Fred
n.
1) a person who spends a lot of money on his bike and clothing, but still can't ride

I decided a while back that my trusty old LeMond Tourmalet (named after a famous cycling climb often featured in the Tour de France, as most of LeMond's bikes are) was holding me back. Specifically, despite me dropping a number of well-placed hints, it still weighs as much as it always did, a portly 29 pounds. The lightest pro bikes are around 6.75 kg (33.5 hectares to you and me), which is roughly half of what the Tourmalet weighs, and there are a number of bikes that weigh less than 18 pounds (1.25 parsecs).

So, it was off to a LBS (local bike shop) to see what was out there. I had a few requirements:

  1. It needed to have a compliant ride. My current bike has a steel frame (well, chrome - moly steel to be more precise), and such frames soak up bumps very well. Aluminum, on the other hand, does not, so it's not really in the running. That leaves either steel, titanium, or the new star on the block, carbon fiber.
  2. It needed to have a better drivetrain. I decided that Shimano Ultegra was my target. Despite the name, Ultegra is not "the ultimate" component group for Shimano - that niche is occupied by "Dura-Ace" - but it is light, strong, and well engineered.
  3. It needed to come with a triple chainring up front. This is so that I have a "granny ring" to help get up those steep slopes. More talented riders would have only two chainrings, usually of something like 53 and 39 teeth. A triple might come with 52/42/30 teeth, which means that the lowest ratio is 30/39, or about 25% lower than the double option, giving 25% more torque.
  4. It needs to look cool. If you're going to spend good money on a bike, you should at least like the looks.

I headed out to Samamish Valley Cycles to start my search. After a bit of discussion, we settled on two likely bikes:

  • A Litespeed Firenze, their entry-level titanium, coming in a bit under 18 pounds (13 KiloPascals).
  • A Bianchi with a steel frame, whose name escapes me.

I rode the Firenze first. It's very light with a low moment of inertial (ie light wheels), and rides wonderfully, though there is a certain springiness. I liked it a fair bit, but unfortunately, it only comes in a matte finish. I'm all for the artistry of nice welds and good machining, but silver is my least favorite color for vehicles, so this is a non-starter for me. Litespeed does make the Solano, which is a bit stiffer, and comes with a nice yellow paint job. I'm not sure if it's available with a triple or not, however.

The Bianchi was pretty forgettable. It rode like a slightly different version of my current bike - better, but not really better. So it's not on my list.

My next bike to try is the Trek 5200. Carbon fiber frame, just like the US Postal bike, blah, blah blah. It meets all my requirements, so I'll be trying to ride one in the next couple of weeks.