Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Search Has Begun

The search has begun for Old Yeller's replacement.

It should come as no surprise that a miser like me would begin by trolling less reputable places (nearby craigslists) for a 54cm bicycle. eBay, too for that matter. So far, the results haven't been promising.

For one, I haven't settled on a frame material yet. I vacillate between not-rigid-enough steel and bone jarring aluminum. Somewhere in between is carbon fiber.

As for the latter, I can't help but think that many of the used previously owned carbon fiber bikes have also been previously compromised. I worry that there's a microscopic crack in its chassis that's like a time bomb waiting to explode.

Then again, I suppose that when that happens you can simply sweep up its plastic shards to create new one.

In an attempt to assuage my plastic bike fears, I did some homework on carbon frames. Fortunately, this year's Interbike event provided great opportunities to review the latest in carbon fiber technology. For example, here's the Delta7 Ascend:

Extremely efficient and light, the Ascend™ maximizes the IsoTruss® tube structure proving to be the best carbon fiber bike available, weighing just 2.3 lbs (1050 grams). Truly stunning visually with ride qualities and features unmatched by any other tube structures

Without doubt, it's extremely efficient. And no one can argue that 2.3 lbs is heavy. I have no problems with their claim that its visually stunning. Yet absent in their introductory paragraph is the word indestructible. Heck, I'd even settle for a less exciting word like "strong" to convey its strength, but alas, there isn't a single mention of its durability.

I have a problem with that.

As an aside, the only place I've seen a bike that comes close to resembling the Ascend is at Ironman-branded triathlons. Ironman events are great. There's a little something for everyone. Usually staged at a resort, those unwillingly dragged along are able to bail the actual event and enjoy the wonderful scenery, fine dining, shopping and all of the pampered services the resort has to offer. Meanwhile, except at Ironman Kona (where one qualifies through athletic greatness), participants fall into one of two categories: the 10% who've actually trained and the 90% who come to compete in the best of show competition. And make no mistake about it, the Ironman organizers are quite aware of this fact. Ironman officials know that while it's important to pay attention to the race leaders, the loud speaker crackles to life with new exuberance when the fat wallets on their sexy Litespeeds, Sevens, Serottas and Cervelos come rolling into the transition area. The Ironman series is wildly successful because they know their target income, I mean market.

With that, I fully expect to one day see the Delta 7 folks roll out a Triathlon bike. If they've been paying attention, they probably already have one on the drawing board. If not, here are my suggestions. To reduce drag, encapsulate its IsoTruss frame with a protective membrane not unlike the material of Michael Phelps Speedo. Next, taking a hint from the auto tire industry, fill the Delta7's covered frame with some exotic lighter-than-air gas. And you thought 2.3 lbs was light! Finally, why not capitalize on the Green Movement and pressurize it with the abundant, environmentally-friendly hydrogen?

That said, I present to you the most technically advanced carbon fiber, lighter than air Delta7 TT Green machine:

Perfect for that dentist -- the same one who failed to give you enough Novocain at your last root canal -- at his next triathlon.

Another Green Movement idea would be to create a skin from 100% post-recycled plastic. It could be made out of recycled plastic bottles, McDonalds trays or Vanilla Ice's Greatest Hits cds. It could even be reconstituted from wrecked carbon fiber bicycles.

This way, every tree hugging, Prius-driving environmental lawyer can also enjoy the carbon footprint credits on this limited Delta 7 Lite-bright rendition:

Regardless of the environmental issues plastic bikes present, my biggest hangup is in seeing them as a long term liability. Certainly, the ride and performance are spectacular. But so is its spectacular destruction. Yes, there are plenty who've crashed and lived to ride on without seeming troubles. But nobody can say a word about their longevity. The frame material just doesn't have enough of testing to be conclusive.

Still, I haven't eliminated carbon fiber as a possibility. The search continues...


  1. Geez, you'd a thunk that a guy that just turned 40 would give himself permission to once in his life buy something NEW.

    My vote? A new Carbon frame set. Really. It's time.

    A suggestion? Join a team and get in on their sweet deals come winter.

    Better advice: call your pals at TrekStore and pay retail... it'll feel good to spread some of your wealth around.

    Component Grouppo: I'm a Campy Snob, but if I weren't, I'd hop on the SRAM bandwagon. Shifts like you are breaking a twig. Doubletap very cool.

    Wheelset: Fulcrum (That's Campy-Americano, baby)

    Ever time I ride my bespoke Tarmac Pro Frameset with Campy Centaur and my Campy Scirocco wheels I feel like I'm cheating. Esp. when I ride with the a-Clowns in my group.

    I have never once regretted spending the combined sum of my first 3 cars on my bike. ('70 Maverick w/ 140k miles + '74 Gremlin w/100k miles + '82 Citation Hatchback with 65k miles)

    It's time.

  2. did you look at ti frames? most of them wont crack and most of the have lifetime warranty

  3. I thought the upper end of Trek plastic bikes had lifetime warranties? That's like the gift that keeps on giving, isn't it?

  4. Murphini - I'm leaning towards new, but am airing out the thought process. Comments like yours are welcomed to influence my thinking.

    I've thought of Ti frames but don't have any strong recommendations, Rafal. What manufacturer do you like?

    Munson: I've heard that too, but haven't read the fine print yet. But I imagine that they wouldn't take to it too kindly if one day down the road I strap on a cup and launch it off a loading dock with the hope of getting a new frame. I'd hazard a guess that their lifetime warranty is quite restrictive on what they'd consider normal.

  5. the preference of TI frame depends on how deep your pockets are and if you want a custom bike or not.

  6. i don't know how the unsaid warranty is on road bike but my 29er from the same warranty was fixed several times at with no questions asked

  7. Is that the same 29er that just went up for sale today, Rafal?

    You don't have to answer that.

  8. yup,
    i need a lighter bike and full suspension is a bit of a overkill here. So yes i'm basically selling 2009 framed hifi

  9. The sellers on Craig's list and ebay carry no warranty.

    Remember there is a difference between a warranty and "crash replacement".

    Of course if you go used, I will make fun of your cheap ass for as long as I know you.

  10. all Trek and Fisher bikes have lifetime frame warranties to the original owner.

    Even the cheap ones.

  11. Brady I've had a carbon road and mountain for over 10 years. First generation from Trek. Both bikes have lasted well with no problems. Anything you go with can have a defect as you learned with old yeller. May he rest in peace.
    All I'm saying is find something that fits you well and your budget and carbon shouldn't scare you anymore than steel or aluminum.

  12. CF bikes are just like any other material. If you make Steel, aluminum, Ti, or CF frames with really thin walled tubing and cheap connecting joints, all of them will have a higher likelihood of failure. You will pay more to get a thin walled frame of any material made correctly as to not fail.

    The old saying in bikes is, "Light, strong, cheap; pick 2."

    I haven't seen, personally, any CF bike have an issue. I've seen pics on the web where crashes caused CF frames to crack in half, but that same crash would have severly damaged any other lightweight bike also. I know big Joe Savoi has had his Postal Service Trek CF bike since like 2000? It creaks, but it's still going strong. And Jim is also a testament to the longevity of CF.

    I do recommend a CF bike with a lifetime warranty. Since you like to use your bikes for decades, I believe a Trek will last you that long as I don't seem that company going anywhere. And like Rafal said, if something does go wrong, you're friends with enough people at the shop, the replacement process will be seamless.

  13. Brady,

    Not sure about the "bone jarring" aluminum statement. I've got scads of bikes; steel, aluminum, carbon fiber. Can't say that I notice any significant difference in ride characteristics. Probably because I'm too busy suffering chasing your sorry *ss to notice the ride quality.

    So, I've got no problem with aluminum. Cheap, light (pick two, right?). If you're gonna use your new steed to race with, consider whether you'd feel better wrecking your brand new $$ CF bike or some used light-weight aluminum bike.

    I wrecked my CF Pinarello once during RR. Asked myself why was I racing it? Shelved it and do most all racing on aluminum Colnago and aluminum Cervelo TT bike.

    If your going to do beaucoup 100 mile century rides, then maybe the CF is the way to go.

    Still, dream bike if I had your $$ would be Pinarello Prince; red/black/white. Ohhh, unbeevable!
    Just think of all the hotties you would pull on that bike!