Final Report - On the road!
By William Clarke
After a full day running and adjusting cables on Oct. 30, I finally took the carbon out for a shakeout ride Halloween. Satisfied it supported my weight (!!!), I wanted to slowly stress the frame and stretch the cables with a very light pedal around the town – okay, across the causeway (Which would be an excellent course for a no-holds-barred road kilometer TT…).
A few shots of the recent build
As it was very gusty that Saturday, the ZIPP 440 wheels forced me to use a little muscle as they did an outstanding job of catching the crosswinds! In addition to the base frame size being 54cm instead of the 56cm of my GT, the sloping top tube really played tricks with my saddle height so it wasn’t set properly. Pedaling in my Salomon approach shoes, I couldn’t get enough stretch in my legs – and that made my bars feel like I was reaching up. I also discovered a stiff chain link when I decided to see what would happen if I stomped on the pedals. As expected, there was no softness in the BB and my energy went into turning the wheels.
(Of course, I made mental notes of all of these adjustable issues, and the ZIPP wheels are plenty light and super stiff so they probably had an impact on that little ride!)
It’s balance was spot on as well, executing low speed turns with aplomb both in the saddle and up on the pedals.
Now, during my research I read two reports about “slow” steering. Exactly what is that supposed to mean? Doesn’t the wheel change direction everytime you nudge the bars? How can those simple physics be quantified in that manner, especially when there’s nothing between the action and reaction? In my mind, you turn the bars and the bike goes with it – turn a little or turn a lot, I don’t see where that action can realistically be termed fast or slow.
(Okay, here are the details for you engineers; 72.5 degree head tube, 73.5 degree seat tube, and the Kinesis fork has a 45 degree rake. The OEM fork would be 43.)
I found I was able to slide through turns as easily as thought and so far, the Chinese no name is feeling like an exceptional value!
After I re-tuned the derailleurs and brakes, in between visits from Halloween ghouls and goblins, I put the Titec seatpost / Ponza saddle combo onto the bike to get the leg extension I like to have. Again, the frame is about an inch smaller than the GT and subtracting another inch for the top tube drop means a longer seatpost is a must. The Titec measures 350mm uncut so there’s plenty of post showing as well as in the tube. I also sanded the head tube bur I mentioned in a pre-report first photo, added spacers above the stem to compress the Kinesis steerer and went for a real ride on a wet Sunday morning.
Wow. Okay, to say this buildy is light is really re-stating the obvious!
I put on my cycling clothes and shoes for a real road test. I went the 50k to Bridgetown and back at various speeds over relatively flat terrain, finishing healthily sweat-dampened. The ride, even on the ZIPP tubeys, was so s-m-o-o-o-th I felt like I could sit on that bike forever. The frame absorbed road shock very nicely, but I didn’t attempt to hit every hole fully weighted on the saddle either – it wasn’t necessary to sit those as traffic was light enough to move around most.
Tracking a straight line, at speed, was no problem either. The bike performed as it should riding no hands and using weight shifts to steer (Yes! I wear a helmet EVERY ride). I also jammed hard both in and out of the saddle, on the hoods and the drops, with the bike responding with no hesitation, sway or noise. In fact, the only sounds were a low hum (frame harmonic) and a click as that (still) stiff link passed through the cage!
And I think I’m gonna like hills next year because climbing was waaaaay too easy. The combination of frame stiffness and 175mm crankarms made sitting hills stupid easy even rolling into a stiff headwind. I don’t know if I’m that much fitter or what, but I hate hills and for the first time in my life felt like I wasn’t mashing to get over the top. I think it makes a statement about frame design when you don’t feel you need to stand to keep up the pace – all of that energy going directly into the drivetrain is a pleasing sensation.
Well, my non-scientific appraisal of this particular carbon frame is that, so far, it has been money wisely spent for my cycling goals. It has opened the door to the world of carbon bicycles so much so that I don’t think I’ll be buying anymore aluminum frames! I also have to say riding my no-name makes me wonder what riding one of the super name-brand, lifetime warrantied frames would be like.
Is there really a significant value or performance gain at anywhere from six to 10 times the price – and more?
At a sport/club riding level, I don’t see how that’s possible – and when you look at how much you could save without a brand name and/or lifetime warranty, I think it’d be pretty easy to keep an extra frame hanging around for when you might need it – again, without the heavy premium price.
On the other side of that, you can have any colour you want; as long as it’s black.
That means if you opt for fancy custom paint, you’re on your own and you’ll need to account for whatever that may cost.
In closing, I hope my experience as a non-professional, non-world class and non-compensated enthusiast helps you with making your decision to purchase this or any other carbon frame. Remember; carbon, by its nature, is a risk anyway.
Just don’t expect this, or any other frame, to magically make up for a lack of miles in your legs.