and that road biking is what you move to as you get older. In the past week I have read of two veloists being killed. One was in Sardine Canyon close to where I live. My mother in law taught all of his kids. He was hit by a car. Then I read that the former Altera CEO was killed while riding. These kinds of things make me sad. They also make me wonder if the mountains wouldn’t be a safer place to be.
Anyway, hopefully I will stop whining about buying a bike soon and start posting my rides. We did Blacksmith fork last wednesday. That was 43 miles average speed was 20mph. I was pretty happy about that given the amount of uphill involved. I did a short 17 miles on sat and then 30 miles monday out to the west through the farms. Didn’t ride today. We’ll ride tomorrow at lunch.