Same Bike New Wheels

Late last week, before flying to NJ, I went into Singletrack Cycles to take a look at their assortment of road bikes and before I knew it, I was being fitted to a spectacular 2008 Trek Madone that, even with the absurd deal I was offered, was still out of my price-range for what I consider the necessary evil of road biking. The combination of being a deal I couldn't refuse and the sextacular look of the bike weakened my knees and being that I was lining myself up for a month of sleeping on the couch (or in a tent in the yard), I figured I'd get some new shoes as well.

As luck would have it, the bike was too small. I told Loren that my other bikes were all size 60cm, but he was positive I'd fit on a 58cm. Nope. The only bike they had in my size was a low-end Trek that simply wouldn't cut it. I was running late to meet Kristin and friends to see the play, so I skipped out without further negotiations.

And I was glad I did because at best, I would have ridden the bike and suffered the blow to our finances and, at worse, I would have sold it in the fall and inadvertently totally taken advantage of the generosity afforded me by the owners of the shop. I didn't want either of those situations to take place. Not to mention, Kristin and I have been talking an awful lot about building up a pair of touring bikes for next year.

I returned to the shop the next day and this time decided I simply wanted to put a pair of stiff, lightweight wheels on my existing bike. It turned out that all of the flex I was experiencing on my Scattante R-660 was not due to the frame -- it's aluminum after all -- but rather due to the very cheap wheels it shipped with. Again, Loren and Brandon offered me a great deal on a set of '07 Bontrager Race Lite wheels and, to this, I happily swiped the plastic. They're not a super lightweight racing wheel by any means, but they are a fine wheel for my purposes.

So I went to retrieve my bike from the queu at Performance Bike where I left it for the free tune-up they offer. And that's when I realized I made a terrible mistake in an earlier post when I was talking about running a 30 tooth cog and wanting a 32. Rubbish. My bike actually came with a 12-25t 10-speed Ultegra cassette, not a 30t. Rather than counting the teeth, I was looking at the inscription on the cog and some gobbleygook looked like it said 30. It didn't. They didn't have any 12-27 cassettes in stock, so I picked up another 12-25t and a new chain and was out the door, dragging my still-limping bike behind me.

I mounted up the new cassette, chain, and wheels last night and something seemed very wrong. The front wheel was great, but there was a problem with the skewer in the rear hub that basically caused the rear wheel not to spin. I thought it was just me making another bone-headed bicycle mechanic move so I brought everything over to Singletrack Cycles today. Loren dropped what he was doing to look at it -- I didn't do anything wrong, there's a problem in the hub. I left the bike with him and two hours later got a call saying he swapped the suspect wheel out for one of the 08's they had on another bike. Problem solved.

When I picked it up I also made sure to get the new shoes and pedals I was going to put on the Madone. I've been wearing the same beat-up pair of Sidi road shoes since 1998 and with the Native Planet Classic and RAMROD on the calendar -- and memories of the pain I suffered during last year's STP still fresh in my mind -- I figured I was do. The new Ultegra pedals offer a fantastically wide platform to clip into and the Specialized Pro Carbon shoes are not only very comfortable, but also very light and stiff. A fine investment that, hopefully, will last at least half as long as my Sidis.


So how did it all go? I took my suped-up fake Italian bike out for a 20 mile group ride tonight and it felt great. The bike is definitely stiffer and even feels a little lighter too. Acceleration is great. Erik took us up Uplands Way in North Bend -- a hill that he's been tauting me with for quite some time. It climbs about 600 feet in 1.4 miles so, essentially, it's just like Tolt Hill Road in Carnation. The difference, however, is that this road has incredible mountain views, is very smooth, and passes multi-million dollar gated estates.

I felt very sluggish on the climb and I can't tell if that was because I hadn't ridden in 10 days or because I pushed too hard early in the climb, but I was definitely expecting a crew of folks to pass me halfway up the hill. Nobody did, so perhaps it was imagination, but I'm definitely counting the teeth on that cassette tomorrow to make sure it does in fact have 25 of them.

And I'm ordering a 12-27t for next weekend's trip through the North Cascades either way. I don't have a compact drivetrain on this bike and with four mountain passes to climb, I'm going to want a bail-out ring.

I leave tomorrow for the Test of Metal in Squamish, BC. Fortunately, this time I have someone carpooling with me and will not only save some money in gas, but he's splitting the room with me too.

Lets hope I can finally get a good race under my belt this year and get a jump on the rest of the summer events. Have a good weekend and happy father's day to the dads among you.


Anonymous said...

Hey Doug,
The new wheels, shoes and pedals sound like a nice compromise that will do the job for your end needs. Wheels make a HUGE difference in how a road bike rides. When you wrote about your aluminum bike flexing I must admit I started to wonder if you had a cracked frame or something - those things are unyielding normally.

I'm not surprised to hear you had a 12-25 on your old wheels too. If your bike was a triple, you would have a medium or long cage rear derailleur that could handle a 12-30, but that's just not normal on a road bike so I was scratching my head on that one too...which is why I wrote you could just run the 12-25 likely. Obviously you worked that all out.

Good luck in B.C. and next week at the Native Planet. I've ridden the North Cascades both directions and it's fun and gorgeous!

I'll be riding the Tour de Blast with a couple other guys. I had to decide between Native Planet and Tour de Blast. I chose TdB because I haven't done that route before.



Doug Walsh said...

Thanks for writing, Cary. Yeah, I feel like a bit of a moron for the 12-30 comment. I was shocked to learn it was the wheels allowing the frame to flex so badly at the bottom bracket (seemingly flex, I should say) but that appears to be the culprit.

And yeah, the wheels and new pedals and shoes area good compromise. We are saving for a RTW trip, after all. Buying a new road bike would have got in the way of that.

Have a good week!