That’s a 14 pound ProTour bike in the photo. It’s owned by Rich Hincapie (George’s Brother) and it’s pretty much what Team Columbia rides. I raced the bike in the South Carolina State Championship Road Race last weekend. My bike got garage-doored the day before and Rich was nice enough to let me ride his bike. We were in town for the Style in Motion, USPro weekend and part of the festivities is racing with the locals.
Considering how best to review the bike and share my experience, I thought this is what it’s like to blog cars. All day long it’s the mundane Hyundai or Prius this, that, and meh. Then one day you get the keys to a super sports car, like a Ferrari or Lotus. It makes your dayjob worthwhile.
This bike isn’t for everyone. Nothing is practical; afterall, it weighs 14 pounds and is aptly described as an “effing rocketship” with several, “whoas,” punctuated by a big “wow.”
What 5K Buys you in Wheels
My Hotspur – Custom Ti Carbon – bike weighs 16 pounds with Hed Stinger 6 wheels. That’s reasonably light and very light for a Ti bike. At least 2 pounds of the weight difference in Rich’s bike are the Lightweight wheels. I’ve ridden my share of bikes and wheels and it’s not too often that I handle something noticeably and obviously lighter than anything else.
In this case, lightweight does not mean “sketch.” Looking at the build quality of those wheels, I had no concerns. Note: we’ll have a full review of the Stingers, just got them, and they are a fantastic in their own right. George is riding a set in this photo.
For a cyclist with a self-confessed wheel fetish, this is as good as it gets. The Lightweights were the most dialed in a wheelset I’ve ridden. Wheels all have their own characteristics. Some are
- Like flywheels
- Too many spokes!
and few get it all right all the time. I’ve come into the apex of a turn and wished I wasn’t on a set of rebranded Zipp 404s. Wondered why exactly twin-paired spokes were better. I’ve also cursed manufacturers who decided skewer tension was as good as bearing adjustments and think that 5 milimeters of play is OK. It’s not, when you can feel that wheel move underneath you, and hear the brakes rub.
If the Lightweights were an iTunes playlist, Rob Zombie would shuffle in on the descents, with Dave Brubeck on the flats, and Kraftwerk on the climbs. Most noticeabile was the road. Sure the tubulars had a lot to do with that, but I was in tune to the road. Undulations, seams, surface were all felt through the wheels and that’s in a good way.
When I ride, I expect a bike to ride with me. It should be alive and not a dead set of triangles with parts attached to it. Carbon bikes have always struggled with road feel and being wooden, dull or too stiff. Until the Lance-influenced changes midway through their product lifespan – wishbone stay, bigger tubes – the Madones were not exactly a lively bike. Predictable? Yes, but just not that sexy.
I didn’t ride Rich’s bike without the Lightweights so can’t say if it’s always the massive awesome. Maybe it’s less exciting with a set of training wheels. Likely it is and that’s because of the wide range a carbon bikes. The R4 does not ride the same as the R2 and the newest new Madones do not dive when you sprint them.
It’s been said carbon is like alumnimum in the 90s – cheap, banged out, boring – and that’s very true.
Our suggestion is that if you’re into carbon racing bikes, by the highest end frame you can afford. The parts and gear are all interchangeable. It’s the frame you want and try to avoid the mundane. Ride a few and you’ll know what we’re talking about.
Some of them are Chevy Novas and a few are Corvettes.