This section of my website used to be dedicated to triathlon training, personal race results and certification reviews, like Turbo Kick. I am expanding it to include more generic health & fitness topics. Also, I talk a lot about "D" -- he's my husband (Dave Liu)!

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Serotta Test Ride

I had a bike pre-fit (will write about that some other time) by Christopher Kautz of PK Racing. During my visit, he convinced me to consider a steel frame bike, and wouldn't you know, the Serotta Fierté Steel (46P) fits me! Today, D accompanied Margaret & I to City Cycle at Union & Steiner for some test ride action.

Lemme tell you, City Cycle specializes in some pretty nice bikes. From what I saw, the vast majority of what they sell are high end custom bikes. For road bikes, they carry Serotta, Seven and Calfee. Most of the ones in their store easily cost $3,000+.

After ooh-ing and aah-ing at all the pretty bicycles, we went to speak to Clay, the owner. I gave him my bike measurements and he immediately recognized that they were taken by Christopher. They didn't have a Fieré Steel in my size, but had a 48cm Serotta Saratoga available. In case you're wondering what that is, it's City Cycle's private label version of the Fieré Steel made to their own geometries and specifications.

I told Clay that I was primarily interested in determining the difference between Fierté Steel and Ti (titanium) frame bike. He suggested that I should make wide turns, tight turns, ride over all the bumps in the road and pedal hard. This way, I could look out for three things:

  • Steering response
  • Pedal efficiency
  • Vertical compliance (shock absorption)

My first test ride was the Serotta Saratoga I was supposed to start by riding on the sidewalk on Steiner but I didn't feel comfortable doing that so I walked the bike down the next street and get on there. After a shaky start, I made my way up the slope and followed the route he outlined for me which had a nice mixture of gentle slopes (both uphill and downhill).

Riding a road bike was an incredibly strange feeling. All my fears and insecurities about cycling came flooding back to me. Although there wasn't much traffic, I had to slow down at every intersection every block to check for cars. Fortunately, I had the good sense to ride with flat pedals and not clipless ones in case I crashed and scratched up the bike.

I had my hands on top of the hood for most of the ride. I experimented with changing my hand position and managed to get them in the drops and back again, but I was very nervous doing it.

D was waiting for me on the corner of Greenwich and Steiner. He noticed that I was very shaky and nervous - almost as bad as when I rode my Giant. I was very frustrated and disappointed with myself. That's when we saw Margaret come down on a Calfee for a test ride of her own. I waited for her to get back and we both went back to the store.

My next test ride was the Serotta Fierté Ti. Margaret was fitted on the Saratoga and we both set off together. Actually she set out first, and I nearly ran into a parked van on the side of the rode while getting on the bike. After finally getting on, I tried to catch up with her. At the top of the hill, I saw Margaret do a loop at the intersection to wait for me. That gal is pretty good at cornering!

I felt a lot better on the Ti. Maybe it was because it was smaller, maybe it was because I was getting better at test riding or maybe it was because I was cycling with Margaret. Whatever the reason, this ride was a lot smoother and I actually enjoyed riding around.

When I pushed down on the pedals, the bike accelerated like a rocket ship. It was especially apparent going uphill because it felt like all my energy was being transferred directly into propelling the bike forward. The only thing I didn't like about it was that the steering was a little more responsive than I wanted. Almost to the point that it was "twitchy" but not quite.

When we got back to the shop, Clay sent me out on the Saratoga again, and Margaret rode the Fierté Ti. Although the bikes fit us with regards to saddle height, top tube length etc., the brakes were too massive for our tiny hands and it was tiring reaching for them. We decided that that would be our last test ride for the day.

My second ride on the Saratoga was much better than the first, and I was able to focus more on ride characteristics rather than concentrate on not falling. I noticed that the ride was more dull on the steel frame, and the bike felt heavier even though it was probably less than a pound difference from the Ti.

After our final ride, I explained to Clay that I liked the Ti for climbing but the steel for steering. He said he would be able to "stiffen" the handling of the Ti by changing out the fork for an additional $50-100. Using Shimano 105 components instead of Shimano Ultegra would reduce the price by $150. Margaret didn't have a preference for either bike. So he wrote down the prices of both bikes and we went on our merry way to lunch and to compare notes.

After much angst and soul searching, I've pretty much decided that I prefer Ti to Steel. But there's no way of justifying the price of Ti so I'm back to not knowing which bike to buy. I think I'll test ride a Trek 5200 WSD next, but that's still more money than I'd like to spend. Even though I wasn't planningo n going with an aluminum frame, I think I'll spend time investigating the Specialized Dolce line.

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