Aspiring Fred…

1) a person who spends a lot of money on his bike and clothing, but still can't ride

I decided a while back that my trusty old LeMond Tourmalet (named after a famous cycling climb often featured in the Tour de France, as most of LeMond's bikes are) was holding me back. Specifically, despite me dropping a number of well-placed hints, it still weighs as much as it always did, a portly 29 pounds. The lightest pro bikes are around 6.75 kg (33.5 hectares to you and me), which is roughly half of what the Tourmalet weighs, and there are a number of bikes that weigh less than 18 pounds (1.25 parsecs).

So, it was off to a LBS (local bike shop) to see what was out there. I had a few requirements:

  1. It needed to have a compliant ride. My current bike has a steel frame (well, chrome - moly steel to be more precise), and such frames soak up bumps very well. Aluminum, on the other hand, does not, so it's not really in the running. That leaves either steel, titanium, or the new star on the block, carbon fiber.
  2. It needed to have a better drivetrain. I decided that Shimano Ultegra was my target. Despite the name, Ultegra is not "the ultimate" component group for Shimano - that niche is occupied by "Dura-Ace" - but it is light, strong, and well engineered.
  3. It needed to come with a triple chainring up front. This is so that I have a "granny ring" to help get up those steep slopes. More talented riders would have only two chainrings, usually of something like 53 and 39 teeth. A triple might come with 52/42/30 teeth, which means that the lowest ratio is 30/39, or about 25% lower than the double option, giving 25% more torque.
  4. It needs to look cool. If you're going to spend good money on a bike, you should at least like the looks.

I headed out to Samamish Valley Cycles to start my search. After a bit of discussion, we settled on two likely bikes:

  • A Litespeed Firenze, their entry-level titanium, coming in a bit under 18 pounds (13 KiloPascals).
  • A Bianchi with a steel frame, whose name escapes me.

I rode the Firenze first. It's very light with a low moment of inertial (ie light wheels), and rides wonderfully, though there is a certain springiness. I liked it a fair bit, but unfortunately, it only comes in a matte finish. I'm all for the artistry of nice welds and good machining, but silver is my least favorite color for vehicles, so this is a non-starter for me. Litespeed does make the Solano, which is a bit stiffer, and comes with a nice yellow paint job. I'm not sure if it's available with a triple or not, however.

The Bianchi was pretty forgettable. It rode like a slightly different version of my current bike - better, but not really better. So it's not on my list.

My next bike to try is the Trek 5200. Carbon fiber frame, just like the US Postal bike, blah, blah blah. It meets all my requirements, so I'll be trying to ride one in the next couple of weeks.

Comments (17)

  1. SimonT says:

    Dont know jack about push bikes but I hate silver for a vehicle colour.

    I had a choice of blue or silver for my zzr600.

    I live in the UK, its overcast most of the time, and you want me to buy a bike that will help me blend in with the clouds. I’ll take the blue please.

  2. Jim Argeropoulos says:

    Go carbon!

    I picked up a Look 381i with American Classic wheels from a regional shop. Fabulous ride! It wasn’t "new", but right close. The shop owner had ridden it only a little. I got it for less than the 5200 list, but slightly more than the price my shop was dealing on a 5200.

    Light wheels = great sprinting and climbing!

    Other bikes I would consider, Giant, Madrone 5.2 (2005 version of 5200), and anything else in the sub $3,000 range.

    Ultegra is a spot on decision.

    Going from my prior steel steed (also around 30 pounds) to my Look added about 2-3 MPH to my average speed.

  3. Julie Lerman says:

    LOL – you forgot the black socks! We literally had a man named Fred in our bike club when I lived in teh Hudson Valley who was a fred. We really had to bite our tongues about that!

  4. Try the OCR Elite says:

    I know you don’t like Al but you should try one of the Al/Carbon combinations. I have a Giant OCR Elite. The main section of the frame is Al and the fork and stays are carbon. This allows for the bump soaking characteristics of carbon where you need it and the stiffness of Al where it’s beneficial. This bike has a Ultegra drivetrain as well.

  5. Phil Weber says:

    Eric: When it comes to carbon, there are only two names you need to remember: Calfee and Kestrel. Find a shop that carries them and take a test ride. Like butta!

  6. SeanB says:

    If you end up liking the Trek, you can always go the Project One route to get a custom paint job and config on the 5200. I’m about to go that route.

  7. Jeremy S says:

    I rode a Lemond Zurich for over a year, cracked the frame, and after much research, I now ride a Giant TCR carbon. You MUST test ride this bike, I was shocked at how nice it rides. It was amazingly both stiffer at the bottom bracket AND a way smoother overall ride in comparison to the Lemond. Best value for a carbon bike, which unfortunately makes them hard to find. Good luck!

  8. alcy says:

    Might I suggest a Curtlo…

    I have had one for years and love it. You can pick the color of the bike, and have the frame customized a bit…

  9. Maarten says:

    I recommend riding lots of bikes, if you have the time and energy. I rode more than a dozen bikes when I was picking a new road bike, and it was very helpful to ride more than one of each frame material.

    I found that it was very important that the frame be sized right for me to get an accurate impression of the bike. Having store staff say "oh, this one is not your size, but it’s all about the feel, it’ll be fine" always led to an unsatisfying ride. (That would be you, over there at TiCycles.) Keep an eye on tire pressure, too!

    I ended up buying a Marinoni Piuma Plus from Sammamish–steel frame with carbon seat stays. It was the one bike I rode and immediately loved, even on a second test ride another day.

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