Friday, September 26, 2008

Bike Shopping Foray #3

Turned out to be a beautiful day, mid-sixties, sunny and warm. Perfect afternoon to go test some bikes. 

Fetched up at Montlake Bicycle Shop [Yelp]. Not too crowded when I got in but all of the mechanics and sales staff were with people so I looked around a for a while and then went to wait by the front counter. Took a bit but then Darren got free and asked me what I needed. I told him that I wanted to look at Cross Bikes. He led me over to two Bianchis, the Volpe (a bike AW has been urging me to try) and the Cross Concept, and also suggested a Lemond. Both the Lemond and the Volpe are steel bikes and so I decided to forgo the Cross Concept because it is carbon and $2K. I did ask why companies were mixing drive train components and Darren told me that it was a marketing thing. To keep the price down they put the highest level component on the rear derailleur because that is where people look for the label not the front derailleur and the shifters. 

Tested both bikes on some hills in the Montlake neighborhood going up and down with some rough and twisting roads. 

Bianchi Volpe [Reviews]

Tested a 55 cm frame and found the handling to be rather crisp although the top tube was a bit short for my tastes and the bars were too narrow (easily changed). The triple ring set-up was nice, especially on the steep hills. Nice price too, $950 (although prices online seem a little lower). 

It did not wow me (sorry AW) though and the shifting seemed quite slow and sloppy. Stoppers seemed fine coming down a very long and steep hill but there was some chatter. Changing out components might just not be worth it.  

Ever gotten on a bike, started rolling, and realized that it felt natural? 

This was it for me. 

This was a bike that I felt like I could trust from the get-go and one that I would not have to "get used to." It climbed, accelerated, and cornered very well and with confidence. I even did some curb hopping and cutting through narrow passages. The gearing seemed quite nice even though it lacks a triple. 

Having said that, however, there are some things that give me pause:
  1. the forks are carbon fiber, Bontrager Switchblade Elite Carbon, and this gives me some pause. I could feel some chatter vibration during the braking test down the long hill. Would these last given the likely pounding they are going to receive? Would switching them out for a steel fork be a good idea?
  2. the wheels have a "single cross lacing" pattern/system. It looks really cool but I am 190-195. How durable are they likely to be?
  3. rear brake cable routing could possibly get clogged with dirt (see Scott Campbell's review)
  4. no rack eyelets or fender mounts (not that I really like that idea actually)
  5. there are three 2007 models available but, as far as I could tell, no 2008's and are the '09's are on their way. Why the surplus?
  6. ok, I know the why of the surplus now. The question now becomes, will Trek actually stand behind a bike they manufactured even though they no longer have an official relationship?

I have to say that the Lemond is the clear leader (even though it is not orange or yellow) but I have more bikes to ride and want to go back and test this one as well. The Salsa is nice but I did not have that instant comfort on it. Perhaps I would sense this if I ride it again. We'll see. 

Any comments on these questions?


Andy said...

When I tested road bikes several years ago, I got on a Lemond Alpe d'Huez and felt that I had driven a Corvette. Smooth, fast and a natural good fit. I bought it, although it was more expensive than the Bianchi and the Specialized. The bike is still great, and my guess is that the Poprad’s geometry is the same.
But, the carbon forks are an issue. Light but vibration that you feel on a long ride.
I’ve got the same Bontrager wheels. So far, so good, but can you put fat tires on them?
I’d want a triple. I’d want rack eyelets and fender mounts.
Incidentally, Trek has discontinued the Lemond line, because of the Greg vs. Lance feud.

PuddleThumper said...

The volpe has a much more upright look to me. The chatter thing is odd. I enjoy my ultegra set on my bianchi. :-p

Lemond's just did not fit me but I liked the feel of some I test rode. I'd also want a triple. Those wheels and the fork would be an issue to me too. Rack eyelets and fender mounts are an issue if you plan on commuting. Panniers are pleasing to the back. Any other lemonds you could try for comparison?

rpd said...


It looks like the 2008 models can handle a 700X34c patch. Maybe could get a 38 in there?

Not so sure I want a triple actually and, frankly, I haven't been impressed so far by the bikes I have ridden that have had them. It might be possible, though, to put a third ring on with an appropriate change in the front derailleur. Running a larger rear cassette might also be an option.

But this requires more $$ and it might be better to try something else at some point.

Lemond v. Armstrong? Feud? Oh Lord! Now what? Can't we just have sports heros?

rpd said...


They only make the one cross bike and maybe no more (see the feud).

There are rack mounts near the rear dropouts, just not up on the seat stays. It is easy to put a rack on the bike.

Ah, I see that "Despite a series of innovative designs and continued support from Trek, due to LeMond’s actions and the public response, the LeMond brand has consistently failed to live up to its potential in the marketplace." [Trek]

Hmm. What does this mean?

GVB said...

For my money, I find the little bit of vibration a worthwhile trade off for the stiffness and weight savings with the carbon fork...

This bike shopping thing is starting to sound like it is going to make you crazy. There isn't a perfect bike out there, and in reality the difference between one set of components and the other is minimal over the long haul (and you're going to break things along the way and replace them with the latest-greatest stuff anyway).

Get the bike that gives you the least "pause" and pile up a bunch of miles. The bike will break in, you'll tweak it over time, and everyone is happy until you break another frame and have to do this again.

Oh, and get a triple.

Or man up and go fixe. That would impress me.