Saturday, June 22, 2013

Peloton Magazine review of Cervelo RCa

I've been hobbling around, discouraged that friends are doing all sorts of cycling adventures while I'm essentially confined to home. Progress has been steady but slow. Motions I previously couldn't do I can do now on a very limited basis. Some stuff which was painful is no longer so. Yet the pragmatic reality is I am still essentially immobile. Travel plans for 10 days from now are imperiled. But I'm only 8 days out from the crash, so I still have a lot of opportunity for progress before then.

I was surprised yesterday when I got a copy of Peloton Magazine in the mail. I'd thought my subscription had expired. I subscribed initially because I was impressed by Heidi Swift's articles, specifically of the Reve Tour, in which she and other women rode all of the stages of the Tour de France last year. Her writing is really good. They also have Jared Gruber's photography. Jared brings a fresh look to cycling photography, even if he has a bit of a weakness for Instagram-like digital filters. But his photographs really go beyond the normal paradigm of bike racing.

I viewed this issue as a last chance for the magazine to win me over for a new year. And initially I was impressed: 120 pages. Always good to get some bulk in a magazine. So I opened it up and scanned through a few pages. I came to a halt: a review of the Cervelo RCa!

Geometry aside, I love what Cervelo has done with the new R-Ca. Cervelo is among the most engineering oriented bike companies around. There's a lot of pressure in the bike biz to design bikes with gimmicks, as these harvest MAMIL revenue. But Cervelo seems to resist. They base their designs on engineering goals and on testing.

Cervelo hasn't always been on target. For years they persisted in having the shortest chainstays in the business: sub-40 cm across the board. But short chainstays yield more extreme chain lines, and their bikes were prone to cross-chained rub on the front derailleur. They also got criticism for toe-to-wheel overlap on their smallest frames. They solved this by decreasing head tube angle and increasing fork rake to increase front-center distance while retaining trail. Some people hate toe-to-wheel overlap, others view it as a minor concern, since wheel-to-toe contact occurs only at slow speeds, and in any case is easily avoided.

Although I have a high opinion of Cervelos, I learned long ago that Peloton magazine is strictly positive on their reviews. This can be understandable: as DC Rainmaker, the triathlete-reviewer-blogger has learned, negative reviews can generate a firestorm of criticism and demands for re-test. I super-appreciate what Rainmaker does, because positive or negative, his comments are always backed up with hard work: quantitative data or extensive testing. But most reviewers see it as a hassle which is more easily avoided, especially if they're relying on the companies whose products they review for ad revenue.

But when you're heaping praise on $5000 complete bikes, what do you do with a bike where the frame and fork alone, non-custom, is $10k? You've got to up your game. And that's what Peloton does:

There is a fury to the way the bike reacts to power -- it leaps from under you, but the feeling continues beyond the initial acceleration. Each pedal stroke delivers a new surge forward.
Oh my. This rivals the best bike review of all time, Bike Snob's 2007 Dream Bike Shootout:
The (Colnago's) carbon fiber construction and layup yielded a frame that was laterally stiff yet vertically compliant. I can also say that this bike climbs like a monkey in a set of crampons, descends like a monkey in a set of crampons being dropped from a helicopter, handles corners like a prostitute, and accelerates like a particle in a particle accelerator that itself is just a tiny particle in a giant particle accelerator. Overall, the effect is like sitting in a caffe in a trendy Milan street while sipping a cappuccino and wearing fabulous clothes yet inexplicably traveling at or close to the speed of light.

Bike Snob's still in the hot seat, but the competition's getting closer every year.

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