After starting as a mechanic at my LBS I quickly tasted the carbon Kool-Aid. It suddenly became overwhelmingly important to me to try one. Employee discounts made it darn near irresistible. We're a Cannondale dealer so I pro-deal'ed a SuperSix, a Chorus 11 group and some fine Easton wheels. Guess I won't get a paycheck next month..
I have never ridden a road bike of anything but steel. My first real fine ride was a Columbus frame decked out in Super Record, which I bought new for my own earnings in 1981 or so. So here I am, an average rider at age 48 and suddenly set up with something near identical to Nibali's Giro bike. And how is it all, then?
The thing weighs 16.6 lbs as photographed. It's a size 58 and, thank you Peter Denk, it has a near horizontal top tube. Nothing hurts my eye more than a compact frame with STI antlers on the bars. Still, the SuperSix has some pretty loud and garish graphics, all presented in huge contrasts in color. Add to that the dizzying wheel logos and you have the quintessential, headache inducing 'look'.
These are my observations so far:
Putting the bike together required many tools and supplies not available in my otherwise well equipped vintage home shop. Some of these included: Torque wrench, Fiber Grip paste and Torx keys. Weird chain peening tool. Special bearing and cup presses will also be needed when I get around to switching out the dedicated BB30 crank with a Campy. Lots of stuff, including the mid level Chorus group feel plasticky and flimsy. Guess that's where the 16lb total weight comes from.
And the ride? My main issue with riding steel is high speed descents. Being on a big enough bike to suit my 6'2" frame has always been quite unstable. I've never gotten completely out of control thanks to a firm grip on the hoods and the occasional double knee squeeze to stabilize a wobbling top tube. With this here carbon bicycle I descend rock solid and precise. No fear.
The other thing that immediately felt overwhelmingly different is out of saddle climbing or sprinting. Holy smokes, can I go!! Really, it makes you feel 30 pound lighter or 15 years younger, whichever applies best to illustrate the point. My SuperSix makes me want to climb hills all day, and doing so I get to the top faster and less fatigued. This can't all be from loosing 5 pounds of bike weight. Surely stiffness and advanced geo has far more to do with it.
The longest I've ridden so far is 50 miles. I set the bike up with an aggressive fit, so predictably it didn't feel overly relaxing. But no worse than my Merckx which measurements I tried to copy. Flipping the stem, a 5 minute job, could make things more comfy real fast. I have a very nice steel 'rando' style bike for centuries and such. The Cannondale is for going as fast as possible up to 60 or 70 miles of distance.
Conclusion: I'd much rather, by a long stretch, be wrenching on vintage steel and classic componetry, but when it comes to riding the kind of stuff I do, well, carbon might have the edge.