I just finished helping write and edit another annual Buyer’s Guide for Bicycling magazine — passing judgment on bike after bike after bike. Just who do I think I am?
I’m surprisingly stable, given my heritage. Yet it could also be said I’m responsive, perhaps even a little twitchy. No one would call me nimble, not even a beginning rider. It could fairly be said that I ride too stiff, especially under extended bouts of power or in close, high-speed sprints. I can be nervy, with an impulsive quality that can make any ride seem harsh. Workmanship, to be frank, is just not that great. Upon first look my styling is above average, but it quickly becomes apparent that in general my coloring is uninspiring, the silhouette is pedestrian, and there are imperfections in my finish that are obvious upon even routine inspection. Internally, my design is nothing new. More troubling, my frame is unbalanced, asymmetrical, and prone to mysterious creaks. There’s no way to upgrade my components, either.
For all that, my road feel is good. I’m best when the ride calls for frequent changes in lines and speeds, or maintaining contact over varied terrain. Jumps are surprisingly snappy, but you’ll be disappointed if that leads you to expect me to be adept at holding a high speed for long stretches. I’m up to racing at the amateur level, but it’s clearly not my intended function. You can try racing cyclocross with me, but if you have any ability at all, your skills and fitness will quickly find me wanting. I’m best suited for commutes, errands, club rides, centuries, all-day rambles and fondos. I’m fun on those types of rides — though it has to be noted that I tend to either chatter or else ride so muted as to give no feedback.
Also, though I keep promising to roll out a lighter version one of these years, it’s apparent that despite shedding a few token grams, for 2011 I’m heavy by a factor not of ounces but pounds — especially compared to my rivals.
There’s no way around it: The numbers aren’t kind. It’s easy to dismiss me in almost any sort of one-to-one comparison. But at the heart of me, there just might be something that merits further consideration — the intangible feeling that my ride gets more refined as I age, the durable hope that like one of the great Campagnolo shifters from the 1980s, so far at least, instead of wearing out I’m still wearing in.
Originally published in The Selection, February 2, 2011