I’ve recently come into possession of a new road bike. it is a replacement for the nanolight i used in last year’s hillclimbs. this year, the nanolight didn’t seem nearly as comfy in longer rides and a few irritating tics started to really get on my nerves, the worst one being more than occasional heelrub on the chainstay. i unceremoniously sold it and began the process of ogling new weaponry.
after eyeing up a few choice pieces of carbon, including the felt f1, i felt that the only way to go was a cervelo for the elusive combination of rigidity and low-weight. the brilliant guys at strada cycles put the build together and i picked it up yesterday afternoon.
i went pretty much the whole hog; 11 speed chorus groupset, rotor chainrings and a fetching 3t cockpit. i even went fully extra on the pedals and got some carbon fibre dura-ace. the saddle is a kit-carbonio that weighs 125g. the new campag levers have odd parallel lines that resemble the gills on a blue whale.
i rode the bike to work this morning, and managed a 21mph average over the 15 mile commute, with 900 feet of climbing, which was reassuring. it caused quite a stir at work amongst the cyclerati… as this email demonstrates:
i took the bike out to have a bit of a blast today, factoring in some of my favourite climbs in the mendips. i started with burrington combe, rode tempo, fairly brisk, attacked it quite hard in the face of a gnarled and blustery headwind, but managed a respectable 8.21. i then rode back across shipham and ascended cheddar gorge; i made mincemeat of the one steep bit before putting the hammer down for the rest of the shallow gradient. a couple of killer climbs were quite testing, chew hill is a real beast, rears up to around 20% at key points and is pretty long. i was about three cogs off the bottom and it felt comfortable and certainly had a semblance of reduced effort and more speed. this could be the psychomatic effect of a new bike.
the downtube is enormous, square and oval, or ‘squoval’, according to the blurb. it meets in the bottom bracket shell with an asymmetric set-up to cover the non-drive side spindle. this means there is very little flex, at all. as a point of comparision, my mercian 531c flexes like a russian gymnast. this r5 is utterly calcified, rigid and unyeilding. in real terms this makes it efficient, but also skittish at low speeds, in a nice way (if that’s possible, i guess what i mean is that it has that sort of reassuring out-and-out racer feel to it). the magic really happens when you start to crank it up, power transmission is instant, the bike flies along and tracks beautifully. i tried the old ‘adjust the jersey, hands in back pockets no hands on bars’ trick at around 22 mph on a fairly lumpy road near priddy. no deviation, it kept a straight face and i felt secure. descending on the r5 leads to a vaguely damascene moment; it’s possible to throw this bike at the corners, work with gravity and ride really aggressively, the stiffness translates into a reassuring stability that means 40mph+ seems like less. at one point during the ride i had to stop and check the cassette because i thought i’d been short changed with a 12 sprocket instead of an 11, but no, it’s just the pace of the beast.i have rotor chainrings, these are very nice.
other things to note, the seatstays are absurdly thin and beautifully elegant. with full light build it weighs 6.8kg. it shouldn’t be too much bother to get it under the UCI legal limit – i have some lighter wheels i might be able to switch, i’m currently a set of fairly old but lightweight zipp 340s.
keith bontrager is always right, and unfortunately he was right in this case:
‘light, cheap and strong – pick two’.
i am looking forward to some races where i can turn the very lovely pedals in anger. i am particularly looking forward to hillclimb season, this bike defies newton.