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:
- 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?
- 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?
- rear brake cable routing could possibly get clogged with dirt (see Scott Campbell's review)
- no rack eyelets or fender mounts (not that I really like that idea actually)
- 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?
- 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?