Skinny Dipping: Taking The Plunge- by Grannygear
So now we have looked at why one might do this ‘roadie’ thing as a compliment to mountain bike riding, talked a bit about why you might not want to do it, and how it worked out for me fitness wise after my first season on the road. Did it help or hinder my off road riding? I found that it was a help in some ways and not in others, but overall it was a welcome addition to my life astride two wheels. We also looked at the options in frame material and design intent in the large selection of road capable bikes now out there.
But that left me with a decision to make when it came to the cash outlay for a new bike and some gear to go with it. The mid 90s Curtlo was actually a quite nice frame. It is what many riders seek out on Craig’s List and build up as classic rides for not much cash, maybe even with modern components. And I thought quite a bit about doing just that – upgrading the old girl. The geometry was modern enough with a 73°/73° set of angles, a short chain stay length, and a mix of True Temper RC2 and OX3 tubing, all hand brazed. There were two things that stopped me…well, maybe three. The head tube was quite short as was the typical set-up of the era in which it was built. The head tube was also built for a 1″ steerer, threaded fork. While the stock SR Prism aluminum fork was adequate, a modern carbon fork with a 1.125″ steerer is much better and I am not enough of a Luddite to want a steel fork on the bike. As well, I wanted to jump up to at least ten gears in back and replace the wheels, bars, stem…etc, and that was not what I wanted to do on an older frame.
Plus, and this was a lot of it, I wanted a new bike just ‘cuz.
So I set out to see what was in my budget and what size bike I needed. I pretty much excluded carbon as a frame material. To get one to fit into my wallet would mean I would be on lower end, like Sora, components and very heavy stock wheels. I did not want to go below Shimano 105 or a comparable SRAM group set. Ti…fuggit’ about it. So I tried to buy two aluminum bikes from two different makers, both of them trending towards the sporty end of the endurance style, geometry wise, both with 105 or Rival shifting, but ran into year end difficulties with bikes in my size being out of stock.
And that brings up another thing. Just what was my size frame in a road bike? I was pretty sure, that at 6’2″ and with longer arms, that the 59cm/59cm (ST/TT) of the Curtlo was not that far off IF I could get the bar/stem/controls to be where I needed them. I was too low and rolled forward on that bike. It was terrifying on fast downhills. So I went to a couple of bike shops and asked what they would size me on and received two different answers. Hmmm. I also rode a couple of bikes and I was pretty sure that a 58cm to 59cm top tube with a 10cm to 12cm stem would be right, as JeffJ puts it, “in my wheelhouse”.
So with my first choices out of the running, I began to look around a bit to see what might make sense in a frame set that I could build up from scratch. That would cost me more, but if I found the right deals, I could get it the way I wanted it, not the way a product manager thought it should be. Then, during a bit of internet surfing, I saw it. And as soon as I did, it shot me right in the heart. It was not cheap, this frame option, but it was beautiful. It was simple. Classic yet modern. And it was steel. Oh dear. Really? I guess my apples do not fall far from the tree.
When I was a budding mountain biker way back in the day, if you had cash and were serious, you were likely riding a Ritchey. I want a Timbercomp to this day. I could never afford one, but I wanted one. And when I saw the Ritchey Pro Logic II road frame, I was smitten. It felt a bit odd though, not moving into a more ‘modern’ frame material, in fact I struggled with the notion that it was not enough of an upgrade to move out of the Curtlo. It would be a weight gain over aluminum or carbon for sure. But sometimes the heart is what needs to be listened to, and in this case, it was not at the expense of all common sense as this frame is quite nice, barely over 4 lbs in my 59cm size, and looks amazing in a way that the rolling billboard carbon bikes do not. It is, one might say, the anti-carbon approach, for good or for bad. And while that is not an axe I want to grind as carbon is flat out amazing, and some day I will likely step up and spend big on one, it did make me smile inside a bit to think of riding that Ritchey frame.
So this is what I ended up with:
- A Ritchey Pro Logic II in a 59cm size with the matching all carbon fork. The angles worried me a bit as they are slightly steeper than you will find in the typical endurance bike genre. I was concerned it might be too quick handling. It’s not. More on that later.
- Wheels are so important and I wanted to do two things at once. Engineering wise, I wanted to stay light and strong and keep the wheels easy to deal with for truing or spoke replacement. Also, many of the new wheel sets do not compliment the smaller tubes of a steel frame, at least not to my eye. Feng shui rules here. I did not care about tubeless-ness but I did want a wider rim. I ended up with a set of American Classic Hurricane wheels (2103 closeout) and they have been all I wanted in a wheel. Note: Image and URL link show the 2014 tubeless versions.
- The shifting duties are handled by SRAM Rival 10 speed Double Tap components. I found the ergonomics of the Double Tap to my liking and the SRAM parts are lighter than a typical Shimano version at the same price point. I had to adapt a braze-on Rival front der as SRAM does not make a 28.6mm clamp-on type. Odd. So Problem Solvers came to the rescue with a cool little braze-on adapter thingy. Slick and effective.
- I mixed in FSA SLK brakes and an Energy crankset, and added a matching 100mm SLK stem and SLK seat post in carbon. The gearing was a bit of a quandary. I had the old 53/39T crank gearing on the Curtlo with an 8 spd 12-25 rear cassette. It was not deep enough for me but I did not want the 50/34T compact either. I ended up with a mid-compact set-up, 52/36T and 12-28 in the rear and that has been really good, although I do miss the closer ratio of the older chainring combo. Maybe one day I will go to a custom 50/36T chainring combo and drop to an 11-28 rear cassette. We shall see. All this has worked together flawlessly.
- The bars were a Ritchey WCS Evocurve, 44cm wide, and they have been absolutely great. The short drop and longer, flatter top section before the brake hoods, combined with the ergonomically shaped bar near the stem has put me up and in control. I wrapped it with Ritchey bar tape too, in white, which is not so white anymore.
- The tires have been two brands/models so far. I began with a set of 700×23/25c Specialized Roubaix Pro tires and those were very nice. I would run those again in a heartbeat. I just went to a set of Continental GP4000 S tires, also in a 700x25c and those have been great so far too. Hard to go wrong with either of those tires. I would never run anything smaller that a 25c and I might go to a 28c someday, but fork and brake clearance might be iffy.
- The saddle has been a lot of things, but right now I have a Specialized Romin Evo Expert Gel in a 155cm wide size and it has been good to go on 100 mile rides. Saddles are so personal, but this one is a real winner.
- Pedals – Ritcheys again, the road version. WCS Eschelon. Light and good looking.
- For the small essentials, I chose a Blackburn Atom SL 5.0 wireless computer, a set of Blackburn Chicane stainless steel cages (that look amazing on this bike) and a Zayante Small saddle bag for tools, etc. Good stuff so far. I love the inner pouch for the multitool on the seat bag that keeps it right where you need it without digging around or fussing.
- Flashy lights, or ‘Blinkys’, as they are called. I feel better running a good blinky light front and rear and after trying a few out with so so results (some are just above the ‘toy’ level in my opinion) I tried some Zecto Drive lights from Lezyne. Very nice. Bright, rechargeable, handy. I might wish for longer run times (like longer than 8 hours) but that is my only real quibble. That, and mounting can be fussy at the bars depending how the cables are wrapped/routed. I run the front light in strobe mode all the time during daylight. I know it has worked in my favor more than once. The front one is not bright enough for after dark riding unless you are just poking along.
- Pump – I am not a quick fill fan although I may give it a shot one day. I have something like three sets of the dealies. But a pump just keeps on pumping…never runs out of air…and the self sufficient mountain biker in me likes that. I have tried two pumps. One was a Topeak RaceRocket HP and that worked really well. The hidden extension hose was super and the air volume per stroke was very good. Now I have a Syncros Micro Pump HP on there as it is light and matches the look of the bike perfectly. No extension hose, but similar air volume per stroke. I will not be fast, airing up that tire, but I will never run out of air either.
- To keep my ‘stuff’ in, I use a Lezyne Caddy Sack, Med size. Handy. Basically a roll top bag, not water proof, but very water resistant. Would not ride without something like this. More deluxe is the Syncros Speed Ride Wallet with all kinds of compartments/slots for essentials. The city rider’s friend, this one is. ID slot, etc.
OK. Now there is no one making you go out and buy a new helmet, shoes, shorts, etc, but road riding gear is different for a reason. Jerseys and jackets fit tighter to avoid flapping in the wind. Lycra shorts (I favor bib shorts) are minimal and sleek, staying out of the way. You may feel naked at first, but don’t worry. You are but you will get used to it. Shoes are stiffer than stiff, light, and the pedals that go with them are a step up from any carry over from Mtb riding I can think of. Short fingered gloves? Yeah, although, I still like long fingers on a few gloves I use for road use, especially on cooler days. You can ignore all of this and ride the road with what ya’ got, especially as you are just wading in to this pool, but the term ‘Fred’ may be heard in your presence.
- Helmet – I have tried three helmets – a Specialized S-Works Evade , a Mavic Syncro, and a Scott ARX. The S Works helmet was comfortable and cut though the air with barely a whisper, but it just looked like it belonged on a different guy than I. Maybe when I get my Tarmac and carbon wheels and go hunting down the local fast guys I will don this one. The Mavic has been a great fit for me and can be moved back and forth from MTB to road by removing the visor. The Scott ARX, which is pegged as a cross over helmet from MTB/XC to road, has been working well enough. No visor though and the fit on this is not quite what the Mavic is but it is light.
- Shorts – I love bib shorts and the Specialized RBX Comp bibs are killer. You can spend more…a lot more…but these are a nice fabric weight, cost, and fit for me. All day chamois.
- Shoes – I have a set of Specialized S Works road shoes that are super swanky, light, stiff, and the Boa closure system is off the hook good but the fit for me is so-so…crowded toes. I have a set of Mavic Avenge road shoes in the ‘Maxi’ fit (wider toe box, etc) that are on my feet now and they have been soooo comfy and are much cheaper than the S Works are. I do miss the uber-adjustability of the Boa lacing system though.
- Gloves – I like a minimum glove, no padding. I have a couple that have been great so far. A Specialized SL Pro glove is like pulling on a short fingered second skin. Veeerrry nice. Pittard leather, you know. Very upper class. A surprise has been the line of cycling gloves from Hirzl, both in long and short fingers. Sweet gloves although I think they smudged my white bar tape. Oh well. It was worth it.
- I did add some road worthy jerseys and jackets that I have found on sale, but one piece of gear that I used a ton last year was a set of BG Deflect arm cooler/sun covers from Specialized. They act like light arm warmers in the morning and then as the sun rises, keep you cooler and covered from UV rays. Excellent.
The end result:
The Ritchey has been all I could have hoped for. I know I gave up some ultimate performance to carbon, but at 18lbs with pedals, cages, etc, it is hardly heavy. The overall performance has been perfect for long rides, centuries, group rides, etc. If I was very aggressive and wanted to be chasing KOMs all day, it would be the wrong bike. I cannot believe how much confidence I gained descending. Ritchey nailed the handing on this bike and it will turn in fast and hold the line you choose with no arguing. My fears of too quick a bike were unfounded, but I also like a snappy bike, not a couch. The 73.5* HT angle is paired with the proper offset in the fork and the resulting trail figure is just right. The chain stays are momma bear length…not the shortest or the longest. If I were to change one thing it might be to shorten the top tube a centimeter so I could run a 120mm stem, but that is a bit speculative on my part…it might not be an improvement at all. The ride is what you would expect from good steel and the carbon fork keeps it pointed ahead with poise. It is a sweet bike. Thanks, Tom.
Yes, one day I may own a carbon Colnago or a Cannondale Synapse carbon, but for now, and likely in the near future, the choices I made will serve me well for some time. That is a good feeling. Next year is already filled with calendar appointments for road rides, both organized and of my own mad planning. Skinny dipping seemed fraught with peril and the unknown, but when I took the plunge, I found out the water was fine indeed.
Note: This build was accomplished with the help of many vendors listed above. Most parts were purchased for this test/review at a reduced cost to Twenty Nine Inches. Some were provided at no charge. We are not being bribed nor paid for this review. We will strive to be honest with our thoughts and opinions throughout.