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Saturday, 22 May 2010

Simon's SSR write up

I thought it would be useful if I did a new section on the blog whereby riders wrote a detailed write up on their new bike
This real world feedback is of far more use to most people than magazine reviews

First up is Simon's SSR

Lust for a new bike had struck once more. Barry supplied me with a Z4 a couple of years ago which still heads the fleet. But I wanted something different from a superlight out-and-out race bike.

The brief was a lively bike that would last, with Italian handling. I didn't know what I would end up ordering, although I sensed that anything other than an IF SSR would be a compromise. I had a concern that the columbus XCr tubing might offer limited tuning to my riding style and weight. Barry assured me this would not be the case.

The drawing for the bike dimensions came through really quickly. A couple of tweaks were made, nothing big. I changed my mind one hundred times on the paint scheme - the site is helpful in showing the colourscheme opportunities out there.

It arrived bang on time. Jean built it up with my chosen old skool components and Bespoke saddle.

I have done just 300 miles on it so far. It fits the bill. It is indeed lively - and by that I mean light enough but with a nice spring to it. You can ride over the rubbish Kent roads and there is no jarring. The fit is a bit more relaxed than the Parlee. It feels like the culmination of the best parts of my other bikes.

This is how it compares with my other bikes:

2003 alu/carbon Pinarello Prince
- a bit lighter in feel than the Prince, unsurprisingly the IF is less compromised on rough roads. But the Prince is more racey (with a slightly lower and stretched position) and great for powering along on the flat;

1995 steel Merckx MXLeader. This is a stiff bike. You have to be really careful with wheel/tyre choice. It handles beautifully and feels planted. The IF is lighter and feels more delicate on the road. It rides better over rougher surfaces.

2006 Cannondale Synapse. The Synapse soaks up the bumps well, but the handling is a bit jittery.

2004 Look 386. Neutral handling, comfortable but the feel is a bit dead.

2004 colnago CT1 (Ti/carbon). I had to get rid of this bike because of corrosion to the bonding on the drop-outs. This is the closest in weight and handling to the IF. I based the geometry on the Colnago, but with a few mm more on the headtube. The handling is very Italian - slower steering amd planted. The IF soaks up the bumps equally well, but feels a bit more springy.

2008 Parlee Z4 - the handling on the Z4 is more neutral (not twitchy or slow), and feels lighter on the climbs. It will remain the bike of choice for races. But the IF fills a different space. It is perfect for those longer, steady rides where, if the mood takes you, you can still push on without feeling you are on a compromised "comfort/sportive" machine.

A word on the component choice. I generally still go with Dura Ace 7800 as it has never let me down. Deda bars and stem fall into the same category - not the lightest but very solid. The wheels are Excellights which I find a bit lighter and have a better feel than Mavic Open Pro's. They are laced to Dura ace 7900 hubs which are nice but overpriced (athough I got a bargain on them). I have not used the Veloflex Pave tyres before, so I can't comment on their durability. But they offer a really nice ride quality. The saddle is the Bespoke Prologo which I like. I find that I cannot choose between the Flite, Zoncolan and this saddle for comfort.

I have spoken a lot about performance, which is a part of the decision of choosing a bike. You can happily race or just ride on this bike. But let's be honest, the other part is just as important - the style, heritage, quality, brand, exclusivity of the bike. I am an unashamed bike snob. I will not get a bike if I could just get it down the High Street or at Evans. It has to have something special about it, something which shows that discerning experience has led to this buying choice. For example, the Merckx is the same machine used by the Motorola squad of the nineties. The Prince is a special edition in Zabel green jersey colours. (The Cannondale is a winter bike/ commuter!) The IF is in a colour scheme that possibly only I like, but it is unlike any other.

And so what is special (and which therefore sets the bike apart from other high performance bikes) is the discerning looks that the bike gets, the queries about the new XCr material, the inspections of the weld quality, the requests to lift the bike up to feel the weight. The approving nods of the cogniscenti. They all add the extra element of enjoyment to putting in those hard miles.

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