You can dive into any issue of Velo and find a series of bikes that have been tested on the roads and trails of boulder, as well as a fancy lab, where they measure deflection, stiffness and compliance, all with handy little graphs to show you in real numbers how each frame stacks up. Those numbers don’t tell you squat about how the bike rides and so there is always a little write up about the tester’s experience on a given bike. Without a doubt the stiffness of the frame will be mentioned. As will the frame’s compliance. Then some touchy feely words about ride quality and how the bike makes you feel. I signal out Velo because they actually run the bike through a series of lab tests, but most bike reviews read the same anyway.
I find myself using the same words when talking road bikes with customers. I hate it. I know that frames are engineered now (Notice how we no longer say built?) to have those qualities, and so we have to talk about them. But I can’t help but cringe a little and feel like I’m pulling the wool over their eyes. I speak in magical terms about how the frame is supposed to ride, but without giving the customer any actual information about the bike. Most of them come back from their test rides and say” This one felt more comfortable”. There the deal is done and they go home with the bike that is more comfortable. Firm in the belief that they bought the right bike for them. There’s nothing wrong with this really, and I benefit because it (sorta) pays my bills and provides me with health insurance, while allowing me to talk bikes all day. For the most part these bikes are carbon.
Carbon, and its presence on modern bikes is a given. Its use is so ubiquitous that even the cheapest road bikes my shop carries comes with at least carbon fiber fork blades, and it even finds its way onto commuter bikes. It is there to make the bike lighter, provide a more comfortable ride, and stiffen up the front end. I thought all these things were needed, until I started paying more attention.
The industry would have you believe that each new iteration of a bike is better than the one that came before it. I’m not so convinced this is true any more. I just can’t believe that, though I suppose that it is if stiffness and weight are the only measurements we use to define “better.
If you are one of the handful of people who have been following along, you’ll remember all the wailing and gnashing of teeth I did about picking out a new bike (not to mention selling one). And if you read this post here, or you follow me on twitter and instagram, then you’ll know that I finally settled on a rig. A Soma Smoothie ES.
I haven’t written about it yet, but when asked my initial thoughts always revolved around these two ideas.
The bike is incredibly smooth.
I don’t even think about the fact that the fork isn’t carbon.
That smooth part is what most recreational cyclist (pst… if you’re below cat 2 you are a recreational cyclist), are looking for. That’s why close to ninety percent of the bikes we sell are from the “endurance category” (don’t get me started on that designation).
It’s been a little over a month now and I still feel this way. I thought I would miss the carbon fork, but the truth is I don’t, so I’m gonna keep the steel one that’s on there, because it isn’t missing anything.