Day Two of Outdoor Demo begins with a group ride that heads down to Lake Mead. Theres 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 youve 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 wasnt a big priority for me, so I slid to the back to stay out of the grinder. Had there been a crash, I dont 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 wasnt 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. Ive 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 Ive been told, a second here, a second there, is worth more than a gram here, a gram there. Still, Im a bigger fan of more traditional-looking road bikes, and so Im more partial to the F than the AR, but the latter is a terrific take on the aero road bike.
Ive been hearing a lot of buzz about BMC bikes from friends and decided to take out the BMC Team Machine. I dont know how it compares on weight to some of the other marquee bikes, but it gives up nothing in stiffness while the handling is magnificentin the class of the Specialized Tarmac and Felt F. It doesnt 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; its not just because we like George Hincapie.
Another bike I rode last year and need to revisit was the Giant TCR Advanced SL. Id 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 Ive 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 whats out there today. Its 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 Id love to be touring France or Italy on. Its a bike for all-day use, but it really doesnt compromise. Bikes such as this arent 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. Its 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 didnt 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 Ive ever ridden. Ive 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, Ive 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 huntingdrop 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 whats beneath them will love this bike. Its in the same class of stiffness as other top-tier bikes like the Tarmac and F, plus its got Euro cool. Sometimes, you can buy style.
I cant say whether the temperature out there was 100 or 104; it hardly matters. What Im certain about is that I drank seven bottles of 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.
Im so ready for the air-conditioned halls of the Sands Covention Center.