Thursday, November 30, 2017

Exotic Road Bike Shootout!!!

Firstly, would you look at that, it's another Outside column!


I certainly put the "pro" in prolific.

Secondly, on Monday I talked about the wood bike and since then I've performed some scientific experimentation.  Specifically, I took the fancy crabon wheels off of it and put them on my Ritte:


Which in turn made the Renovo the recipient of a pair of cheap pre-built Shimanos:


The idea here was two-fold:

1) See how much the Renovo owed its ride quality to the crabon;
2) Determine if said crabon is the source of the creaking I've been experiencing, since it had all the hallmarks of a rear hub issue scenario.

Let's address the simpler issue first: did swapping wheels eliminate the creak?  No, it did not.  The wooden bike still creaks.  So clearly something else is going on, and you can rest assured I'll be conducting a thorough investigation.

Putting that aside for the time being, let's go back to the wheels.  Here's what came on the Renovo:


And here's what I swapped them with:


As for how this Shimano technology trickled down to me, they're the wheels that came on my Milwaukee, and they generally sell for about $200.  Since then they've bounced around between my bendy-bar bikes, and they've been perfectly serviceable.

Of course I also had to swap the cassettes, since the wooden bike is 11-speed and the Ritte is 10-speed.  And yes, I remembered to swap the brake pads, since naturally you've got to use special pads with the crabon, which is the second-most annoying thing crabon wheel enthusiasts like to point out, just after reminding you to toe in the brakes.

As for tires, the crabon wheels have (or "wear," as the bike reviewers like to say, barf) 23mm Continental Grand Prix 4000s, and the Shimanos have (or "are shod in," which is even worse than "wear") 25mm Continental Gatorskins.

If you're wondering #whatpressureyourunning, I'll never tell.

NEVER!!!

Anyway, after putting everything together I first headed out on the wooden bike.  As much as I tend to be skeptical about fancy equipment, I figured I'd notice the $1,500 wheel downgrade immediately.  Not so.  Indeed, the bike felt more or less the same (and that includes the creaking, unfortunately), though I thought I detected maybe a bit less shock absorption on rough pavement--and when I say rough pavement, I mean it:


There are some fucked-up streets around here.

Then again, I couldn't be sure the bike felt a tiny bit harsher with the metal wheels, and even if it did maybe the real difference was the tires.  (I'm assuming the Grand Prix 4000s have a higher TPI than the Gatorskins, but I'm too lazy to look them up.)  Regardless, when you find yourself thinking that way it means whatever tiny differences may or may not exist don't mean shit.

What I did notice right away though was how much better the braking was with the metal wheels.  This isn't to say braking with the crabon wheels is bad; not at all.  It's perfectly predictable.  At the same time though it's loud--scraping, with some occasional howling.  It sounds like cantis in a muddy cyclocross race, but all the time.  I'm sure some people like that because they associate it with the raw performance of crabon, but to me it's at odds with the air of ostensible refinement the wooden bike seems to want to convey.  (And YES I'M USING THE GODDAMN CRABON-SPECIFIC PADS AND EVERYTHING'S TOED IN.)

In any case, I'd gotten used to this when riding the wood bike, so the first time I grabbed a couple handfuls of brake on a steep descent my immediate reaction was "Wow!"  Smooth!  Quiet!  And while I'd never accuse the crabon wheels of being grabby, the metal ones are noticeably more stable, or progressive, or linear, or whatever term you're supposed to use as a bike reviewer.  (I'm just gonna stick with "more good.")  In fact, it was so much more good that if anything I'd consider them an upgrade--especially when paired with those Ultegra Di2 levers.  Because while I could take push-button shifting or leave it, the shape of the levers happens to be fantastic.

Of course, there's a ready-made Fred response to all of this:


I absolutely agree that disc brakes are a solution to the issues carbon presents as a braking surface, but I'll also point out that IF YOU USE METAL WHEELS YOU DON'T NEED THE FUCKING DISCS.  Also, I enjoy the weight savings of my integrated rim/700c brake rotor, thankyouverymuch.

So in short, the ride quality was pretty much the same with the cheap wheels, and the braking was noticeably better.

Next, this morning, I did the exact same ride, only on the Ritte with the crabon wheels.  But before I address that, a few words about the Ritte, which looked like this when I took delivery of it in August 2011:


And which looks like this now:


Which is just a tiny bit ironic given the description on their website:


Other than that though it's been great, and maybe mine just looks that way because it's a prototype.

Regardless, once again it was the same experience: bike felt mostly the same, wheels might have been smoother but I could easily have been imagining it, and the brakes were loud.  Somehow though the loud braking kind of fit better with the Ritte, probably because it's all rusted to hell.  In fact between the corroded frame and the flashy wheels the bike took on sort of a rat rod street racer aesthetic that, quite frankly, I was enjoying. Was I enjoying it so much that I'd spend almost $1,800 on those wheels?  Not a fucking chance.  Still, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it.

Oh, fun fact: according to Strava I climbed slightly faster on the wooden bike, so there you go.

So basically there are two lessons here: be wary of exotic frame materials, and don't bother with crabon wheels.

But you probably knew that already.

62 comments:

wishiwasmerckx said...

Podium racing has lost some of its charm after comment moderation was enabled. The post says "no comments," but I'll probably be like twentieth or something.

Anonymous said...

First?

wishiwasmerckx said...

When I first read "the soul-crushing indignity of this dehumanizing ritual," I thought that you were talking about going to work every day.

wle said...

ha ha. metal frame, metal wheels. boring. what i have. or run. or palp. term du jour.

wle said...

Next you will be saying the best tires are rubber!



Then chains and derailleurs!

Then instead of fuel bars - plain old water and little debbies

mmm!

I mean ew!

cdinvb said...

Well, okay then, I guess I just keep riding my 1996 Trek 850. It creaks and I can make the brakes howl. Life is good.

NYCHighwheeler said...

Moar bedder revue Snab!

Thanks for the observations about parts mixing.

I keep thinking back to comments comrade Joe wrote a day or two ago in the comments section. They were basically supporting the idea that expensive stuff is good for the bicycle industry, and that the free market would cull out the weak products. Kind of a parallel argument to the "racing improves the bred" type stuff that was going around years ago. As a P-far enthusiast, I appreciate the classics, but I REALLY appreciate how much my full suspension, geared, hydro disc, pneumatic tire, etc. mountain bike feels. With that said, the general culture of obsession with all the tech stuff and associated hassles drove me to a rigid singlespeed for a few years.

I would love to hear the mighty Snobs insights into this stuff. Is it the products themselves, the culture of "techno- Narcissism" (James H Kunstlers term), or just the way these products are promoted that influences our opinions.

Oh and like, scranus or something.

HDEB said...

Put your plastic wheels in the freezer and it will true your wheels ; )

McFly said...

How can one make a proper ride diagnosis with all the squealing going on? Reminds me of Becky Jo McAllister when we were in the 10th grade.

N/A said...

Did Becky Jo McAllister have a creaky bottom bracket?

Grump said...

When I hear squealing wheels, it makes me want to ride the idiot into the weeds. All of my wheels have aluminum braking surfaces (even a few old carbon ones). As for carbon frames, unless you've bought a new one in the last 2-3 years, it has been found that older ones have a "use life" of only 5-8 years (because of cracking from the voids in the carbon layup). As for wooden bikes, watch out for termites, Gypsy Moths and the Emerald ash borer.

Pist Off said...

Crabon wheels, oy vey. They’re just money pissed away. Lately, new bike creaking is likely to start at one of those press fit bottom brackets pressed into composite. I have had two aluminum bikes now with BB92 (Shimano’s pressfit B.B.) and one aluminum with BB30 and only the bb30 ever creaked. Suspension bearings can do a fine creak too, but never mind that. “Performance” bikes are now more likely to creak than department store bikes. What a time we live in.

Anonymous said...

You know the Freds who dumped a couple of grand on carbon wheels are going to be incensed with this one; loving it! That dick over at Pinkbike is going to go nuts if he reads this one.

bieks said...

As long as the crabon has the required Diminutive Frenchman Units to handle the dick breaks, I'd be okay with that setup. Yeah, not at all. I'm too curmudgeonly.

Jake said...

It's pronounced "carbon"

Phildefer said...

Really liked your Outside piece today. I wonder how many people will get enraged on the Outside Facebook page this time.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Phildefer,

If past responses are any indication some people will accuse me of being a city-dweller who doesn't understand that people need to drive while other people will accuse me of living in a small rural town where people don't need to drive.

--Wildcat Etc.

Ze Cherman said...

Snob, your best outside column yet.
"abject futility of automotive clusterfucks" your best anti auto word sausage yet.

McFly said...

N/A,
No the BB was solid and tight. The noise came from up top somewhere. It wasn't as bad when her parents were home, which is odd.

Anonymous said...

I finally realized what it is that I love so much about the Outside columns and the ensuing, and utterly predictable, outrage in the comments: you are essentially trolling people with the truth. In the Outside readership, you have an audience that is self-selected to value ownership over experience, and to equate getting outside to buying outdoor equipment. (Whereas I equate getting Outside to paying for a bunch of ads!) This, of course leads to senselessly expensive and impractical bike-and-gear procurement. When someone heavily invested in outdoor cred through high-visibility purchases is assaulted with reason by someone who actually gets outdoors and enjoys it regardless of bling, they feel a natural urge to defend their purchases, which futher leads one to question the job/commute that earns the money for said purchases while consuming all the time one would prefer to spend outside, and so on...

Anyway, keep bringing it!

Dirk

McFly said...

Holy shit Jake, you have a lot to learn about composite frame materials.

Cat 404 e-Racer said...

I bet the wood bike "planes" better.

(if "planes" has to be explained to you go visit Compass' Bikes blog)

gyrospanner said...

If your wood bike creaks, it has to be tree frogs.....

Kevin McTighe said...

Ha Ha Ha ! Best comedy grounded in truth.

Pist Off said...

Crabon, or crabon feebray if you’re not into the whole brevity thing. Get with it Jake.

N/A said...

McFly,
Who among us doesn't like a nice tight BB and a smooth operating groupset?



Hahah, oh Jake. Poor, poor Jake. That's what Big Bike wants you to believe. Don't fall for it, man.

Freddy Murcks said...

I might take the plunge and purchase the crabon wheel upgrade the next time I buy a squishy Barney bike. Although, if I do it, it will be only because Santa Cruz is offering a lifetime, no questions asked warranty on their crabon rims. The good old aluminium alloy rims on my current SC are beaten to shit and, instead of taking advantage of a lifetime guarantee (which does not exist for the alu wheels) and getting a new set, my only recourse is to keep riding on my increasingly wobbly wheels or pony up my own filthy lucre for a new set.

Anonymous said...

I recently splurged for a titanium bike and thought it was ironic that it had carbon wheels. not my choice, just how it was built up. anywho, since it has dick brakes it's not a problem other than a constant nagging fear that my wheels are going to explode at an inopportune time.

Grump said...

I just remembered that my old Grade School banned kids from riding their bikes to school, a few years ago......Why, you ask?.........Because there are too many cars pulling in a out, dropping kids off at the school. The sidewalks are full of kids walking to school, who live within a short walking distance, so the kids can't ride on the sidewalks.

Charlie said...

The next BSNYC photo shoot will be a winner "...a wingsuit and a Baby Bjorn."

I hereby copyright the next Internet Acronym, TWYSTDT, pronounced "twisted", for "The Way You're Supposed to Do Things". But I also cede all royalties to you.

Gold, Ponyboy.

dancesonpedals said...

It's pronounced 'carbon', but it's spelled Saxe-Gothe-Coburg.

Lieutenant Oblivious said...

Planing the wooden bike would be like adding drillium to the shiny aluminium groupsets back in the day. You'll make it lighter but you need to know when to stop adding lightness.

Is it ok to say Kuntsler in the comments section of this blog? I only ask because the fake news only refers to SCROTUS in the Access Hollywood tapes as admitting to grabbing women by the genitalia?

Ze Cherman said...

Dirk, well said. Confusing being outside, and, by extension, on an adventure, with just buying/owning equipment associated with it (rightly or wrongly) is the very essence of SUV ownership.

Wildcat, please make me stop having to click these farkin cars in order to post

NYCHighwheeler said...

You can't spell Kunst Rad without Kuntsler. That is, if you are illiterate, like myself.

But seriously, artistic cycling is amazing!
http://www.kunstradshow.de/

NYCHighwheeler

wishiwasmerckx said...

DOP, not if Count Palatine of the Rhine has anything to say about it.

wishiwasmerckx said...

... and that goes double for the Hapsburgs.

wishiwasmerckx said...

...and don't even get me started on the Hohenzollerns.

BamaPhred said...

There was a time when I would have been interested in “Vision’s Metron 40 is the tactical wheel essential to your quiver.” Well, not only do I have no options in my quiver, I even threw the quiver away.

Archer said...

BP, I quiver at the very thought.

Anonymous said...

i'll bet the creaking is down the rabbit hole.
of course the wheels don't make the difference #whatpressureyourunning

Paul Heckbert said...

When carbon wheels roll the red carpet, should we ask "who are you wearing?"

(barf)

Camera Snob said...

You have failed to mention your use of a particular image in your Outside column. The image copies the style and subject matter of William Eggleston "Big Wheels." <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/william-egglestons-big-wheels-17143399/>Willam Eggleston's Big Wheels></a>

The use of an image following this school of photography is the equivalent of using a $2000.00 Crabon Wheelset. Your previous photography efforts have been for the most part utilitarian. I just want to know why all of a sudden you are using photographic technics that are such that one would try to use after taking an overpriced photographic course?

Artisanal Espionage said...

Wooden bike bottom brackets are usually formed from a punched-out, slightly irregular tree knots that are prone to creaking. The noise might also be the crank spindle: a 24mm bamboo shoot found on the "Ultegra Di2 Sustainable Edition". Still, the organic material fails to offset the toxins found in the battery and the carbon rims. It's so hard to do the right thing these days...

Tom said...

Metallurgist here. The corrosion on the Ritte seems to be concentrated in the heat-affected zone of the welds and around the badge on the stem (joining different metals together is a big no-no when it comes to corrosion). So those are the constructor's fault.

There are also small spots of rust all over that remind me of stainless steel with low nickel (so cheaper) exposed to chlorides. Since Snob proudly never washes his bikes and lives in a place where it snows, this might be road salt. Alternatively, I don't know how salty the water is up there (how far is NYC from the sea?) as that could be another source of chlorides.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Tom,

Thanks for the insight! The spots are from my sweat no doubt. So is the bike compromised structurally or just aesthetically? In other words, should I leave it, paint it, or retire it?

--Wildcat Etc.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Camera Snob,

You're not living up to your name if you think I'm supplying Outside with photos.

--Wildcat Etc.

Anonymous said...

I've got to say Snob, that wood bike looks plain horrible without the "beefiness" of the carbon wheels!

Best,
Petter

Pist Off said...

Stainless steel is a misleading name and there are many different alloys that fit under that name. I think the Ritte rust is cool. I first saw rust on stainless steel with some old Eggbeater pedals made of cast SS and it dismayed me, but it’s clearly just surface rust and doesn’t affect the underlying structure. If I bought a high dollar frame that was supposed to be rust free I’d probably be pist though. I say embrace it, wash that sucker with salt water and make it a billboard for oxidization. Freds would hate it.

janinedm said...

Has anyone else had or nearly had auto-complete typing fails resulting from our use of the word "crabon?"

JLRB said...

One man's corrosion is another man's patina.

The only stainless steel bits in my bike herd are the S&S couplers on my neglected travel beast and yes the couplers have some blemishes on them. I was concerned about integrity and then I got distracted.

Creaking is clearly coming from the squirrels.

Skidmark said...

Stainless steel can rust and not necessarily because it’s low grade. Look into this product”Innosoft B570” for cleaning. It would be cool if you tried AND it worked.

dancesonpedals said...

WIWM-

Anthony Burgess referred to the current UK dynasty as sausage eating swine.

Anonymous said...

Bike infrastructure advocacy is always caught in a dilemma that's never more apparent then when talking about riding to school with kids, that is, arguing that the roads and cityscape in general are ridiculously dangerous and unfriendly to kids and need major overhaul while making the point that self-propelling to school is an extremely healthy and overall safer and more pleasant thing to do.

We've always ridden to school. It's 4 miles each way and my daughter was able to ride most of the way herself by the tail-end of age three (when she was still small enough to throw on my bike when tired). Other parents are impressed, for sure. But, sadly, not as impressed as when the dad with the Tesla demonstrates remotely backing his car out of a drop-off parking space.

We're almost done with this school, but I've made sure to drop the idea into play that the 10 drop-off spaces, empty much of the day, are taking up precious playground space in a tight urban setting.

Alan said...

My product suggestion for cleaning the stainless— rubbing a little ball of wet aluminum foil over it. It works very well on chrome: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0FNlxDJbQo

Alan said...

My product suggestion for cleaning the stainless— rubbing a little ball of wet aluminum foil over it. It works very well on chrome: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0FNlxDJbQo

bad boy of the south said...

Snob,sorry to see what happened to your mom.I'm glad she's okay.

bad boy of the south said...

i guess the a**holology department is working hard in OT in the PD.

N/A said...

If giving not-requested cleaning advice for Wildcat's Rust Bike is a thing we're doing now in lieu of talking about putzing with groupsets, then allow me to suggest:

Bar Keeper's Friend. Take a damp rag, sprinkle a little BKF into it, then wet that a little bit so that you have thick-ish paste, then wipe over the rusty spots. (this applies to WC's un-painted whip. Do not do this on paint, or you'll FIU.) BOOM. Minimum exertion, maximum effect. Fresh lookin' whip, and Wildcat is back to being the talk of the coffee shop.

Victor Kaminski said...

vsk said ...

S.C.R.E.A.M.I.N.G. M.A.F.A.C.s !!!

Dirk speaketh the truth bigly.

Watch out for green ass borers.

vsk

Victor Kaminski said...

vsk said ...

N/A, they make liquide Bar Keeper's Friend. Stuffss awesome!

vsk

N/A said...

VSK, thanks. I'll look for it. I learned about the stuff from a crotchety old bike dude that showed me how easy it is to keep my steel wheels and handlebars shiny.


Huh. I guess I'm a crotchety old bike dude, now. Circle of life, indeed.

dbostrom said...

Most of the money going into exclusive and highly expensive kit is dedicated simply and only to producing that gear in tiny quantities, is not available for purchasing magic spells that transcend material properties.

There's almost no end to "more expensive," because as things become more expensive fewer people can buy them, leading to drastically bad effects on economy of scale. If you and only two hundred other people owned an iPhone, the iPhone would cost an astronomical sum but be absolutely no better (and indeed possibly worse) thanks only to the fact that it is so expensive.

So it's absolutely no surprise that there's little or no detectable difference in the performance of wheels when dropping from ~$1,800 to "only" $200. Meanwhile, the $200 rims would be $60 rims if marketers had not detected and learned how to exploit our cognitive defects. And the $60 rims would be essentially just as good, except they wouldn't boost our self-esteem as well as if we're playing the role of sucker. $200 is for people who are mildly stupified, while $1,800 is for those who've been completely compromised by mental hackers.