Friday, February 11, 2011

New Bike Odyssey: Part 1

I have worked at the shop for a little under a year and it has been a great experience.  But as a bike guy this time has been a blessing and a curse.  It is a blessing because everyday I get to talk to people about bikes and get to work with a wide variety of customers, everyone from people getting their first bike to the customer upgrading to their dream bike.  It's a curse because as a bike guy a day does not go by where I do not look at our lineup at bikes and think "boy I would sure like to have that bike".  So to break the curse I have started the process of replacing my 5 year old road bike with a new one.  

At the shop we recommend that all customers test ride a bike before purchase so I have decided to practice what we preach (to a great extent according to some of my co-workers).  It is so important to test ride a new bike because bike riding is so subjective.  Of course there is quantitative data like heart rate, total time, power, bike weight, etc. but everything else is subjective.  I feel great vs. I feel terrible.  I can't get warmed up vs. I'm on fire.  Hills, what hills vs WHAT! More hills?

To help get the biggest subjective picture I can, I plan to ride 3-6 bikes before making my buying decision.  I will blog my thoughts about each bike.

So come with me on my...New Bike Odyssey. 

Test Ride #1: Felt AR4

Recently there has been a ton of press about bike manufacturers introducing aerodynamic bike frames to their road bike arsenal. The thinking is that the more aero the bike the easier it will slice through the wind and the faster the rider will go.  However, the trade off is most times the aero bikes are slightly heavier than the standard road bikes. In some recent tests the aero bikes have beaten lighter bikes on the same course.

Research has shown that moving from a lighter bike to an aero bike improves aerodynamics by 1.5%.  Where as moving to a lighter bike only saves 0.2% in total weight (when rider weight is included).  It was based on this information that I was really looking forward to riding the Felt AR4.  

First off this is a great riding bike. On the flats you can really feel it just fly and eat up the road in gulps.  On rollers and descents this thing descends like lightning.  It is just so fast.  And if you run into a head wind "fuhgetaboutit".  The AR slices through it like a hot knife through butta.  Another amazing feature of the bike is the new Ultegra 6700 component group.  The new Ultegra group is fantastic.  Very crisp shifting, the newly redesigned hoods/shifters feel great, and braking is fantastic.  

If I have to point out any negatives it would be that due to the slightly increased weight this bike does not seem to climb as well as some other bikes I have ridden.  Also since I am used to riding a skinny tubed bike I noticed that the AR was susceptible to cross winds.  For the triathlete that is used to riding an aero frame this should not be an issue, but just something that I noticed.

This is a perfect bike for someone who does long solo rides and needs to get as much aero advantage as possible without going to a tri bike.  This bike would also be ideal for the rider who likes to go off the front on group rides or plans to participate in draft legal triathlons.

What will I ride next?


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