I went out for the most therapeutic sixteen mile ride I’ve been on in at least six months today. Sunny, a fair breeze (10-15 mph NNW) and a temp in the mid-50’s.
Yesterday was a wash with winds topping 30 mph… I did the seven mile warmup and packed it in. Too dangerous for a club ride. Only a handful showed up. And I was down on myself for not manning up, even if it wasn’t safe.
Today I was all by myself. Nobody to chase, nobody to attack. Just me and the effort. I started out into the wind, same route I always ride, and let the hum-bugs get me down a bit before I found my spirit again after two or three hundred feet. I tucked down in the drops and hammered the pedals. Eight of the first nine miles, all into the wind and I was pushing for everything I had. Then I finally turned west with a helping crosswind and picked up the pace, still in the drops. One mile to turning south and I started to feel good. Not better, but good… I turned south to head home, breathing heavy and sweating. Straining to keep a round efficient stroke and my cadence up. Two miles from home and I’m headed west with that helping tailwind again and I’m crankin’. My inner-child let’s out an internal “Woohoo”! and I’m feeling it again. Last mile, south with the wind mainly at my back. This is the point where I’ll usually take it easy and cool down but that inner-child has me out of the saddle before I’m through the turn, cranking the pedals for all I’m worth to get the cadence up. No way I’m taking this mile easy. Now I’m joining my inner-child, almost giddy… “We’re taking this all the way to the driveway”, I tell him.
I didn’t physically have my arms raised in the air, forefingers pointing to Heaven, but I felt it.
“That’s right“, I think… “I love this shit”!
Every once in a while I get lost in everything. I’m so freaking busy, it’s getting to a point I don’t know what the next right thing to do is.
Then I have a ride like that, that brings me back, puts that smile on my face and spring in my step.
I forgot for a minute: I love the effort.
I was going to just leave my 700 mile review of my 2013 Venge Comp (same exact bike and components as the 2014 Elite – but mine has the cooler paint job) alone as my sole review of the bike but I’ve learned quite a bit about the bike over the last 2,300+ miles – and in case you hadn’t noticed, I really like writing about it because it’s a badass bike. First, my love of that bike has grown exponentially as I’ve become more used to it than my other bikes. See, the big deal with the Venge is it’s geometry. The sloping top tube / compact frame is absolutely spectacular as far as comfort and fit go. It never ceases to amaze me how genuinely good I feel on that bike. The other day on an early season 100 k training ride, the stoker on a tandem asked how I can possibly ride so low and be comfortable. I responded, “it’s the geometry of the bike, I’m not as comfortable on either of my other [standard] road bikes”… Then the captain agreed with my assessment, adding that he’d ridden a comparable bike and went farther adding that their comfort is “unmatched”. I ride more comfortably on my Venge than my 5200, with a traditional racing frame… The Venge’s handlebar is almost 3/4″ lower than the 5200’s. Another piece of equipment on the Venge that I’ve come to love is the Tarmac bend handlebar. It’s a cross between a traditional bend, an ergonomic bend and a shallow bend handlebar and is absolutely phenomenal. The bar top is shaped like the ergonomic bar through the first bend, to the brake/shifter hoods. Unlike the old-style road bar, that has a sweeping first curve, the Tarmac bend is about as close to a 90 degree bend as you can get with a tube – like the ergonomic bar. This offers a lot of bar top to let your hands roam. The Tarmac bend bar maintains a generous 140 mm drop (rather than the 120 mm typical with shallow drops) but lacks the “hump” standard with the ergonomic drop bars (never did like that). Where the Tarmac bend really shines is at the bar ends. While the typical ergonomic drop bar slopes down at the end, the Tarmac bend comes around to parallel with the ground.
Now, when I ride in the drops, I prefer my hands all the way out at the edge of the reach – even with the brake levers, just under the hoods. This keeps me close to the brakes, but more important (from a comfort standpoint), this position requires a good bend in the elbows which allows me to get really low but distributes the weight of my upper body evenly through my shoulders and arms and helps to absorb bumps. The ends though, offer a fantastic change for those times when wind doesn’t necessitate riding low – a midway point between slammed and on the hoods. One other excellent point to make about the handlebar is the perfect integration of the hoods to the setup. If you look at the photos above, notice the different position of the hoods between the Venge and 5200. While I don’t quite get the same support for my upper body on the Venge, I can ride lower without having to make up the difference by bending my elbows too far as I must to get that low on the 5200. Now, I’ve tried to lower the hoods on the Trek but with them that far forward on the bend, it makes reaching the hoods around the bar difficult. I realize I’ve blown a lot of words on the drop-bar, but I believe that special bend is worth it. That’s one special bar right there. As amended in my 700 mile review, I got rid of the standard wheels within the first month of buying the bike. The DT Swiss Axis 4.0 wheels that came on the bike are decent enough aluminum aero wheels but they’re heavy and compared to the Vuelta Corsa SLR rims that I picked up for the bike, the Axis are almost a full pound heavier and don’t roll nearly as smooth or as fast (I can absolutely feel the difference). I am much happier on that bike with the upgraded rims – ditching the old wheels was probably the soundest decision I’ve ever made concerning any of my bikes, and for a reasonable cost: Less than $400 shipped to my door (purchased from Nashbar). Finally, having ridden this bike on everything up to a full century, the Venge Comp offers an excellent blend of speed and comfort for a race bike. Fully dressed (with cages, and pedals), it tops the scales at just 17.3 pounds (16.5 without and the “as purchased” weight was 18.25) and is beautiful on climbs, blindingly fast on descents and still manages to be well-mannered, even on choppy pavement. I have well over 3,000 miles on it and, other than the original wheels, I have no complaints. It’s still tight, hasn’t developed one creek or tick (it’s still quiet as the day I brought it home). Now in all fairness, this is my “A” bike. It’s never seen anything worse than three minutes of sprinkles (no rain) and has only been on damp pavement once. In other words, I baby it. P.S. Invest in some carbon to carbon lube for the seat post – it’s worth it.
UPDATE: I have to amend this post… The crank did end up developing a “tick” and the drive side had to be replaced. What to watch for: the ticking, several ticks in rapid succession through the power zone on each side of the crank was born loud but was noticeable whenever the bike was under acceleration loads (seated or out of the saddle).
I’ve also swapped out the stem and handlebar to a lighter carbon wrapped FSA stem and the Specialized Aerofly handlebar. The weight loss was minimal, something like 80 grams, but the aerodynamic gain was pretty big. The jump in coolness factor is huge:
Also, I liked the Specialized Tarmac bend handlebar so much, I put that on the Trek (and had it painted). You can see the revised photos above that show the closeness of the setup between the two bikes.
UPDATE II (5/7/15): I just swapped out the FSA Gossamer crankset with a new S-Works Carbon crank and spider. I dropped about three-quarters of a pound (it’s down to 16.6 pounds without the pedals and cages – 17.4 with):
UPDATE III: November, 2016: I ended up throwing the Vuelta rims into the recycle bin. The wheels were light but they saved the weight in the rims, not the spokes and hub construction. I’d pop a spoke nipple when I pedaled too hard (I often exert enough force when I take off for a sprint to lift the front wheel off the ground) and the spokes on the rear wheel would lose tension every three or four months… also, I hit a pothole in a pack ride and ended up with four or five cracks in the rear rim at the spoke nipples. The rim was shot. I ended up having the original spokes and hubs laced into a couple of Velocity Fusion rims. They were fifteen hundredths of a pound heavier (each) but I don’t have problems with the spokes or tension anymore. I’ve got more than 11,000 miles on the bike and it still rides better than the day I bought it (the S-Works crank and Handlebar and the FSA Stem were worth the money). The bike, as it is in the photo below, is perfect. And FAST.