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Old 05-30-11, 03:29 PM   #1
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n+1=n; n>1

I've been riding for a bit over two years, and on my steel Gunnar Sport for a bit over a year of that. Last December, I hired a coach and started training to race. I've enjoyed riding and racing the Gunnar, though it took me awhile to get where I could steer the big beast around corners. In fact, I crashed (hard) the first time I tried to push the pace on it during a charity ride, not quite making it around a downhill off-camber corner. Somehow, the cracked ribs and being knocked unconscious gave me a need for speed, and I've been riding the Gunnar with confidence in fast group pacelines, crit's and road races. However, as I improved my fitness, it became clear that the Gunnar's 22# weight, and its handling, were beginning to hold me back. My size (6'6" and 198#) and age (56) are enough to hold me back, all else being equal, and so I decided to take the plunge and buy a full carbon race bike. For edutainment purposes, I'll go through the decision and purchase process.

Step 1: The first decision was whether to once again go custom, or to try an off-the-shelf bikes. I quickly decided I wanted something off-the-shelf, believing my improved fitness would enable me to comfortably ride a bike with greater saddle-to-bar drop than what I was using with the Gunnar. I wanted 'monocoque' construction, with shaped tubing, as opposed to round tubing cut to size and then mated with carbon or Ti lugs. I also wanted to pay a reasonable, non-custom price, like normal people do.

Step 2: Having never really stopped keeping my eye out for tall off-the-shelf bikes, Step 2 was mostly just making sure I hadn't missed anything. So I surveyed websites, filtering the options based almost entirely on Head Tube length (HT), which controls saddle-to-bar drop. My Gunnar has a 29cm HT. I knew I could go down from there, but I set my minumum HT length at ">20". My other key criteria was a good all around racing bike that I could use in everything from a criterium to a long road race, and, after that, local availability and LBS considerations. I fairly quickly narrowed my choices down to these three bikes:

Specialized Tarmac 61cm (23cm HT)
Cervelo R3 61cm (22.5cm HT)
Trek Madone 64cm H2 (25cm HT)

Luckily for me, the bike shop favored by my coach, where I could get a "Friend of Coach" discount, carries all three brands. That's rare, but this LBS is Phoenix's 800 pound gorilla of bike shops, so the brands live with it. I stopped by, and talked to coach's friend about the options. He is a huge fan of the Tarmac, but it became apparent that the geometry would be a truly radical change for me. Ditto with the Cervelo. I had my Gunnar with me, and he happened to have the largest Madone (64cm H2) on the rack. That was a shock. So with tape measures, a level and plumb bob, we began determining how close the Madone could come to the fit of my Gunnar. Turns out that was pretty darned close. With the spacers in place, and the stem up, the bar drop of the Madone matched my Gunnar with no spacers and the 120mm stem flipped down. So we made the Gunnar match the Madone drop, and I rode it that way for awhile, including in a crit, some hard training rides, and a 70 mile road race. I had no issues.

Step 3: We reached the point here in Phoenix where there is a big gap in the racing schedule. There are a couple of Summer races at cooler altitudes, but racing in "The Valley" was over. It was time to get serious about the new bike. I started sorting out the options, from upgrading the 5.2 on the rack, to doing a customized order of the most advanced Madone 6 series. It turned out that the primary upgrades for the 6 series frame are a different carbon layup, made in the US, that enables the same strength with less (lighter) carbon, and a fork where even the steerer tube is CF. Except, that is, in the 64cm size, where the fork reverts back to an alloy steerer tube. So, for me, the 6 series only offered more advanced CF, with no real weight series. Plus, I would likely not be able to test ride a 6 series. I was lucky to find the 5 series to ride.

When I called the LBS to discuss these parameters, I got a shock. Trek had sold out the years manufacturing run of 6 series Madones in the largest 64cm size. Oh, and another really tall guy had crashed his bike and was seriously considering the 64cm Madone on the rack. I decided it was time, and pulled the trigger on the 5.2, ordering swapouts of the bars, the saddle and the rear derailleur, and taking a big plunge on some Zipp 404 tubular racing wheels.

For comparison, here is the Gunnar Sport - 22#:


Here is the Trek Madone 5.2, in training mode - 18.4#:


And here it is in racing mode - 17#:


While the weight reduction is significant, I'm finding other factors to be of even greater benefit. I rode the Madone on a hard century (110 miles; 6,500' of climbing) 4 days after picking it up. I was in better shape at the end of that ride than any long ride I ever did on the Gunnar. The Madone is smoother over bumps, vibrates less, and must be significantly more vertically compliant, because it is just not as taxing to ride. It's possible that the lateral flex in the Gunnar contributes somehow to fatigue - I dunno.

The other huge surprise is the handling. I'm a big guy, and I make for a very high center of gravity. I was worried that the more aggressive geometry (shorter wheelbase, more vertical head tube and less trail) would make the bike twitchy and hard to handle. Such is not the case. It turns out it is much easier to handle, because it goes where I want it to go! I no longer have to really focus on getting the bike around turns - it just happens much more naturally. One side benefit of its steerability is my ability to ride the Madone with no hands. Riding no hands on the Gunnar is problematic, and always short lived as the bike wanders off course and I try like hell to work it back in line. I can ride the Madone no hands down the bike path, even around curves, and even if I need to stay to my side so someone can get through going the other way. The only price for this handling I've found so far is a very slight tendency for the front wheel to jump around a little at over 40mph - I need to pay attention to hold a precise line at very high speed.

I got my first rides on the Zipp wheels last evening and this morning. Last evening we had winds gusting over 20mph, so it was a good indication of the handling of the deep section CF rims. While I could certainly feel the effects of the gusts, moreso than on the shallow training rims, there was no twisting vector to the force, so I could maintain a straight line and felt totally safe.

So, there you have it. I'm absolutely loving the new bike. It is fast, and it is comfortable. The only complaint I have is that, when I removed the rear wheel to fix a flat and try the Zipps on for the first time, I found this chip in the frame at the dropout. The skewer of the stock Bontrager wheels dug into the frame, probably due to the bike being on the rack and subject to test rides for awhile. I'm figuring out what to ask the LBS to do about it. Fill it with epoxy and touch it up? Store credit? Suggestions encouraged!

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Old 05-30-11, 04:16 PM   #2
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Most interesting. Thanks for sharing. I have greatly enjoyed following your training and racing progress on the 50+ racing thread. You have done amazing things in just 2 years.
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Old 05-30-11, 05:23 PM   #3
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Great solution to a difficult set of requirements.
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Old 05-30-11, 06:20 PM   #4
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Looks like a great bike. Amazing how they were able to handle your sizing requirements without drawing nearly as much visual attention to the head tube length.
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Old 05-30-11, 07:41 PM   #5
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Somehow the new bike does not look nearly as humongous as the Gunnar. Good find. The hands free phenomenon is interesting too. I suspect you'll have to live with the little CF chip but what do I know?
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Old 05-31-11, 09:36 AM   #6
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Somehow the new bike does not look nearly as humongous as the Gunnar.
Exactly what I thought when I first looked at it.

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The hands free phenomenon is interesting too.
And the opposite of what I was expecting.

But I was cruising along no hands in a bike lane this morning when a semi went by... sucked me over way too close before I got it corrected.
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Old 05-31-11, 10:40 AM   #7
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The chip near the drop-out needs attention. However, it may only be cosmetic since the alloy section bonded to the CF is the structure supporting the axle. Just don't allow the CF to delam at that point. I would be interested to know what the LBS & Trek do about it.
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Old 05-31-11, 04:24 PM   #8
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this LBS is Phoenix's 800 pound gorilla of bike shops
I have been riding slightly longer than you, I know every bike shop in the east valley, and I have no idea which one you're talking about. There is none that's that much better than the others. Every shop has their 2 or 3 brands that they sell.

Just saying.
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Old 05-31-11, 05:03 PM   #9
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I have been riding slightly longer than you, I know every bike shop in the east valley, and I have no idea which one you're talking about. There is none that's that much better than the others. Every shop has their 2 or 3 brands that they sell.

Just saying.
I'm talking about Landis. 4 locations; opened 1912; pretty sure more sales than anyone else in these parts; and I'm not aware of any other shop in the region that carries both Trek and Specialized. Usually it's one or the other.

I disagree that there aren't any that are better than others. If it wasn't so far from me, I'd frequent Focus (Gilbert) - great shop, especially for the performance oriented. Once you have your bike, it's all about the quality of the shop wrenches, and their ability/willingness to help you when you really need it.
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Old 05-31-11, 08:23 PM   #10
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Pretty complete "thinking it through". You do know that if it were a full ti bike there would be no chip in the frame at the dropout, right?

Any question about the bike's chip should be answered better by the dealer I would think.
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Old 06-01-11, 07:17 PM   #11
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Very, very nice new Madone! That is one tall headtube!
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Old 06-01-11, 07:48 PM   #12
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Man that Gunner is tall! I like the Madone especially in it's "Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes". May I be the first to say "flip the stem". Seriously, if your coach approves, during the lull in racing you should try to drop the bars down to be more aerodynamic. As tall as you are a 4- 6" drop would help.

As for the chip. Have the dealer look at it for structural integrity. It's a racing bike that will be in crashes or minor dust-ups sometimes in the future and chips and scrapes are battle tattoos that comes with the territory.
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Old 06-01-11, 08:47 PM   #13
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I had a Madone 5.2 before my Cervelo R3 and it was a great bike. The deep section carbon wheels make the bike look really good and modern.

I am with A'Jet. The seat to bar drop looks way off for your size based upon taller riders I know. Normally, the seat to bar drop is large. Here is a pic of the main man (Johan Van Summeren) in the Silence Lotto kit in the pack. His profile is pretty good and he does not look out of place compared to the others. His seat to bar drop is very large. Of course, you have to have the flexibility but that can come over time.

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Old 06-01-11, 09:34 PM   #14
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I set it up initially to match the Gunnar, which is a ~4cm drop. That is pretty comfy, and I've already talked to coach about bringing it down. She wants me to do it one spacer at a time, but I may go for the gusto and just flip it.
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Old 06-02-11, 04:10 AM   #15
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Your LBS might be OK checking and refinishing the chip with some expoxy resin because that is all that it looks like it needs.

But you might have an uphill battle getting them to do or pay you anything else for it. Had you noticed it before you walked out the shop on taking delivery, you might have had a case. But right now, they only have your word that you didn't damage it yourself.

The Madone is a nice looking ride considering the size. The Gunnar, to me, not so much, especially with that ultrahuge headtube.
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Old 06-02-11, 11:10 AM   #16
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I'm talking about Landis. 4 locations; opened 1912; pretty sure more sales than anyone else in these parts; and I'm not aware of any other shop in the region that carries both Trek and Specialized. Usually it's one or the other.

I disagree that there aren't any that are better than others. If it wasn't so far from me, I'd frequent Focus (Gilbert) - great shop, especially for the performance oriented. Once you have your bike, it's all about the quality of the shop wrenches, and their ability/willingness to help you when you really need it.
Well, I have bought the occasional part at Landis although I did have a bad experience with their service which in hindsight, probably cost them a sale when I bought my last bike. I bought the bike at Performance but their service is indifferent. Focus did a fitting for me, but since they moved to their new location they're just too far away. I haven't found any real reason to favor any shop, since so many have opened recently it seems like you can find a bike shop on almost every corner.
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Old 06-02-11, 11:30 AM   #17
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So a carbon frame out performs steel??? Who would have ever guessed such a thing since steel is so real.
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Old 06-02-11, 11:46 AM   #18
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So a carbon frame out performs steel??? Who would have ever guessed such a thing since steel is so real.
Or perhaps a racing bike outperforms a sport touring bike?
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Old 06-02-11, 02:03 PM   #19
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Wow, that is a huge Gunnar Sport. Looks great though!
It would be funny to put my tiny 44cm Sport up next to it for comparison.
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Old 06-04-11, 02:53 PM   #20
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May I be the first to say "flip the stem". Seriously, if your coach approves, during the lull in racing you should try to drop the bars down to be more aerodynamic. As tall as you are a 4- 6" drop would help.
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I am with A'Jet. The seat to bar drop looks way off for your size based upon taller riders I know.
This better?



Gotta love bike shops. I had called and talked to someone about the chip, and was told to just stop by tomorrow, anytime, and that anyone could look at it. I get there (left work), and I get "Can you come back later?" But just as the steam was starting to come out my ears, the manager returned from wherever he had been. He touched it up, with paint.
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Old 06-05-11, 12:41 PM   #21
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Hi AzTR,

That looks much better. I am still kind of shocked about your frame sizes though -- even your new bike, but much less so than the Gunnar. I have several friends who are around your height and none of them ride bikes with head tubes remotely as long as yours. Here is a photo of my teammate who is 6' 8" tall:



Here is a link to another photo of him on his road bike:

http://shar.es/H4A9z

Both of his bikes are custom aluminum frames.

I always tell people that you can't do bike fittings over the internet so I won't try to do so right now. I'll just make the comment that even with your Trek, those are some of the longest head tubes I've ever seen, especially on a race bike.

Of course you might say that my bikes have some of the shortest head tubes you've ever seen on a race bike.

Regardless, ride the heck out of your new bike.
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Old 06-05-11, 01:23 PM   #22
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That looks much better. I am still kind of shocked about your frame sizes though -- even your new bike, but much less so than the Gunnar.
I may eventually be able to do well on a smaller frame, Cleave... I'm just at the start of my third year riding (first year really training), and this Madone gives me a fairly wide range of adjustability as my race fitness improves. I need to measure it since I've tweaked things, but my drop is now 6-7cm, and I can increase that another 3cm by taking out spacers. To go beyond that, I'd get a -17* stem.


Quote:
Regardless, ride the heck out of your new bike.
I am most certainly doing that!
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Old 06-06-11, 10:25 PM   #23
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This better?

Yes, much better.
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Old 06-15-11, 09:28 AM   #24
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Lennard Zinn explaines the issues in building bike for larger cyclists: http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/...-poorly_121162
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Old 06-15-11, 10:38 AM   #25
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Lennard Zinn explaines the issues in building bike for larger cyclists: http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/...-poorly_121162
Great article, and totally jives with my experience: light front end, slow handling, easy to oversteer (major crash that way just after I got my Gunnar), occasional front end shaking of the bars on a bumpy downhill. And, just as he said, the fitters keep pushing my seat way back (well behind KOPS), even when spec'ing the Gunnar, which lead to a short TT (60) when compared to the height of the bike (68). As my power and fitness have improved, and I've grown to understand the affects on handling, I've brought my saddle forward. It sure feels good to have more weight on the front wheel. Everything just works better.

During the upcoming racing off-season, I'll likely keep moving me saddle forward until it becomes hard to keep my nose off the stem with my hands behind my back while cranking at a reasonable pace (on the trainer). That's a pretty good measure of your position relative to the crank. As you get stronger, your position relative to KOP tends to move forward, because your peddling pushes you up, and you don't need to be as far behind the BB.

I use 175mm cranks - any longer than that, and I'd really be worried about clipping the ground in a race. Coasting through corners, when other people are peddling hard, doesn't improve your race results.
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