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Archive for the ‘Bikes’ Category

  • 18.1 avg
  • 38.3 max
  • 134 AHR
  • 164 MHR
  • 38.92 miles
  • 2:08:57

Cannondale has discontinued the Six-13 for the 2009 model year, but, now that I have one race and one serious training ride on it, I can say that it is a very fine bike that holds its own on the road.  It’s not terribly surprising why the company decided to get rid of the Six-13: with a new carbon/aluminum ride (the Six) and an expanded line of carbon bikes (the Supersix HiMod, the Synapse HiMod, and the Six Carbon), the Six-13 is redundant.  Since it is basically the CAAD9 with two aluminum tubes cut out and replaced by carbon, it has the legendary great tracking and acceleration of the lower-line model; the carbon, I guess, is supposed to cut down on road vibration and provide a slightly more comfortable ride.  Since I haven’t tried out the CAAD9, I can’t say if this is true or not.

But, on to my review of the Six-13.  It is really a great-riding bike.  I went out today for a two hour ride through the hills just south of home, past the reservoir and up some backroads that are bumpy and mangled even by Connecticut standards.  First, the ride quality.  Despite the very tight rear triangle and oversized aluminum tubing, the bike never felt harsh.  Of course, this is a subjective assessment, and, since I ride a lot of miles, I’m probably a little less sensitive to so-called harshness than many other riders.  Still, I never felt the frame was chattery or skittish on rough road surfaces.

The frame is also noticeably stiff, but I want to stop here and say that the obsession with a “stiff” frame is largely marketing hype.  I read a lot of bike chat forums, and the low-miles gearheads are always going on and on about how stiff a frame is, as if that is the ultimate test of a bike’s qualities.  To clarify, then, here is what I mean by a stiff frame.  When I stand on the pedals and accelerate hard, the bike surges forward with no sense of loss of power.  When I corner aggressively, the bike tracks straight with out a feeling of give at the apex.  My BMC, though remarkably tight in the bottom bracket (hmmm…that sounds vaguely obscene…) had a fork that was probably too light for someone with my size and power, and I did notice a slight sponginess in hard corners, as if the bike really wanted to take a more leisurely way through.  So, the Six-13 feels like it wants to carve the curves a little more tightly.

Cannondale has been building bikes for a long time, and they know what they’re doing when they weld aluminum tubes.  This shows in the little things, like the sense of stability I get even when cutting a tight line through a sharp corner, or the ease with which everything fell into place when I was building the bike up.  It tracks beautifully and simply feels solid.  Nothing fancy: just solid and dependable.  It is a workhorse frame, tough enough to get the job done with a minimum of fuss and flash.

I had a moment of fright this afternoon on my ride when I was swooping down a fast hill and some dipshit in an SUV pulled out in front of me.  I had to climb on my brakes to make sure I didn’t end up smashing two frames in less than two weeks.  This told me two things.  First, the bike is stable even under harsh, sudden movements.  Second, I did a great job building the bike, and, more specifically, adjusting the brakes.  The latter is a HUGE relief, since I can be a little insecure about my mechanical talents.

This is actually a difficult review to write.  The truth is, I didn’t really notice the bike as I was riding unless I glanced down at that very bright orange top tube.  It simply disappeared beneath me as I pedaled, which is exactly what you want a bike to do. All I had to think about was keeping the pedals turning.

This invisible quality was very evident last night in the Tuesday Night World Championships.  The final sprint was a mess, with a huge glob of riders still at the front, including a lot of pack fodder that had no business getting in my way.  I started the sprint late, partly because three guys decided they were just going to give up about 300 meters from the line, and they would not get the hell out of my way.  Then, I had to do some bobbing and weaving to get through the clogged lane to a clear path to the line.  I found daylight and screamed up the left-hand side, passing about ten guys in the last 100 meters to take third place.  If not for the bad positioning, I probably would have won, since I was seriously gaining at the end.  At any rate, the bike was not in my mind at all.  All of my concentration was focused on getting to the line as fast as I could, and the Cannondale did everything I asked it to do with no complaints, even when I made some very hard demands on it.  And that, friends, is what makes a good race bike.

It looks like our club will be sponsored by Cannondale next year, which I like.  I’ve been thinking about getting new race bikes for both me and Dorothy, and the CAAD9 might be a good bet here, especially since C’Dale is offering a special edition of that frame for sponsored teams.  If it rides as well as my new Six-13, it will be a very worthy bike, and will look awesome with the new Campagnolo Record 11 Speed hanging on it.

One final note on the ride.  My rib hurt like crazy after about thirty minutes.  The bone I cracked is high up under my armpit, so it doesn’t flex as much when I breathe as the lower ribs I cracked two years ago, but it still hurt like hell.  Even a new bike couldn’t cure that pain.

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In Praise of the LBS

After I crashed at the Rochester Criterium and noticed that my bike was cracked, I was sure that my quest to become the Tuesday Night World Champion was over.  I was sure I would not be able to get a new bike in time or at anything like an affordable price.  However, at Dorothy’s urging, I called the shop from my cell phone while we were driving through torrential downpours on the New York Thruway to find out if I could salvage the remains of my season.

I had decided that I wanted to get something cheap but race-worthy, and I figured the Cannondale CAAD 9 would have the best price/performance ratio around.  It’s not a glamorous frame, but it is tough, and you see a lot of them at local races.

I got Greg, the manager and owner of the bike shop, on the phone and explained my predicament.  I was very worried about getting a bike and getting it on time, so I was surprised when his first question was not about which frame I wanted to order but about how badly banged up I was.  After assuring him I was fine, we discussed the possibilities and the problems of getting a frame–a lot would depend on what Cannondale happened to have in stock.  Then came the big news:  If there was not a frame available in my size, he would let me borrow his custom Serotta Meivici carbon fiber dream bike to ride until my new one arrived.  The Serotta would be a little small, but for a short time it wouldn’t be a big deal.  Now, that is real service.  He took my cell number and said he would call back when he had some answers.

A little bit later, he called back with the results of his search.  He happened to have the district sales rep for Cannondale in the shop, so that made the search a lot quicker and easier.  The CAAD 9 frame was not in stock, but I could order one custom-built, but the wait would be over a month.  The other possibility was a Six-13 in “Afterburner Fade,” a screaming red-orange-yellow paintjob.  This one was in stock, in my size, and I could have it for about half the retail price for such a frame.  I was ready to say yes, but I said I’d think it over and discuss it with Dorothy before getting back to him.

Of course, the discussion was short.  It was a good, solid bike, at a good price, and it would be in the shop by the time we got back from Vermont.  When I called the shop back, Lou, the Cannondale rep, answered the phone, so I got to place my order directly with the guy from the company (and I live 2 miles from C’dale’s corporate HQ, so it helps to be a local).  Although I had anticipated that the pain of replacing my broken frame would be worse than the cracked rib, I was wrong (and is that rib ever hurting these days!).  My local shop rules.

Today, I picked up the frame and the few other things I would need to complete the build–new cables, new bar tape, a new stem.  Sean, the service manager, had even checked out the details of my old frame and the new one to make sure that things like my old seatpost would fit the new frame.  I brought the things home and built up the new bike in a couple of hours.  It looks very cool, and the screaming paint is much more appealing than I thought it would be.  At the shop guys’ urging, I got yellow bar tape, so the whole bike is really bright, and it sort of matches my team kit.  In the race configuration, with my Fulcrum 1 wheels and no seat bag, it weighs in at 17.5 pounds, which is more than respectable.

This incident truly emphasizes how important it is to have a good relationship with your local bike shop.  I’m lucky to live a five-minute walk from mine, and the people who work there are good friends who really care that their customers are happy with their bikes.

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