Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tri Bike Face-Off: Argon, Scott, BMC, Felt, Specialized, Quintana Roo, Cervelo

So, my new triathlon bike arrived today and it's on my trainer right now, being tweaked for fit. It's beautiful, sleek, and fast... but what is it?

As promised, I'll give a brief review of all of the cool bikes I got to ride and test on the way to picking out The One. When you are in the market for a new bike, I highly recommend doing this - riding as many bikes as possible, as close together as possible. You get a real feel for the differences in the way they ride, handle, fit, climb, and feel. When you see them all on a website or glossy catalog, or in the bike racks at a triathlon, they all seem like they would be fairly similar. Most of the bikes in the same price range have comparable features, they all claim to have the most aerodynamic frame ever tested in a wind tunnel, and in the same price range you'll get roughly the same component group. But when you ride them, you can feel some pretty significant differences, and picking the one that's best for you can often mean that you're surprised by what you like the most.

For the record, I was looking in around the $3,000 - $3,500 price range. That puts me pretty squarely in the Ultegra component grouping, although the BMC that I rode came with Shimano 105 in that price range, and the Specialized Shiv had SRAM Rival/Apex.

The bikes I looked at were:

  • Argon 18 E-112
  • BMC Timemachine TM02 2012 
  • Cervelo P3
  • Felt DA4
  • Cannondale Slice3

  • Quintana Roo CD01 
  • Scott Plasma 10
  • Specialized Shiv Comp Rival
  • Specialized Transition

Of those, I did not ride the Cannondale, the Specialized Transition, or the Felt, just looked them over. The rest of them, I took out for about a half an hour each. I rode each on the flats and on a winding hill, trying to get a feel for speed, climbing, comfort, and handling.

Here's the standouts:

COMFORT: The Argon 18 E-112 wins in the Comfort category. This bike felt s-m-o-o-t-h, like you could just keep riding it forever. It wasn't the best handler or climber, but it really absorbed the road chatter and would be great for long rides on back-country roads.

HANDLING: The BMC Timemachine TM02was above all the nicest feeling frame that I rode. It turned on a dime, and climbed so easily it really surprised me. This frame was one that I hadn't heard much about, it's not all that common, but the Athlete's Lounge in Portland carries them. I have to say I was very very impressed with this bike. Probably the biggest strike against it was that in my price range, it only came with Shimano 105, whereas the other bikes I rode were Ultegra. I'm a pretty big believer in getting the best components you can afford, so this really made me waver on buying the BMC. I'll have to say that this is one bike I'd keep my eye on in the future.

SPEED: The Specialized Shiv and the Quintana Roo CD01 tied in the outright "OMG this bike is FAST" category. Both of them just felt slippery as heck in the wind. At one point while riding the Shiv, I was sure I had a strong tailwind, only to turn around and head back and still have the same feeling. The Quintana Roo CD01 I test rode had a pair of Reynolds aero wheels on it, and I thought that might be why it felt so fast. So I had the store put some similar wheels (actually better wheels) on the Argon and rode it again right afterwards. Nope, it wasn't the wheels (although of course they help), it was the bike.

The rest of the bikes were nice, but none of them felt outstanding in any way to me. So it really came down to these four in my mind. The Argon, while comfortable, did not feel like it had anything outstanding in the speed, power, or manueverability categories, and I decided that comfort was not enough. So that left the BMC, the Shiv, and the CD01.

Tomorrow I'll go into detail on those three, and let you know what I ended up with.

1 comment:

Ironmomma said...

I was looking at the Shiv in a store here yesterday and it seemed like a mean fast bike! :)