Riding in style and fast by the mile

Gave the Giant an over haul yesterday.  It started with the shifters and ended with me rolling out the door to test some Zipp 202 tubeless wheels.  I rolled out on my Thursday night ride with an illegal bike.

At 6.4 kilograms (14.12 pounds) the Giant was slightly under the legal weight limit according to UCI rules.  But hey, I wasn’t racin’, I was just out for a ride with the guys.  The only illegal activities we were worried about was us rolling through a stop sign. (If you are a cyclist in Greenville right now, you know what I’m talking about.)

First, the shifters – that is how this all started.  I love the SRAM group.  However, I have broken two of the shifters in the same spot over the last couple of months.  Yes, both times were when I have wrecked.  I do believe that the shifters could avoid this weak point with a little different engineering.  The nice folks at SRAM said they would “take it under advisement.”

They also sent me a new pair of shifters.  Sure, I had to pay $200 for them, but they are 2010.  They are pretty sweet looking – borrowing some of the styling cues from the the SRAM Red group – and are slightly lighter than the 2009 pair I broke.

2010 SRAM Force shifters

2010 SRAM Force shifters

The action is crisp.  Of course, as my teammate Reece is often heard to say, “Ah, new cables, it’s like getting a brand new bike!”  How much of the improved feel was due to the new cables and tune up and how much was due to the design of the new shifters, I don’t know.  All I do know is that I was flying through those gears with a minimum of motion.

Did I mention they look cool? Throw in some red bar tape, hoods, and cable housing and we’ve got a little bling action going.  It even matches my new seat.

The 2010 Specialized Body Geometry Toupe Team saddle (that is a mouth full!) is an improvement on my favorite saddle.  I love the Toupe saddle because it is a minimal carbon saddle that gives a comfortable ride because the carbon flexes.

2010 Specialized Toupe saddle

2010 Specialized Toupe saddle

The only problem I had with my previous saddle was that all my wrecks had torn up the edges of the saddle and it was beginning to tear up my shorts.  After one ride on my new saddle I realize another issue I had with the 2009 Toupe without realizing it.  The 2010 model gave me a noticeably better ride.

The reason for the better ride is the material used to make the seat.  The previous model was leather and was quite slippery.  You found yourself sliding around on the seat.  Sliding is the enemy of a comfortable posterior!  This model held me in place while keeping the flex that I had come to enjoy.  It has something to do with the “micromatrix” material used to cover it.  It is a noticeable improvement – in a case where I didn’t think one was necessary.

Oh yeah, those wheels.  The Zipp 202 carbon wheels with tubeless tires made my bike as light as a feather.  If I had purchased them, I would have found my bank account to be light as a feather!  Still, it was fun to try out something so light without the guilt of spending a couple grand on them.

Zipp 202 carbon wheels

Zipp 202 carbon wheels

What I liked… these things are fast.  I had to be careful as I was following other riders because the wheels got up to speed fast and then held it.  I was coming up much faster on leading riders as we rode out in a double pace line.  Improved acceleration was noticeable and the rolling resistance minimal.

Climbing was also done with ease – relatively speaking, of course.  The problem with was that several times I think I over did it as I tested out the wheels and was pretty much worn out by the time I reached Paris Mountain.  That is  when I really wanted the wheels to give me an advantage.

We had ridden over 25 miles by the time we started up and we had been smokin’ fast up to that point.  We slowed just a bit before reaching the bottom because Billy had fallen back – he had been fighting stomach issues.  John with Barley’s happened along and paced him back to us.

Typically after an effort like that it takes me between 13 to 13.5 minutes to climb Altamont.  I did the first half last night in 5 minutes and 40 seconds.  However, about 9 minutes in I knew I was in  trouble.  Still, I have to say things would have been much worse without the wheels.

I was on The Wall when I looked down to see my computer read 12 minutes 3 seconds.  There would be no PB for me tonight.  I could have pushed it and pulled off a 12:30.  That is a minute faster than normal for this ride.  However, I didn’t see the need and just sat up and meandered over the KOM line.

What I didn’t like about the wheels was the roughness of the ride.  They didn’t seem as rough as I had been led to believe they would be, but it certainly was not as smooth as my current wheels.  The braking on the carbon rim was also an issue.  It was, as I put it, herky-jerky. They were also noisy.  They seemed to flex and rub on my brake pads when I was under load.

Now, it could be that this was all because I had put these wheels on for just this test.  Perhaps some of the noises I was hearing would have cleared up had the bike been dialed in specifically for the wheel set.  Certainly, these wheels were made for climbing!

The primary thing that would keep me off of them would be the price.  They are so expensive, I would be near a panic attack each time I would ride them in a pack.  I also think that even with the added weight, I would prefer an aluminum braking surface.

One mean Giant machine!

One mean Giant machine!

It was great fun to climb on what seemed essentially to be a new bike.  Yep, Reece, what you say is true, “New cables… It’s like having a brand new bike.”  Oh, don’t forget about that new seat!