Seeing me ogle the new Giant Defy Alliance, Derrick at Century Cycles offered to let me demo the bike for a day so that I could try it out on the hilly roads of the Cuyahoga Valley to see how it rides in my usual stomping grounds. So last night I took it on ABC’s Thursday night ride starting at Deep Lock Quarry.
Oh. My. God. Not only does this bike look ever-so-sweet and aerodynamic, but it is the fastest little speed demon I’ve ever sat my butt on. I swear, this bike practically rides itself. I take no responsibility for whatever average speed I may have maintained on this last night–I am sure I was at least 1-2 miles faster in my average than normal but I don’t know for sure since the bike doesn’t have a computer on it. All I can say is that I must have been much faster than normal because I was just behind the leaders of the group the entire ride last night.
Now my real fear with this bike was the fact that it has the new compact double crankset up front, meaning I’ve only got a large and small ring–the large ring being the same size as the biggest ring on my OCR, the small ring being just a tad larger than the granny ring on my OCR. I’m not the most technically apt person, but CC posted a blog entry about cranksets and I think I understand that there’s a balance between your crankset and the cassette you have in the back. Derrick assured me that the compact double on the Defy Alliance had almost the same gear range as my OCR–I believe he said 90%. What worried me was the low-end of the gear spectrum. Would this bike be able to go in just as low gear up hills as my OCR? Would it impede my ability to climb difficult hills in the valley (which is my favorite thing to do)?
We only went up Major Road last night, which is one of the easier climbs out of the valley, so I can’t speak to how this bike would perform going up something grueling like Everett or Columbia. However, I will note that during this climb, I managed to pass an awful lot of people, more people than I usually do. I didn’t feel like I was missing any gears. Not only that, but the extra teeth on the 34-tooth “granny” ring seemed more efficient when spinning. I may not have been going very fast, but I sure felt like I was. The bike was grabbing the road.
Somewhere in the middle of the ride, I came up with the analogy that my OCR is like a Toyota and the Defy Alliance is like upgrading to a Lexis. The Toyota is a fine car (as is the OCR 1 a fine bike), but when you step into a Lexis, your whole driving experience changes. That’s how it felt on the Defy Alliance. This bike rides smoothly and seems to absorb a lot of road rattle. I actually felt more stable on it and, when we rode down Valley Parkway in Brecksville, I found that I braked a lot less than I usually do (but, as TDB pointed out, I still clipped one foot out of my pedals). The bike handled firmly taking turns and I had the false illusion that I was completely safe.
Having little technical knowledge of bikes, I can’t give you the specifics of why this bike is so enjoyable to ride. But as an avid cyclist who understands how things feel–at least as far as my experience extends to my OCR, my hybrid, and all the bikes I’ve owned in the past–this bike just feels great. I wasn’t expecting to notice as much of a difference as I did; in fact, I was worried I’d be disappointed because the bike was maybe “too die-hard road cyclist” for me to enjoy. Instead, I discovered that I may be more of a die-hard speed freak road cyclist than I originally thought I was. And I’m very depressed to learn that it’s not me who’s a good cyclist, but the bike I ride that makes me fast. What a sobering thing to discover!
Of course, I now realize that I’m spoiled. I can’t imagine riding my OCR without thinking of the experience I had on the Defy Alliance. Which just frustrates the heck out of me. When I bought the OCR, I was planning on that being a bike that would last me a good fifteen years (barring any advances in cycling technology that I might become subject to). Although, I have to admit that a part of me has thought for awhile that I need to have two road bikes–one for commuting with a rack on the back and lower gears and one for faster riding, especially on flat rides. And during the winter, I’m always stressed about having my bike on the trainer, especially towards spring where the weather is so variable, because I have to take the bike off and on the trainer repeatedly. It would be nice to have a spare bike so that I don’t have to prematurely remove a bike from the trainer.
To make matters more interesting, I’ve lately been thinking about selling the Beast and upgrading my hybrid bike to a Giant FCR or something similar that would be lighter and have gearing more like my road bike because I feel like the Beast’s gearing is too low for me to enjoy. So I guess there’s no end to what I can do with my bike purchasing. (Thus the reason behind my recent poll.)
I know, I’m obsessed. Most people just have one bike, unless they work at a bike shop and are bigger junkies than me. But I have to admit that I kind of like having three bikes right now. Four would be good too. I’d probably stop myself after four.
I’m not looking to buy at this moment. Now, though, I know I have some things to think about as far as optimizing my bike collection goes. I think I should work on considering what I’m going to do about my hybrid… Time to save money… And to start hocking non-athletic objects in my house to support my bike addiction…