I was sitting at 495 miles for the month of February earlier this morning. Yesterday that was just under 485. A day after we got a foot of snow my wife and I defied logic and took our mountain bikes out for a spin. I crossed 500 miles earlier today, when my buddy Mike and I hit the road for another spin on the mountain bikes. It was an easy, if windy ride and we were just looking to spin the legs and have a fun time of it. The season hasn’t even started yet and I’m already several hundred miles up on last year’s mileage. I’m more than 170 miles over last February and I thought last year’s February was an awesome start…
We’re supposed to be getting quite the warming trend between today and tomorrow as well. While today was always going to be mountain bikes, I have a funny feeling we’ll be breaking out the road bikes for tomorrow’s adventure which, if things work, should have me looking at somewhere around 550-ish miles for the month.
I really dig looking at stats like that, year over year. My first year, other than some running miles, was a big, fat goose egg for the month of February. Heck, I didn’t even hit that for July that year…
Back then, a ten mile ride on my mountain bike was still a big deal. Today, ten miles is enough to make me mad that I don’t have the time to do ten more.
Back then I wouldn’t ride if it was below 50 degrees (F). It was 24 this morning. With a 20 mph wind. And it didn’t suck. It wasn’t easy but it sure beat that stationary torture device known as a trainer.
Back then I was riding a bike to make running more fun. Now, cycling is the fun. At least it’s as much fun as I can have with clothes on.
I went out with my wife yesterday at lunch time, again, on the mountain bikes. Nothing much, just a ride up to the shop and back. We wheeled our bikes in and said hi to everyone and the owner, seeing us in our gear, laughed and said we were nuts.
He’s right too, but today that’s a good thing. I think.
This is my Venge the day I bought it and brought it home:
And after the new wheels (and lowering the bar/stem 15 mm and setting the saddle back about 5 mm):
Please let me get a few simple things out of the way quickly:
1. If you heard the Venge is too stiff, you heard wrong. The Comp/Elite is not too stiff. It’s indeed a stiff bike, it’s supposed to be, but the 10R carbon composite frames are nowhere near too stiff. I can’t comment on the S-Works 11R frames because I don’t have eight grand to blow on a bike. I do have 7,000 miles on my Comp (the Elite for the last two years) and I am nothing but happy with the ride. It’s got the right amount of go where you need it and the right amount of compliance where it counts.
2. The original wheels on the Comp sucked, I replaced them almost immediately (see photo above). The wheels on the Elites are a step in the right direction though, however the newer Fulcrum S-Series wheels are one step lower than the Fulcrum race wheels. The S-5 is comparable to the Race 7. The S-3 is comparable to the Race 5 (at least that is how it was explained to me by someone who spoke to Specialized).
3. A major upgrade in the Elites (2015) over the Comps (2013), the newer models come with the S-Works Aerofly handlebar. I had to upgrade mine to that bar (and oh, was it worth it). The stem was a bit of an afterthought. I didn’t need to upgrade it, it just looked cool.
For starters, my Venge is a 56 cm frame. I’m 6′ tall and would typically take a 58 but I wanted a bigger drop from the saddle to the handlebar so I could ride lower.
After somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 miles on my Venge and having to send the right side of the crankshaft back because of a fit/play issue, a new chain and two sets of tires, other than the one side problem FSA Gossamer crank I haven’t got a complaint. In fact, I figured I may as well go crazy:
No more worries about the crank, and I dropped three-quarters of a pound. The S-Works crank, again, was worth every penny. In fact, of all of the upgrades on my bike, I’m happiest with the crank.
The Comp (and now the Elite) comes with Shimano 105 components which, while heavy compared to Ultegra or Dura-Ace, are incredibly easy to dial in and have maintained their tune so well that I haven’t had to tinker with the cable adjusters in at least a year. The front dérailleur was a little touchy at first though never so bad that I couldn’t shift – it just took a bit of tinkering to get perfect.
Then there’s the frame. After more than 7000 miles, it’s still solid as the day I brought it home. I’ve had the bike over 56 mph (90 km/h) without as much as a wiggle, let alone a speed wobble. Meanwhile, the bike is exceptionally decent on imperfect roads. Much more reasonable than my 5200 – really, it’s not even close, especially once the S-Works handlebar was installed.
Now, in all fairness, when we went through the whole crank click problem, the whole bike was pretty much rebuilt from the ground up to make sure it wasn’t an easier to fix problem. All of the bearings were checked to make sure they weren’t lose or defective and then, just to make sure, were seated with Loctite. Beyond that, I take everything, except the internally routed cables, apart to clean and lube the bike. The crank is done twice a year, the steering assembly is done at least twice a season, the chain is lubed every 300 miles (I like a quiet chain), the dérailleurs are cleaned and dry-lubed with the chain and the wheels cleaned every week. In other words, I really go out of my way to care for the bike.
I enjoy it so I want it to last as long as it possibly can.
Here’s the bike as it is today (though I’m looking at new wheels for it):
I’ve removed the decals from the wheels because I busted the rear wheel on a pothole on a four day tour. The company wouldn’t sell me just one hoop so I went with a Velocity rim and laced the hub and spokes onto that hoop. I’d rather have the decals on the wheels, but I wasn’t about to buy two new wheels for a hoop (the only option I was given). Those are Blackburn carbon fiber bottle cages. The stem is an FSA carbon wrapped aluminum (only 110 grams – the carbon wrapped aluminum is lighter than a full carbon stem because it doesn’t have to be overbuilt for the stress). The handlebar is S-Works Aerofly and the computer is a simple $40 Specialized wireless Speedzone Sport. The crank is S-Works carbon fiber and the pedals are red Keo Classics. Everything else is stock, though I’ve had to put a new cassette on it and its on the third chain.
My Specialized Venge, without a doubt or regret, was worth every penny of the $5,000 I have into it. I’ve ridden it everywhere, from the mountains in Georgia and northern Michigan (lower peninsula) to the flats of southeastern Michigan. It climbs fine, it rolls fast and is plenty comfortable for anything from a jaunt around the block to a multi-day, century a day, tour.
If you’re looking at one, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s one blazing fast bike… and if you’re looking at a newer Elite, the Aerofly handlebar comes standard and the bike is $300 cheaper that what I paid for mine (and I had to cough up another $300 for the bar upgrade).
Finally, I’ve had my Venge a little over two years but only have a little more than 7,000 miles on it because it only gets the good weather. I won’t ride it in the rain or until all of the salt from the winter has been washed off the road by rain… If I had my choice, I’d own two. One Venge Pro for the good weather and the Comp for bad… That’s a little more cheddar than I can throw on a couple of bikes.