I chose to do Davis Bike Club's Foxy's fall classic which is pretty much 50 miles of flat, 20 miles of rollers, 18 miles of hills, then another 20 miles of flat.
Elevation Profile -
How did it perform next to an expensive bike? eheh.. good enough I guess.
Handlebars - The handlebars are not ergo in any sense, and not to comfortable in the hooks. Though the giant flats where pretty awesome while on the flats. If I take this bike out on a double century I may consider replacing the stock handlebars with bullhorns for climbing and most importantly making it easier to brake on long descents (controlling the rpm). If I was going to build up a custom bike I would probably get a cross fork with a disk on the front and use ergo drop bars with that. But the front wheel would cost more then my Dawes...
Gearing - The stock gearing (48x18 / 72 inches) was fine for me. I was able to muscle it up grades up to 11%. Don't get me wrong, those super steep hills hurt and the downhills hurt even more (I hit 160 rpm on one section).
Wheels - Ok, these suck. They are made of a combination of lead and limp pasta. When I climb out of the saddle they rub each size of the brake pads. I can probably retension them and fix gumby issues, but nothing will fix the weight. They did stay true and were comfortable enough.
Tires - I like that it came with 700x25C tires. This is the size I normally ride. It contributes significantly to a comfortable ride. Once these wear out however I will be swapping on a set of conti gatorskins. There are lots of goatheads out here and I already had one sneak through.
Fork - I really like the way this fork handles. It isn't light, but I would rather have a nice stiff fork in the hills then a limp noodle.
Saddle - The stock saddle is crap. If you want that much padding strap a pillow to your but. For any significant distance all that padding will do is bunch up and put pressure on your soft tissues (this equals pain). I swapped the stock one out with a selle an-atomica http://www.selleanatomica.com/ . This century was my first ride of any distance on this model, my but was fine afterwards. Compare this to my brooks b-15 which took 2000 miles before it became rear end zen.
Pedals - I have ridden look clipless pedals since I was 15. I am not going back to traps and straps. I swapped the stock pedals out for some Keo's that I had laying around. If you are going to do any distance I recommend you do the same. This is especially true if you are going to run fixed.
Geometry - I like the fact that this bike has road geometry. Having handling that is similar to my geared road bike gave me a comfort level in the mountains that I would not have had if I had a twitchy track bike on the road. Plus, I will never take this bike on the track, I'll get a proper track bike for that. This bike is for having fun on the road while working on my leg strength and leg speed in the off season.
Would I recommend this bike to a friend ? - Yes I would. I went out for a club ride the day after and got in a conversation about the cost of a bikesdirect fixed gear. The reason I chose the SST-AL was that I didn't know if I was going to like training on a fixed gear. I figure if I put 2000 miles on this bike then I can justify the cost getting frame welded up and building up with awesome quality parts. Until then I can ride on a $360 bike that is "good enough" and have a blast doing it.
Excellent, proves you dont need the best gear to go the longest distances.
Funny you mentioned that, I chuckling pretty heavily as I passed a dude on a Cervelo with zip 404's uphill. All that I could think about was that he could buy 16 of my bikes for the price he paid for his.
nice work, those back end descents must have been pretty rough, nice accomplishment.
Yes, the descents really do suck. I might follow shenny88's lead and put bullhorns on so I can get more leverage. Now that I think of it I will have to since my only real training options are either going up, or down a hill where I live.