Day Two of Outdoor Demo begins with a group ride that heads
down to Lake Mead. There’s a net elevation loss from Bootleg Canyon which
explains why the opening five miles of the ride are all downhill. From my
perspective it was a touch sketchy. The speed was fairly high; there were a lot
of riders who had never ridden together before, and almost all of them on bikes
that were new to them. Add the fact that there was plenty of testosterone
present and you’ve got a recipe for a lot of riders fighting for the front of
the group. It was fun to see some old friends, but this fun ride really wasn’t
a big priority for me, so I slid to the back to stay out of the grinder. Had
there been a crash, I don’t know how I would have explained the totaled AR1 to
the folks at Felt.
This was my first chance to ride the AR1 since the layup was
updated. Originally, the bike wasn’t very stiff at the bottom bracket and it
was rather heavy. A few process improvements and some changes to the layup have
resulted in a bike with much better road feel and a noticeable improvement in
bottom bracket stiffness. I’ve spoken with a few engineers who have walked me
through the math on why aerodynamic considerations are really the new frontier
in bike design. As I’ve been told, a second here, a second there, is worth more
than a gram here, a gram there. Still, I’m a bigger fan of more
traditional-looking road bikes, and so I’m more partial to the F than the AR,
but the latter is a terrific take on the aero road bike.
I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about BMC bikes from friends
and decided to take out the BMC Team Machine. I don’t know how it compares on
weight to some of the other marquee bikes, but it gives up nothing in stiffness
while the handling is magnificent—in the class of the Specialized Tarmac and
Felt F. It doesn’t enjoy the same sensitivity in road feel, but then many
riders really do prefer a more muted sense of the asphalt for those long days
in the saddle. No wonder these bikes are gaining in popularity; it’s not just
because we like George Hincapie.
Another bike I rode last year and need to revisit was the
Giant TCR Advanced SL. I’d hate to be an engineer at Giant. After producing a
bike with as much stiffness, road sensitivity and dextrous handling, producing
a follow-up would be maddening. The rear end of this bike is stiffer than what
you experience with some other top-flight bikes. Looking for a super-responsive
crit bike? This could be the ultimate response.
Moots has been on my radar for years, but I’ve never had the
opportunity to ride one of their titanium bikes until today, and I rode two.
The Vamoots is a model the company has produced for its whole existence. Its
character is a bit unusual compared to most of what’s out there today. It’s not
a super-ultra stiff race machine, nor is the handling scalpel-sharp. What it
does fits better in the class of grand touring. When I climbed on, the first
thought I had was that it was a bike I’d love to be touring France or Italy on.
It’s a bike for all-day use, but it really doesn’t compromise. Bikes such as
this aren’t made that often anymore, at least, not on a production basis.
Truly, this was one of my favorite bikes of the two days of riding. It’s a bike
for someone who stopped caring about wearing a chest strap a few years ago.
The Moots RSL is a bike for the other end of the spectrum.
While the frame weighs more than two pounds, the fully-built bike I rode
weighed less than 15 pounds and they didn’t go nutty with the parts spec. The
handling on the RSL was sharp enough for aggressive racing, but not so twitchy
to scare you on descents and it was one of the two stiffest titanium bikes I’ve
ever ridden. I’ve got a buddy who races as a Cat. 2 and always seems to be in
the wrong spot when things get sideways. He breaks a lot of bikes. It occurs to
me he should buy one of these. Perfectly racy and virtually indestructible.
The German brand Focus was all but new to me last year.
Because most German brands dispatch with romanticized shapes some Italian
companies swear by, I’ve been curious to see just how good the bikes are. I
took out the top-of-the-line Izalco, the bike Milram is riding. After only a
few turns what I most wanted to do was get to the top of a mountain and do my
best impression of a raptor hunting—drop without offending gravity by using the
brakes. Like the BMC, riders who want the volume turned down on road vibration
and prefer a more muted sense of what’s beneath them will love this bike. It’s
in the same class of stiffness as other top-tier bikes like the Tarmac and F,
plus it’s got Euro cool. Sometimes, you can buy style.
I can’t say whether the temperature out there was
104; it hardly matters. What I’m certain about is that I drank seven
fluid (at least 20 oz. each) and never had to hit the porta-potty. A
footnote to this is that Specialized has a new water bottle that should
be easier to clean, harder to stain and includes a valve seal a la the
Camelbak bottle. I'm glad I had one to keep refilling.
I’m so ready
for the air-conditioned halls of the Sands Covention Center.