Tonight I am going to indulge myself.
I’m sorry. Not National Apology Sorry. Not sorry like when I mis-hear something cause you’re mumbling or sorry when I accidentally catch you having a moment with a co-worker in a lift and cannot help but see.
So my apology is somewhat like that, but maybe less than that. But it is still an apology.
And the reason is most of this blog is just me gushing over my new bike. In some attempt to atone for this indulgence – I will try to make it accessible enough to the lay reader. I will explain technical stuff and various bike nomenclature. But it’s a special occasion, an upgrade worthy of comparing it to the trusty old adage of the Wizard of Oz movie where Dorothy reaches Oz and black and white became colour. This is what it MEANS.
For trainspotters – the bike is a 2011 Felt AR0. Full carbon frame, a Dura Ace Di2 groupset – top of the range – and a Shimano RS80 wheelset (which is decent, but not all that impressive).
Overall, the bike retails (with a much more impressive wheelset) for over 10k but I got it cheap cause my mate Gypsy works for a pro-cycling team and it was one of their surplus bikes.
It just came about randomly when Gypsy asked how my bike hunt was going. I had all but given up on the Look 586 SL I had coveted for so long. He then texted saying he had this bike available.
(This is the Look I wanted but couldn’t get)
I waited about 2 agonising weeks until an opportunity arose to pick it up. I didn’t really know how to pay for it other than cash so I withdrew $1000 every so often and walked around the city with a fat wallet hoping no one would notice. I then dragged the wad home, stashing it (ironically) in an envelope underneath the spare bed. I figured that was safer than storing the cash under the actual bed.
Next thing I knew I had a date this Tuesday night and I went off with my bulging envelope of exactly 99 $50 notes and two $20s and a ten (cause I had to scrounge the last few bills). Suddenly the bike was home, minus wheels but just glowing in the warmness of an evening inside a house with as much diffused electric downlighting as possible and lamp shades at every 5 paces. (I have sensitive eyes).
The bike looked DARK under these conditions. I wasn’t upset about that. But it was a pleasant surprise to finally see it in daylight. The bike had this “wetness” to various decals and inlays, and the rest – the exposed honeycomb-hatching of pure carbon – just shone in the open-air. It SUNG a song of speed and glory. At work I was so excited I hastily managed to compose a song about it – mostly spoken word – but a song all the same.
And this reminds me how on the way to work a week and a bit ago, a Friday, I was rolling as slow as I could to save my legs for the weekend. And this guy on a Felt overtook me. Partly cause of pride and party cause I was so excited I chased him down and said how I was gonna get a Felt soon and what was the bike like? After our chat I said thanks and then I smashed ahead and forgot about how I was meant to take it easy.
CARBON FAIL STORIES
At home the night before I got to ride it I had to adjust the saddle and the seat-post without a torque wrench (which the manual is pretty strict about). Indeed the bike itself has markers saying this bolt needs to be tightened “9nms”, this bolt “10nms” etc. See carbon is delicate and if you over-tighten bolts it can be disastrous. Carbon under distress will weaken without any visible outward signs. I have never had a carbon bike before. Indeed I have never even ridden a carbon bike – but I did have TWO carbon seatposts (on the Trek). Both broke almost immediately after visits to bike stores for tune ups. I am pretty dirty about this – because the first time the bike mechanic told me off for not tightening bolts enough. Then he adjusted the seatpost and 3 days later I was jumping down a curb and i hear this CRACK! The seat-tube had snapped, but had managed to stay in one piece thus saving me from disaster.
The next time was just a few days after a visit to a bike store in Wilston I asked them to move the seatpost up a fraction. A few days later after a ride home from work where I SMASHED down Bowen Bridge Rd, beside the hospital, at 60+ km/hr, I arrived at home and jumped off the bike and in the process noticed my leg had bumped the saddle. But then the saddle just wobbled. Hideously. I examined the seat tube, not a year old, and it was cactus. The crack in it was brutal. I really don’t know how it didn’t fail completely on that trip down past Brisbane Hospital. I was a bit shakey, but all’s well that ends well. Apparently.
I then stuck a trusty aluminum tube in. It was safer and besides – the shiny metal suited the bike’s colour scheme much better.
So on Tuesday night I just counted how many revolutions I loosened and repeated that in tightening, like a HUMAN TORQUE-WRENCH! And I made sure I didn’t tighten too much. I figured too-loose will just mean the post drops – no disaster in that. Post breaks, well I could be dead.
WESTERN FREEWAY CHALLENGE PWNAGE
So getting back to the new bike. Despite me tightening bolts just by inspiration, rather than science, I managed to get it into my specs. The seat tube was a bit short, but I decided to give it a go and I could always buy a longer one if it was necessary.
On Wednesday to test the bike out I had to put on my old set of wheels. I just couldn’t change the gears much cause the chain wasn’t long enough. But then after a bit of wandering around town I got my brand new set of wheels and Gypsy at Gear set the bike up and I was away, just in time to bring it on with the unofficial racing in the “Western Freeway Classic”.
For the un-initiated, the Western Freeway Classic is a loose bike race amongst the super-commuters from about 4pm – 6pm – along the 3.5km bumpy stretch of the western freeway bikepath from Toowong to Moggill Road.
So I came up behind a dude who looked the “Business”. He was in full kit, etc and me – in civies and avec a back pack – just followed him up the initial hill. But he was going pretty slow, so I overtook him. It was obvious he didn’t like that because 30 seconds later he took the lead again and ramped up the speed. I just followed and sucked his wheel all the way down the hill. It was now only about 500 metres to the finish and there was a tiny rise and I had to get out of his slipstream lest I run up the back of him or have to grab some brakes. With this momentum I thought I might just attack. It was also the gentlemanly way cause if I attacked right at the end that really didn’t give him much of a chance (cause it wasn’t really an official race).
I smashed ahead and didn’t bother to change my gearing. Meanwhile behind me I heard this “CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, CLICK” as he changed up to the top of all his gears. I spun, spun, spun, like I was just pushing harder, but I really should have just sprinted – like he was. He then went zooming past and I was gone. I am learning about racing. Slowly learning.
SATURDAY RIDE AND Di2 THOUGHTS
The Saturday ride (yesterday) was a revelation. I got a bit cocky and agreed to a pre-ride river-loop with Shirts. That went fine and just a tiny bit destroyed (but happy for the break) we met up with the boys at Planet Cycles and then after a coffee we smashed out towards the bay into a head-wind. That went fine, but after the cafe-stop at Cleveland we headed out into the wind again and I was feeling a bit sore and sorry with all this wind battle. I felt pathetic and was worried a cramp might start up in my left calf which had been aching for ages. But as soon as we changed direction and the wind was behind I loosened up. I suddenly wanted to test the bike so I just let loose. FUCK IT, I thought. I figured if I got cramps I’d just limp home, maybe even train it if it got desperate. No biggie.
But I just managed to destroy it. I clicked through the gears and just spun. It was like I was renewed. After a few smashes on Mt Cotton Road this slight downhill appeared and I noticed a car behind about to overtake – so I jumped and ran it down, trying to grab it’s slipstream. The other thing about this bike that I was quickly appreciating was it has proper RACE gearing. Like before I had been riding a “compact crankset” which is basically about 20% less powerful than a race crankset. The numbers speak for themselves – 53/39 vs 50/34.
So the amount of speed I was able to spin up in its biggest gear was incredible. Nothing I had ever experienced before. I really thought I had no chance of chasing that car, but the gears gave me the goods. Amazing.
The smash down Camp Hill was another sheer joy. I beat every car and then some. I hit my top speed for the day in this section.
Di2 is everything they say it is. They say you’ll never go back to mechanical shifting after you have it – I have to admit they are right. [Di2 is an electronic gear shifting system. In commercial bikes, it is only a year or two old. It’s expensive and heavier but it seems to have proved itself. Cadel rode it in his TDF victory for instance]
The gear changes are impossibly smooth (and quick!) and can be effected even when standing. It makes this robotic sound almost exactly like Robocop (but a tiny bit like C3PO too – don’t tell anyone.) The shift up from the small front ring to the large occurs like magic. It is sublime. I cannot tell you how amazing this is from someone who used to first make sure the chain was in the centre of the cassette at the back, then massage, nee slowly finesse, maybe even verbally coax the gears with my limble, weary fingers into that change. And even then it would fail about 20% of the time and I would drop the chain.
So hills will be more difficult with the higher ratio I have now but I did a few Coot-thas today and it wasn’t so bad. I can get used to it. Especially cause I set a new record down Coot-tha and sprinting towards the Toowong roundabout I hit 65km/hr without much trouble. I think that was partly the stiffness of the carbon. All strokes get translated into torque rather than getting slightly soaked up by bending the frame of the bike.
On the hills, despite how sore I was from the previous day’s 111km smash, I felt quite nimble up the 2.3km climb. I did it in 12 minutes – which is pretty respectable. And more respectable seeing as I wasn’t attacking and just happy to get the the top. It’s good. Quite happy. I wholeheartedly endorse this product!
(Oh and below is perhaps a racing wheelset i might indulge in one day. Looks like the happiest marriage ever to me!)