Well, I finally managed to get The Bike out on the road today. It was worth the wait. Here are the initial impressions:
Drivetrain: No surprises with the shifting. Iíve ridden Dura-Ace a few times before, and it just works. Simple, solid and positive... you ask for a gear and you get it. Iíve got a little adjusting to do on the front derailleur, but the LBS dialed the back one in perfectly.
So far Iím pleased with the cassette and crankset choices. I went with a 12-27 cassette and a 50-36 compact crankset. Itís very hilly where I ride and Iím a spinner, not a masher, but the 36/27 combo handled the nastiest hills on my first ride just fine. And 50/12 at the top end gives me everything I need. The one downside to a compact that you always hear about, and itís true, is that you have to change gears a bit more than with a triple. The jump from 50 to 36 or vice versa up front is a big one, and when you do it you usually also have to click through a gear or two in back to get to where you want to be. But 50-36 is not as extreme in this regard as the 50-34 on some compacts, and the shifting is so smooth and easy anyway that I didnít find it to be a big deal.
Aerodynamics: The setup on this bike is completely different from the touring bike that Iím used to, and it does a much better job of getting you out of the wind. On the hoods on this bike I felt more aerodynamic than in the drops on my other one, and the position is very comfortable. Riding in the drops will take a little time to grow accustomed to, but damn, itís fast.
Acceleration and Climbing: Hereís where the low weight pays off. The total weight of this thing is about 16.2 pounds. You feel the low weight on the climbs, and you really feel it when you accelerate. This bike just jumps when you ask it to.
Ride and Handling: This is the area was where I was most uncertain, since I only got to do fairly short test rides before deciding what to buy. Turns out itís the ride, more than anything else, that sets it above other nice bikes Iíve been on. Itís incredibly stiff, but at the same time it absorbs the little bumps in the road beautifully. I rode a titanium frame for a couple of days recently, and you could feel every little piece of gravel in the road. Not so with carbonÖ the feel is silky smooth. I think you could put in some very long days on this bike and not feel beat up at the end.
I canít say as much about handling as Iíd like, since my bike handling skills are frankly not at a level where I can push a bike like this to its limits. I will say that itís amazingly stable on the downhills. I rode the one big downhill on my ride today faster than Iíve ever ridden anything in my life, yet it didnít feel squirrelly or scary at all. Iím actually going to have to be careful with this thing on downhills that Iím not familiar with, since it rides so smoothly that it tempts you to really crank it up.
The Dura-Ace brakes are great: solid and positive. As for the saddle, Iíve got my doubts after one ride, but weíll see.
Finally, there are the intangibles. Itís just a sweet bike to be on. It was cold today Ė about 25 degrees Ė and I really hadnít intended to be out for too long. But each time I got to a place where I could have turned for home, I kept thinking "just a little longer". My feet were like blocks of ice when I finally did get home, but boy did I have a smile on my face.
A few pictures are attached below. Weíve just begun our relationship, but I think The Bike and I are going to have some very good times together.