The world can be an abrasive place. Whole religions have sprung up and survived on the premise that treading a spiritual path can help you reduce the friction of everyday living on your tiny, tortured soul. But what about your bike chain?
This week’s Group Ride examines your lube preferences. Regale us not with lurid tales of the viscous liquids you ply in your inter/intrapersonal relationships. That’s another site. What we’re interested in here is how you keep metal from abrading metal, how you keep things smooth and rolling on your bicycle.
For my part, I have experimented with many different products and applications without feeling as though I have fully conquered the challenge of optimal lubrication. The Pedro’s line, which includes Ice Wax™, Road Rage™, ProJ™ and SymLube™ , gives us an oily palette of strangely named substances with which to face various temperature and road/trail conditions. This is likely more thought than I can reasonably be expected to put into greasing a chain.
I like a lube you can put on your chain, wipe the excess and then go ride your bike. I don’t want to think about viscosity.
To that end, I have been using T-9 for some time now. A cross mechanic told me he used it on all his bikes, and that it was the best. It is not, as far as I can tell, the best. There is also a French oil that comes in an elegant little bottle that some bike shop friends swear by, but it’s expensive and they claim they have to use it after almost every ride, so I don’t bother because I’m just not that fastidious in my maintenance routines.
So here it is, you masters of velo living, what’s on your chain? How do you apply? How often? And why?
Colnago has been one of the most sought-after, most coveted brands in cycling for longer than I’ve been alive. They’ve managed this in spite of themselves. Most riders I know who’ve owned a steel Colnago also have a story about a broken dropout or chainstay. Brazing has not always been as up to snuff as their painting.
That Colnago has succeeded in spite of this shouldn’t surprise us. Witness brands like Toyota that have suffered quality control issues and endured, with little scuffing to their reputations.
What has made Colnago a lasting symbol for bike lust has been the company’s ability to stay ahead of trends, trade on a quintessential expression of Italy’s che passione and associate itself with many of the world’s finest teams and racers. This last may be the single most important ingredient in what Colnago has achieved. The company’s ties to racing virtually ensure that every bike magazine on the planet will run a photo that shows a Colnago each issue.
Colnago has tried more ideas than any other bike company I can think of. Some of its more adventurous designs elicit guffaws of laughter that even a 1980s mullet can’t conjure. But some of those oddball designs paid off as well. I have two friends who still sing praises for the Bi-Titanio—the titanium double-down tubed frame that was supposed to offer increased lateral rigidity without creating a more vertically harsh ride. Those who actually rode one concede it wasn’t super light, but the design worked as advertised.
My time on Colnagos has been limited; I simply haven’t had many opportunities. When the occasion to review one came, I leapt at the chance.
What I received was a CLX 2.0, a few rungs down the evolutionary ladder from the company’s flagship C59. Generally speaking, what I see on the road are C59s, EPQs and Master X Lights, so I was hoping to ride something representative of what so many cyclists around the world covet.
The CLX 2.0 features construction that was state-of-the-art in 2002, but today is a bit OTB. A monocoque carbon fiber main frame sports lugs into which wishbone seatstays and chainstays are plugged. And despite asking for something in the 57 or 58cm range, I was told I would get a 56cm frame, but as it turns out Colnago doesn’t make that size in the CLX 2.0; what I received was a 54.
So when I tell you that this bike was plenty stiff and I had no trouble getting enough weight on the front wheel to descend, but felt cramped, even with a 13cm stem installed, understand that each of these three aspects of the frame’s design were irrevocably influenced by the fact that this bike was too small for me.
I’ll grant that Colnago is honest with the consumer when they admit that the CLX 2.0 is meant to be more affordable than their top-of-the-line stuff, and also weighs a bit more as well. No harm there.
What I had a harder time trying to understand was why one of their staffers fed me a cock-and-bull story about why the construction of this bike was more advanced than anything the competition is doing. Really? I’ve probably seen more carbon laid up than this guy has and was pretty surprised that he’d lie to my face. Terminology in their brief marketing materials did little to tell me—or anyone else—more about the bike. I still don’t know what “alfa carbon” or “leaf-shaped seatstays” means—and I read the entire site.
I made numerous attempts to get the fork rake for each of the forks used on the CLX 2.0. Most responsible companies will spec two different forks over a range of six sizes. By using a 43mm and 45mm rake fork, they can achieve more consistent trail through all the sizes. However, I’ve seen plenty of companies spec one fork rake for six sizes, with all sizes sporting a different head tube angle. The upshot is that every bike handles a little different. And the difference in handling from the smallest size to the largest can make the bikes unrecognizable in character. I make a point of it to get both head tube angle and fork rake so that I can talk about how your experience riding a bike might differ from mine, based on changes in geometry.
I never got those numbers.
I rode the bike for about a month. The one aspect of ride quality that I can report on, the one dimension that wasn’t thrown off by being on a frame too small, was the bike’s road feel. The CLX 2.0 felt like every bike I’ve ever ridden that was constructed of 100% intermediate modulus carbon fiber. While the bike handled quickly enough (thanks to a wheelbase shorter than I’m accustomed), the frame felt fairly dead. It just didn’t possess that lively character that is present in an increasing number of bikes.
Is there anything wrong with the CLX 2.0? Nope. The paint was good, the workmanship seemed to be good and I didn’t experience any red flags, such as tracking left or right when riding no-hands or, worse, developing a speed wobble when going downhill.
The bike is perfectly fine. But it strikes me as heavier than necessary and deader in feeling than I’m apt to get excited about. That curving top tube and those swooping transitions from head tube to top tube and down tube don’t do much to increase torsional stiffness or improve ride quality, but it does add weight.
I’ve yet to ride a bicycle in which an oversized seat post or a seat mast design contributed anything positive to a bike’s feel; this is just another one of those occasions.
The real problem I have with this bike isn’t that it’s ordinary. An ordinary carbon fiber bike is an extraordinary thing to most cyclists in the world. But making an acceptable bike isn’t what’s at stake here. We’re talking about Colnago, a company that has done more to inspire bike lust than any other maker on the planet. I hold them to a higher standard. Making a lesser Colnago so the serfs may also ride one dilutes the brand. It’s not a pig in lipstick, more like a really good-looking golden retriever in lipstick.
So I’ve drawn my line in the sand. Perhaps the best rebuttal to my view should be presented Colnago, to wit: the company offers four models (a mountain bike, two fixed-gear models that aren’t track bikes and a hybrid) that seem utterly wrong for the line. Were I the product manager, I’d axe all four of them for the U.S. market. I don’t see hipster fixie kids with ironic handlebar mustaches ogling the Super, but Colnago seems to be selling plenty of bicycles. My opinions may be missing the message behind the brand.
So other than bitching about how bike reviews ought to include information about fork rake for each frame size (which I’ve been bitching about for more than 10 years), I don’t know that this review has provided any service to the reader. It’s not going to make anyone want to rush out and purchase a CLX 2.0 and it has done nothing to illuminate why people want the C59.
Back to that issue of service: This isn’t a bike you need to be warned about. It’s not a bad bike, but it’s definitely not a great one. The fact that I was sent a bike that was too small for me and then told it was plenty big shortchanged not just me, but you and Colnago. A bike that fits gets a better review. Every. Damn. Time.
As I’m not in a position to review every bike out there, I feel better about picking and choosing just what I’m going to review, based on those bikes that I think are a real cut above or at least worthy of mention—that’s why up until now every bike I’ve reviewed has gotten a pretty stellar review. It would be a different story if my whole job was reviewing bikes for a magazine. My feathers would be clipped from saying some of the more pointedly negative observations I have, but I’d also have a responsibility to get through as many different bikes out there as possible. But that’s not my mandate.
What I like least of all is that in concluding this review, I feel I’ve done nothing to inspire you to go for a ride. And that, dear reader, IS my mandate. I can accept that lack of inspiration if I’ve been on a tear about doping, but when I write about equipment, it should get you to thinking about riding, about your own riding and how the very next free moment you have needs to be on your beloved bike.
Well, the 2011 Giro d’Italia is in the books, the most epic, epicness in the history of epic epics. Race director Angelo Zomegnan took a page from Tour de France founder Henri Desgranges’ playbook and turned his race into more of a survival event than a bike race, with many racers and directors saying this version was just too hard. What I think they meant is that it was just too hard for everyone who wasn’t named Alberto Contador.
Alberto Contador - He’s the elephant in the living room or, perhaps more specifically, the pistol in the peloton. He completely dominated. He never looked troubled. He never looked challenged. He seemed to attack at will, often on whim or simply through appetite (the sort that earned a certain Belgian a not-always-complimentary nickname). The Spaniard’s performance was thrilling in a way, his signature attacks both completely fluid and completely explosive.
Of course, the flip-side to Contador’s ride is the lingering doubt that he’s clean. Whether it’s the doping case that will never end, or the whirling dervish of the Armstrong affair that is tarring all of our dominant riders with a tainted brush is hard to say. Regardless, it’s hard to believe in Contador’s flavor of dominance, whether that doubt has any basis in reality/science or not.
Michelle Scarponi – It must be hard to finish second and have everyone ignore you, but of all the GC hopefuls Scarponi made the absolute best pretense of trying to stay with Contador, chasing him off the front, if only to drop back. That so much was said about Vincenzo Nibali is a good indication that the rider who topped Nibali by 46 seconds was a worthy runner up.
Vincenzo Nibali – All of Italy seemed to be pulling for the “Shark,” but he didn’t have it. Known as perhaps the best descender in the pro bunch, Nibali had almost zero pop in his legs when it came to riding up hill. What made the Liquigas rider’s Giro interesting and admirable to me was the way the constantly rode within himself. He didn’t make any suicide attacks. He stayed patient and limited his losses to a clearly superior opponent. It wasn’t always exciting to watch, but it was good, smart racing.
John Gadret - My previous estimation of Gadret was based on his woeful lack of team spirit in supporting Nicolas Roche at the last Tour de France. I thought he was a punk, and he may well be, but in this Giro he showed a massive leap in ability, sticking with the world’s best climbers on some of the world’s toughest climbs. Maybe the French are rising again. No. Probably not.
Jose Rujano – If we turn slightly to our left, Rujano’s doping past will sit just out of our peripheral vision, and we’ll be able to view his 2011 Giro as a massively entertaining ride by a guy very few thought would ride at this level again. Perhaps he has earned himself a move up from Androni-Giacatolli to a bigger squad who can deploy him in the mountains of other grand tours.
Denis Menchov/Carlos Sastre – When Geox-TMC, the team of former grand tour winners Menchov and Sastre, weren’t invited to the Tour de France, I was one of those who thought ASO had screwed up, picking crappy French teams instead of this Spanish squad fronted by this unlikely pair. The Giro was, as a result, their everything, and the ASO is vindicated. Sastre was no where. Menchov was a shadow.
Honorable Mentions – Roman Kreuziger moved to Astana to get his chance at grand tour leadership. Liquigas was always going to go with Nibali and Ivan Basso, so that seemed like a sensible move. Kreuziger didn’t quite make the cut this time out. He remains a potential GC rider, rather than a real threat.
Christophe Le Mevel started strong, finished weak, but did Garmin-Cervelo proud, and provided another glimmer of the idea that French cyclists might be returning to grand tour podiums again one day. Maybe.
Peter Weening, the giant Dutchman, pulled a real Voekler and not only pulled on the maglia rosa in the first week, but then had the temerity to defend it.
Mark Cavendish came, saw, sprinted and then left. It’s sad to me that modern grand tour sprinters do this so often, but this is the world we live in. Specialization is king.
Final thoughts – They say the Tour de France is the biggest bike race in the world and that the Giro is the most beautiful. It would seem that Angelo Zomegnan is looking for more ways to draw even with his counterpart in France, Christian Prudhomme. They are both operating in the environment of modern cycling, which seems to be as much about which riders might be suspended as what the race route looks like. The 2011 Giro was an effort, I believe, to reassert the primacy of the race. In crushing all comers, Alberto Contador undid much of Zomegnan’s plan, and that is too bad.
(Just to be clear, I have no idea whether Contador is clean or not. I am only saying that the ongoing case related to last year’s clenbuterol positive creates doubt in the minds of many.)
Thanks to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and their geologically-timed appeals process, Zomegnan’s problem now becomes Prudhomme’s. How to keep the focus on the racing, when the racers themselves inspire such doubt. Perhaps one day we’ll look back on this time as the “Age of Asterisks,” a time when you couldn’t be sure what race you’d seen until the various governing bodies had a year or two or three to digest what happened and the lawyers had come up with acceptable compromises in Swiss conference rooms.
Regardless, this Giro d’Italia made a valiant effort at challenging the riders in unconventional ways, pushing them well outside their comfort zones. Was it too hard? Clearly, for some, it was. For the rest, it was a great race.
Big points have to go to the organizers for handling the tragic death of Wouter Weylandts with dignity and a minimum of controversy. Their modification of the stage that included the descent of Monte Crostis was another testing moment that passed with relatively few problems. These challenges are testament to the ability of a cycling organization to make good, effective decisions under time constraints.
The ASO, the UCI and the various national federations would do well to pay attention.