I wasn’t going to go for a long ride so I didn’t eat lunch and only put a couple of granola bars in my pockets. Then I called Joel and said let’s go for a ride. He was good with the idea so we headed towards Black Smith Fork Canyon. This is one of my favorite rides. It is a reasonable evening ride – a 42 mile loop from my house. It is also a great section to throw onto a longer Saturday ride.
Given that I had a lot going on and that it was my first ride of the season I was going to be lazy and stop at the end of Old Hollow Road which isn’t really that far from my house. When we go to the end of Old Hollow Road we decided that we were feeling pretty good so we kept going to the power plant which is not quite half way up the canyon. We still felt good so to the top of the canyon we went. That was a great time. I felt great. The scenery was beautiful – there was still snow on the mountains up there so it was also cold.
Black Smith Fork is a tricky canyon. You push on the way up because it is uphill, but you assume that coming back will be easy because it is downhill. If you assume that you’re a damn fool. The still air on the way up and the ease at which you ascend is the first sign that something is not right. After you revel in your accomplishment at the top you face the wind the entire way back down the canyon. I know this. I have had ridden this canyon many times and yet I ignore the facts that have been emblazoned into my brain from every ride before. However, the scenery is addictive. Like a Black Widow louring and then devouring her mate Black Smith Fork will draw you to the top and then sap the life out of you on the way back. Typically only divorce lawyers are so skilled and cold hearted.
The last time I did this ride without sufficient nutrition I bonked and I told myself that I had learned my lesson. I guess I have to relearn that lesson once a year. My skipping of lunch and dependence on two 90 calorie granola bars resulted in a painful bonk again towards the end. It wasn’t as bad this time. I didn’t go nuts like the time before, but the million little bugs gnawing the muscle off my leg bones told me I had depleted all my energy reserves.
Lycra isn’t an especially good insulator. I did have the sense to put on a smart wool base layer and some full finger gloves, but other than that it was pretty much me against the 40 degree weather. I don’t like to get to hot so I typically under dress. After a while I figured I could probably cut off my toes and eat them for sustenance if required. I couldn’t feel them anyway. When I did make it home it took three hours to warm back up in spite of a hot shower. The snow on the hills around us should have been a clue.
I blame it on the bike.
I have a brand new 2008 Trek Madone 6.9. To me there isn’t a sweeter bike. It is a beautiful bike – a piece of art. Every time I find myself in the garage I have to stare at it or touch it. It calls to me and begs to be ridden. I am disgusting. I love that bike.
Back to the ride. The hills were non-existent. The pavement smoothed by the carbon frame, my back didn’t exhibit its usual total break down that results in my inability to stand up for days. The Bontrager XXX Lite wheels are so light and smooth that you barely notice they are there at all. They spin up fast and roll like butter on a hot grill.
It took me a while to decide on whether to go with SRAM Red or Dura Ace. I thought I might regret the Dura Ace, but it is silky smooth. My last bike with Shimano 105 had a hard time. Shifting the front ring was like playing BlackJack. You had about a 49% chance of it actually working. I almost died once because when I tried to shift it failed and dropped the chain while I was crossing a road. I am sure the oncoming truck was a little surprised and probably ticked when I jumped off the bike and ran across the road just in time to miss becoming road kill. I don’t even notice the shift now. This is especially encouraging because I wasn’t a fan of the Race X Lite crank at first. I am sure it isn’t the stiffest but it is dependable and smooth.
The frame cannot be beat. I have it hanging on the wall in my garage next to my Santa Cruz Blur XC.
That is my kind of art gallery. If it wasn’t so much more fun to ride the bikes I could just sit there and stare at them all day. The paint job is sweet. Next to my wife it is the sexiest thing I have seen. (Thanks for letting me buy the new bike dear).
I have a bad back – degenerated disk – so for me a comfy ride has to take priority over a super stiff frame. Don’t take that to mean the frame isn’t stiff. It is and it responds well. It smooths out the nasty bumps in the road but is still there for me when I stand up to pound on the pedals. The road noise that was uncomfortable on my aluminum bike turns into a hum that keeps you connected to the pavement without vibrating you to death.
On my previous bike I was always a bit nervous to look behind me as I had a hard time keeping the bike going straight. I feel more comfortable on this bike. It likes to go straight even though I am not great at maintaining a straight line. You don’t think about corners. The bike glides around them in a controlled smooth line. When you look at the spokes on the Race XXX Lite wheels you’d think you’d snap them if you weigh more than a teenage girl but they hold up just fine and in fact aren’t mushy at all. I was worried I’d feel them sloshing back and forth against the brake pads if I stood up to pound on the pedals but nothing of the sort happened. For reference I weight between 170 and 175 depending on the time of day.
There are a few downsides to the bike. I thought that the Race X Lite crank would be one, but as it turns out it works just fine. If Dura Ace made a compact crank I would demand that, but Shimano is late to that party. The big downside? The literature states that it comes with the SRAM 1090 Powerdome cassette, but when I pulled the bike out of the box at the shop it was wearing the 1070 cassette. I had the shop call Trek. Their reply was that the specs are subject to change anytime, we couldn’t get them so sorry you’re screwed. I find it odd that there seem to be plenty available on eBay and Specialized managed to find some for their new Tarmac SL2. Astana is running SRAM Red so you’d think some kind of inside deal would be possible. The largest bike company in the world with a team sponsorship couldn’t get them? Also notice that they didn’t lower the price a corresponding amount. Trek gets a big fat F here. This was the big disappointment in an otherwise perfect experience.
The only other downside is minor and probably common to most bikes. Some of the decals are not especially clean. I see a few jagged edges here and there. You’ll have to click through to the large picture on the seat post joint to even notice. I guess that might be one argument for Project One – there are no decals everything is painted on.
I had the shop install my Polar CS600 on the bike. The guys at the shop told me that the power unit wouldn’t quite fit when in the small front ring and the bottom three rings on the back without the chain running right on top of the sensor. Turns out they were wrong. (They also never finished installing all the sensors but still charged me full price.) The powerful magnet pulls the chain down when there is any slack but pedaling shows that there is plenty of clearance. I was a bit freaked out at first since I was worried my nice computer wouldn’t work with my nice bike but it runs out that everything is fine.
Even after spending a year doing research and saving money I was nervous about spending a small fortune on a bicycle. If you view it as a bike that is worth than my truck then you might need to be treated for hyperventilation. The retail on this bike with tax will take you north of $8k. However, where I live plenty of people have several four wheelers or motor bikes in their garage. Others have camp trailers or jet skis. Even I have an old motor bike. I use it once a year. Most of the people around me are probably in the same situation with their toys. Here’s the thing – I ride my bike everyday. Since I have started riding I have dropped 30 lbs and I no longer breath heavy when I climb a flight of stairs. Sure a cheaper bike would do the same thing, but if you just can’t resist and you can scrape together the cash you won’t regret parking one of these in the garage.