Thursday, November 12, 2015

Goin' Fast Again...sorta

So I recently mentioned that I'd gotten a fancy new bike. It's a 2011 Blue Axino, hi-mod carbon/carbon tour-de-technologie dripping in fancy SRAM components. Or at least it was.

For, you see, no sooner had I gotten the bike than I rushed out and put as many miles on it as I could, racking up 499.5 before things went boom. It started simply enough, popping a spoke on a morning training ride. That took a trip to the shop, whereupon a neighboring spoke popped. They got me up and running just in time to take the bike on vacation, where I likely filled all of the moving parts full of sand.

Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum @ Cape Hatteras

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Then I took it out for a 64-mile ride with RABA(.org)'s Heart of Virginia Bike Festival, which was the farthest and longest I'd ever been on a bike up until that point.

RABA Heart of Virginia Metric Century

A couple weeks later saw me tackling mountain roads on a 75-mile ride with my good friend Daniel, and then the UCI World's came to town. All in all it was a fantastic time to have a really cool fancy bike in Richmond, VA.

But then a week later it all came to a grinding halt.
DoubleTap? NoTap.

The rear shift-lever snapped off one morning on a 12-mile morning warm-up ride, and nobody could fix it. Apparently, though the bike itself was a 2011, the parts were not. The previous owner must have just raided a parts bin for anything that said "SRAM Force", because the LBS said these components were circa 2006.

With no way to shift the rear cassette, the bike went from a 20-speed to a 2-speed, and parts to repair a 2x10 drivetrain were crazy expensive. Thus I decided to park the bike for winter and pick up a dedicated winter bike.

The winter bike would need to be relatively light, support panniers, be able to pull a trailer, run disc brakes (the HoVA ride was wet, and my fancy high-dollar rim brakes were all but useless), and have a semi-decent set of components for little money. That's a tall order for a bike, but I was astonished when Fuji's 2015 Sportif 1.1d checked every single tick-box for less than $1000.

Beautiful? YMMV, but visible!

Even better was the bright contrast-y red, which should not be mistaken for any flavor of weather or road condition, ever.

The bike features a Shimano 105 group-set, minus only the cranks & rings. Learning how to use it took almost 400 miles, since I'd just put 500 on a SRAM DoubleTap system, but it was so worth it. This bike weighs a full 7 lbs more than the Blue, but with naught but a saddle & seatpost change was easily 10x more comfortable. Beefier, yes, but one week after buying it I ran it in the Martin's Tour of Richmond Piccolo Fondo for 12th place overall.

I've since commuted the 22 miles to work on it several times, and have been very impressed at how capable it is. Sure, each wheel is a pound heavier than the Blue's Eastons, but I figured that would be great training for when the Blue was all fixed up. I even posted a Strava KOM on it while loaded down with 25lbs of laptops & lunch & extra clothes!

So after a few hundred miles on a Shimano drivetrain, I started worrying about switching back and forth constantly. It's hard going from one to the other--I've shifted up several times on climbs where I expected a double-shift down. And since the Fuji's new Shimano kit was smoother than the aging SRAM setup on the Blue, I bit the bullet and priced out a whole drivetrain replacement. It would be cheaper to do the whole thing (shifters, derailleurs, cassette, chain) with new components than just to get 2x10 SRAM Force shifters.

I ain't crazy, and I'm not throwing good money at bad, so I ordered basically a full Ultegra setup (minus the cranks & rings, because it came to me with a Dura-Ace 7900 crankset) and had the LBS install it. Even installed it still came up to just the price of the older SRAM shifters. Durn.

So last night, after a month of riding a 25 lb bike, I stepped onto my 18 lb beauty, and...was not impressed. The Ultegra components were amazing. Shifting was almost telepathically fast and 99% accurate, but the bike just didn't feel good under me.

You see, I spent months investigating bike sizes before buying it, and had bought a just-barely-too-large bike last year in my Giant Roam 2 hybrid. It took a lot of experimentation to get that bike to fit me...decently. With the Blue, all the sizing research said it was the perfect fit at 56cm, but everyone who saw me on a 56cm bike said I should drop to 54cm. The Fuji is 54, and it fits me like a glove.

So my shake-down ride was spent feeling like a kid on dad's bike. Some measurements of the two revealed pretty substantial differences in effective reach, and my attempts to compensate for that involved pushing the seat way too far forward. So now, in addition to all the drive-line bits, I'm throwing a crazy-short 70mm stem on it. That's a solid 40mm shorter than the one on there now, but should allow me to put the seat back where it belongs, reducing the stress on my back, and also bring the bars just a smidge closer, hopefully resulting in an overall more comfortable--and more powerful--riding position. A pro fit will follow, but given the price of a stem, it's hard not to swing at that first.

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