I’ve been riding the same 2003 Fuji Silhouette since August 24, 2003. It’s served me well. I paid $500 for it and have ridden 8900 miles (averaging 1100 miles/year). I rode it to computer science classes at NCSU and to the traverse wall. I’ve biked across North Carolina. From Mountain View to Los Angeles. From Eureka to San Francisco (blog post 1, blog post 2). Crossed the Golden Gate Bridge 7 times. Crossed the Dumbarton Bridge once. Completed 6 centuries.
(Side note: There is one inaccuracy on the bikepedia page I linked to above. The page says the spoke nipples were brass, but mine were definitely aluminum. I’m still using the original front wheel and I can’t adjust the spoke tension on many of the spokes because the aluminum nipples are corroded and rounded.)
I’ve wanted drop handlebars for a few years, for better handling, especially on descents. I also wanted a carbon frame and fork instead of aluminum, to dampen rough roads. And I wanted something a little lighter. My belief is that these things make riding more enjoyable.
Bike shops tend to put their 2011 models on sale in the fall, to shrink their inventory in preparation for their 2012 lineup. I visited 6 bike shops and tested 4 bikes. The first bike I tested was a Trek Madone 5.1 with SRAM Rival components. Maybe the build was goofy, but I wasn’t a fan of the shifters and hoods. They felt a little cheap and fragile. And DoubleTap felt unnatural to me. Maybe I didn’t give it enough of a chance.
I rode a 2011 Focus Cayo 1.0 that was priced at $2400. I liked the appearance a lot, and I like that Focus is a smaller brand. But the Cayo lacked internal cable routing and wasn’t as light as I wanted. It also had a smaller bottom bracket than the bike I ended up with.
I rode a 2011 Cannondale Supersix 3 that was priced at $2700. This bike was a very close second.
I settled on a 2011 Trek Madone 5.2 56cm, on sale for $2750. Trek doesn’t list the weight for this bike, but I think it’s around 16.5 lbs (edit: including pedals, saddle, Garmin Edge 800, and DuoTrap speed/cadence sensor it’s 17.5 lbs). I chose it over the SuperSix 3 because the Trek has a larger bottom bracket, the frame seems to be more reinforced around the bottom bracket, and all things being equal I feel like Trek has more experience developing Carbon frames.
A nice feature that I probably should have taken into account is that the Trek has a slot in the left chainstay to insert a wireless speed and cadence sensor. Normally this would have to be strapped to the frame. Having it internal in the chainstay makes for less clutter, and that pleases my “simplicity at all costs” mentality.
I’ve been using the same awful $40 Shimano mountain biking shoes since 2003. On the plus side the cleats are recessed quite a bit, which makes walking easier. On the minus side, they’re heavy, lace-up (laces + spinning gears = danger), and tend to cut off circulation in my feet on long, cold rides.
New Pedals and Shoes
Higher-end bikes generally don’t come with pedals. There are a few different types of pedals, and riders generally have a preferred pedal type. Rather than offer their bikes with every possible combination of pedals, manufacturers expect riders to provide their own.
I bought Shimano 105 SPD-SL pedals and Sidi Genius 5 Pro Carbon shoes. I’d heard good things about Sidi and they fit me well, so I bought them.
(Side note: Similar to pedals, riders also often have a preferred saddle (aka seat), so manufacturers generally don’t include high-end saddles on their bikes.)
I’m curious why carbon over steel, if simplicity and dampening were your driving factors. I assume weight was the deciding factor?
What saddle do you use?
Yeah, mostly weight I guess. I’ve heard that they can make some pretty light steel bikes these days, but I think carbon is still lighter?
I used the Fuji saddle on my old bike up until like a month ago (I guess when I say “riders have a preferred saddle” I don’t include me), when a friend of mine gave/sold me a spare Selle Italia he had (I’d mentioned to him that I thought his saddle was more comfortable than mine). I’ll probably keep the existing saddle on my Trek for a little while to get a feel for it, then swap it out with the Selle Italia.
I have no idea how to evaluate saddles aside from just trying them.
I read your post w/ interest, thanks for sharing. I also have a Fuji Silhouette that I’ve been riding for everything since 2005 – commuting, road rides, touring. Prolly has about 12K miles on it by now. Like you, every spring I think about jumping to a road bike for everything but the commuting, largely for drops (to escape headwinds) and something lighter. Now that you’ve had a carbon frame for a while, how has it held up, esp for long multi-hundred mile credit-card touring rides? For $2.5k I could get a sweet carbon rig like you did, or a semi-custom fit steel/Ti buildup … touch choice. Carbon = couple pounds lighter, but something about the unbreakable nature of Ti/Steel is appealing. Last year on Ragbrai a guy on my team cracked his carbon frame near the dropouts on the rear triangle, kinda worrisome.
Hi Todd! I think I only have around 250 miles on the new carbon bike (I’ve only had it 4 months, and I don’t ride much in the winter, mostly because I’m a wuss).
But I’ve been very happy with it. It really is more enjoyable to ride, and I do find myself looking forward to a weekend ride more than I used to. It feels so much smoother–I assume mostly because it’s carbon rather than aluminum. I think my longest ride on it was 58 miles and I had no problems. Because of the more aggressive position (but still not uncomfortable), I think my back will feel a little more fatigued by the end of the first few long rides each year. But it hasn’t been bad so far, and I’m definitely happier with drop handlebars.