Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Philosophy of Round...another build complete

As cool as carbon fiber road bikes are these days, there's just something about round tubes...timeless and subtle.  The molding process for carbon fiber allows it to be shaped into just about anything, and just like hairstyles, a carbon bike frame sometimes takes on a look that very much reflects what was cool that year. The popular aesthetics of the moment (which the marketers would have us believe serve some higher performance purpose) are just that..a snapshot of what was groovy at the time. We had the curvy "melted in an oven" look for awhile there, then things got all angular and industrial looking, and now things are getting all organic again. Don't get me wrong, the technology rocks - it's harder to build something as light or stiff using other materials...But how often do you see some carbon fiber vunder-frame and you think, "hey, 2003 called and they want their bike back". 

Carbon frames incorporate visual queues in the weave designed to remind the rider that the bike between his thighs possesses visceral qaulities well beyond what a bike frame could conceivably possess:  ...It's purpose built for a spec-ops mission! It's a large sea-going beast of prey (huh?) ...It floats. It's weightless....It flies! It's a freaking F22!  It's the very essense of Madonna del Ghisallo herself!

Everyone likes a little design flair to set things apart. But the beauty of a well balanced bike does not come from excessive styling, material where none needs to exist, or any other type of market-driven design navel gazing. It comes from simplicity and functionality and a consistent aesthetic. I'd argue that beauty and functionality can co-exist, and that when the two can succesfully live together, these objects we surround ourselves with are most satisying to look at and live with, not just for the moment, but for years to come.

Hence the round tube. It has served us well for a long time, and continues to do so. I will always admire the F1 car equivalent bikes that Pro-Tour riders use. It's my junk food. I had a really nice CF bike myself and loved it. An Argon Gallium Pro. It was loud, it was light and stiff, but it looked like a billboard. If the "pro-look" is your bag, then I say go for it. But when it comes to something that is going to be pretty, year in and year out, nothing beats round tubes. Maybe I'm just getting old.

8/5/2013 edit: Now that I've had a chance to put some miles on it, how does it ride? Rather than use meaningless superlatives, I think reviews are always better when compared to known reference points. For me, those points of reference would be some of the bikes I've owned in the past, each of which represent a different material. In this case, Aluminum (Klein Quantum), Titanium (Serotta Concours), and Carbon (Argon 18 Gallium Pro).  This is my first custom steel-alloy bike.

On the first few rides I immediately noticed how stiff in the bottom bracket area this frame is.  It's every bit as stiff as the Argon was.  Stomp on it, and it responds immediately.  Get out of the saddle and it just lurches forward as it hesitation or sway in the lower half of the frame whatsoever.  My Serotta and Klein were still adequately firm in the bottom bracket, but not as much as the Zanconato and Argon.  The MAX tubes of the Zank are the real deal here.  -Incredibly solid leading to a feeling of stability through very rough pavement surpassing that of the Argon.  As much as I loved how light and stiff the carbon fiber Argon frame was, I don't miss the typical hollow "plasticky" feel most CF frames have.  The Zanconato is quiet and solid.  It makes no sound.  Dead silent.  Stable and direct. There I go with the superlatives...  Handling: I asked Mike to build the bike with an 8mm bottom bracket drop, so I lost some criterium tight cornering clearance and gain high speed descending stability.  This was a quality I loved in my Serotta and wanted to continue with that in this build.  My Argon and Klein had more of a crit-style geometry with 7mm of bb drop, so I felt a little more "above" the bike, rather than "in" the bike, if that makes any sense.  Needless to say, it handles as it should.  Nothing crazy or unusual in the geometry department.  Mike set up the frame geometry such that it is not overly specific - I wanted something that would work in crits and in longer euro-style races.  Comfort: This bike definitely fits into the "sports-car" vein when it comes to comfort.  Meaning, it's plenty comfortable for me; it smooths out the road buzz just fine, but it has a direct feel not quite as buttery plush as my Serotta was.  It has better road-feedback than the Serotta, which had more of a Grandpa's plush Buick feel about it. Both excellent bikes, but in different ways.

So enough of that. I posted pictures of a few other super-duper-awesome team builds awhile back - for Aaron, Mark, and Dave. After Mike Zanconato delivered another masterfully built frame, this time my own, I spent some time building it up a few weeks ago, took it out on it's first tour of the asphalt, and got some gratuitous pics. Warning, these may be NSFW:

DT Swiss hubs laced to Edge.Enve 1.38 carbon tubular wheels. 1150 grams of sweetness! 

 The "Z" says it all

And the cycling Gods said "Let there be Bike". And Bike was made. The Gods were pleased. (So whoever said assigning qualities to an object like a bike, that it can't possibly possess, was wrong?)  

I don't care what you say about the whole Campy vs Shimano debate. Campy levers are prettier.

Mmmmmmm...A nicely glued tubular. Courtesy of Steve.

In the foreground, hangin off the bars is the SRM "brain". I'm so not worthy to be rockin one on my bike.

1 comment:

Dave said...

+1. Sweetness!