ON THE ROAD AGAIN – TAKING DRASTIC MEASURES TO DEAL WITH THE BIKE SHORTAGE

By Zap

As many of you have no doubt realized, new bikes and parts have become increasingly hard to come by as the world slowly crawls out of its pandemic-induced manufacturing and supply-chain disruption. Other than being the recipient of a SRAM/Giant project bike a few months back in the spring, the shortage of new-model test bikes had reached a drastic level. In a word, none. 

While at any given time we can usually count on some of the more recently tested bikes still being in the office prior to getting shipped back, every 2021 bike we had from spring testing had been returned, as the bike brands, too, were short on bikes. 

INTO THE STABLE

Realizing that (at best) there was going to be about a four-week period before any new bikes would roll into the office, I was reminded of a collection of odds-and-ends test bikes from back in the day that were spread among numerous garages. The bikes had all been loaned out and lost to time, but they were soon to be put back into action; desperate times require desperate measures! 

Other than getting reacquainted with skinny and sketchy 23mm tires, the bikes offered both a good look back at previous product technology, but also good appreciation for the product evolution that many now seem to take for granted. 

After using the “vintage” bikes to mix it up with all the modern bikes on various group rides, the most important takeaway remained—it doesn’t matter how old your bike is,  what matters is that you get out and ride it and enjoy it. The one caveat is to make sure you go over the bike and check that the tires, spokes, brake pads and derailleurs are in good condition. 

2009 GIANT TCR ADVANCED SL 0

Originally tested in the August 2009 issue, despite the overly laden model name, I still recall thinking the bike was a virtual “pocket rocket” after my first ride. The TCR sold in seven sizes for $7300 and weighed a paltry 14.8 pounds.

As if the model name wasn’t enough of a mouthful, how about all the logos plastered over the frame?! Um, in case you lost count, there were 20 points of branding from front to back. 

Standout frame features (besides the graphics) were the massive box-shaped downtube and Giant’s signature integrated seatpost. At the time, Giant offered five different versions of the TCR that started at $4200 and jumped to $13,500 for a Di2 version. In the test we called the price “unfathomable,” which now seems quaint in the face of so many bikes that cost thousands more today.

THE PARTS

The curious thing about the timing of my venturing back out on the Giant after a 12-year hibernation was that the same week I rode it down to the Montrose ride was the same week that Zipp launched its newest iteration of the vaunted 404 wheel, the 404 NSW. 

The 2009 versions used an aluminum brake track and dimpled rim surface, along with a set of way oversized skewers that looked like they came off a mountain bike. Tubeless-ready? The road world didn’t know what that meant back then! 

Other than the carbon FSA stem that had been replaced with an aluminum Bontrager stem, all the components (ie., Fizik Arione saddle, FSA carbon handlebar, Fizik bar tape, Michelin Pro 3 tires) were as stock as the day the bike was put away. A very pre-SRAM Red AXS 10-speed drivetrain sported a 53/39 chainring and 11-25 cassette. The in-line cable adjusters, which allowed for in-the-saddle adjusting, were a nice touch. 

THE RIDE

Following the super-light tire tracks of the Cannondale that is close to 2 pounds lighter, after switching back and forth between the two bikes, the Giant’s ride was much closer to my sweet spot of comfort and performance. With its massive downtube and tight front triangle aiding frame rigidity, the Giant, again, epitomized a “pocket-rocket” ride quality.

Older and weaker than when I first rode the Giant 12 years ago, the 11-25 cassette matched to the 53/39 chainrings proved challenging in the local hills and made me all the appreciative of modern drivetrains that cater to lower gear ratios and easier pedaling.

And as minor of a detail as it is, if there was one part of the bike that made me all the more appreciative of the path of design evolution that the bike industry has enjoyed over the years, it would be the size of the Zipp skewers—almost a two-in-one level of size and material!

THE LATEST VERSION 

Giant’s 2022 line of TCR road bikes include both disc and rim brake models starting at $2250. The premier version of the TCR Advanced SL Disc spec’d with a SRAM Red eTap AXS drivetrain and Cadex wheels sells for $11,850. 

2011 TEAM LOTTO CANYON AEROAD

This is the ex-team bike of seven-time Finnish national road champion Jussi Veikkanen that I acquired at the end of the season. In addition to his national titles, Jussi was also famous for wearing the polka-dot jersey in the 2009 Tour de France for three stages.

This was the first roll-out of the Canyon Aeroad frame design that, in later years, would go on to be one of their best-performing models. The now-vintage 56cm frame stands out not only for its early adaption of dropped seatstays and internal cable routing, but also the overall swoopy design and aero-shaped tubes. Of course, the half-red/half-green paint scheme is another eye-catching detail. 

THE PARTS

Other than the green Lizard Skins bar tape that wraps the red Ritchey handlebars, the bike is as original as the day it left the team truck. No doubt the one authenticating detail (other than the sticker bearing Jussi’s name on the top tube) is the custom number-plate holder that doubles as the rear clamping plate for the seatpost. 

The red and green motif of the cockpit parts was borrowed from the dual-sided red and green frame graphics

A complete 11-speed Campagnolo Record parts kit fills out the shifting and braking duties. Due to either his leg length or personal preference, the bike runs 175mm cranks. Jussi’s bike had a 53/39 chainring and 11-30 cassette. 

When it came to the wheels, it’s easy to assume that the more realistic choice of tubular wheels were swapped out for the Mavic Cosmic SLE clincher hoops that the bike arrived with. 

Ten years later the Campagnolo Record derailleurs still provided spot-on shifting. If the 11-30 cassette really was team spec, it must’ve last been used for a climbing stage.

The Canyon uses a proprietary D-shaped seatpost mounted with a Selle Italia SLR Team Edition saddle. Minimalist Tacx carbon cages round out the former ProTour bike’s kit. Ready to roll, the bike weighed 16.7 pounds.

THE RIDE

Other than the GT Edge, the Canyon provided the smoothest ride of the four bikes. I was surprised to find the 30t low gear, but it definitely came in handy when matched to the taller, old-school chainring combo. Equally surprising was just how controllable the bike was on fast, curvy descents. A pro-level bike notwithstanding, it makes sense that the last thing riders like Jussi would want for a three-week-long Grand Tour was some snappy ride with crit bike handling.

THE LATEST VERSION

The Aeroad’s frame architecture has changed drastically over the last decade. Canyon offers the Aeroad in four different models, ranging in price from $3999 to $8999. The bikes are disc-specific.

2013 CANNONDALE NANO EVO BLACK

This featherweight wonder started out as a project bike (RBA, February 2013) that former RBA editor Neil Shirley used for the Mt. Charleston Hill-Climb the previous summer. The Nano Black Inc. was a special-version model that used lighter-weight nano carbon tubes to shave weight from the standard model. The frame weighed in at 718 grams.

THE PARTS
As it was originally built, the bike had a litany of obscure but featherweight parts that provided Neil with a climber’s delight—a bike that weighed a remarkable 10.9 pounds. Helping achieve that weight was a set of Reynolds’ ridiculously light, 904-gram (per pair!) RZR wheels. Unfortunately, the $4500 wheels were only on loan, so once Neil competed in—and won—the event, the RZRs went back. In their place came a pair of my own all-time favorites, the Zipp 202 “climbing wheel.”

If there’s one thing that’s consistent about every stem we’ve used with a reverse-mount face plate, it’s that no matter what brand, they’ve all been a pain to deal with.

The drivetrain was made up of 10-speed SRAM Red derailleurs and shifters with a 500-gram Cannondale SISL2 Hollowgram crank with one-piece 53/39t chainrings. For rear gears Neil sought out an Italian-made, 12-26t, 131-gram Miche Supertype cassette. Looking to maximize the weight savings, he chose a pair of TRP R90SL brakes, which at 220 grams (per pair) were 15 grams lighter than a pair of Red binders.

Since the original 150-gram Crankbrothers Cobalt II seatpost, 86-gram (yes, 86-gram!) Dash Aero 7 carbon saddle and 112-gram UltraLite pedals had long since disappeared for my Rose Bowl ride they were each replaced with a Bontrager post (with adequate setback), a Selle Repente saddle and Look pedals. As it rolls now, the bike weighs 12.42 pounds.   

THE RIDE

With my most recent rides comprised of bikes that all weighed over 16 pounds, with just a few pedal strokes I was immediately aware of how eerily light the Cannondale was. In short, it felt sketchy! 

Cannondale’s own machined aluminum Hollowgram SISL cranks have always rated high on the eye-candy chart.

In fact, the bike felt so light that I decided to keep it within a more controlled setting by committing to the nearby Rose Bowl ride versus the Montrose Ride where I’d ridden the other bikes. Although, after a few miles, the bike felt less spindly, I never grew comfortable on it. Owing to its feather-like weight, I was happy for the shallow rims to prevent getting blown over by any sidewinds. 

As we all know, weight is the enemy of acceleration, so in other words, it didn’t take much pedal force to feel the bike push forward. Since the Miche cassette had been replaced with a 11-26t SRAM cassette, I quickly realized how much I preferred the benefits of SRAM’s new-age AXS gear combos in comparison.

THE LATEST VERSION

Cannondale’s SuperSix Evo is available in 11 different models, starting at $2200 and heading up to $12,500. The Hi-Mod version is the livery used on the EF Education pro team bikes.

2013 TITANIUM GT EDGE

Similar to the Basso bike featuring Shimano’s latest Dura-Ace Di2 drivetrain (page 28), this GT test bike was initially conceived as a Shimano project bike to showcase the then-new 11-speed Dura-Ace 9000 parts (RBA, September 2013). Back then the new owners of GT were in a resurgent mood and had decided to re-release a trio of the brand’s more heralded models of old under the Heritage Collection name.

Our first ride on the GT Edge was at the Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 launch in 2013. Nine years later, the shifters still impress with their light-action performance.

Unlike the original that was handmade at GT’s SoCal factory, the 3/2.5 titanium reissue was made by a small batch shop in Taiwan. In addition to the brand’s signature triple-triangle design, the frame had some nicely detailed work that included the top tube pierced by the seat tube, a head tube machined from billet, and a polished brake bridge and dropouts.

THE PARTS

Back in 2013 the mechanical Shimano parts were still receiving plenty of R&D attention, while their electronic siblings continued to evolve. Key features (beyond the added gear) were the four-arm hollow aluminum crank with six chainring combos (up to a 55/42!) and better-performing dual-pivot rim brakes.

No, GT was not the first bike to use a triple-triangle frame design (Colnago was just one of a few that came earlier), but they popularized it more than any other as a brand signature on all their bikes.

By the time the GT was retrieved from the stable for its return to action, the original Shimano C35 clincher wheels had been replaced by Mavic SCS carbon clinchers wrapped with 23mm Mavic Yksion tires. The small-diameter carbon Mavic hub shells were an attention-getter among today’s kids, who only know the aluminum versions of modern wheels. The original-spec’d GT carbon fork, Pro Falcon saddle and Vibe 7S aluminum handlebar, and seatpost were still intact.

Mavic’s small, flange carbon hub shells complemented the natural look of the carbon pattern used for the rims. The beefy dropouts were a nice touch.

THE RIDE

Although the GT was the titanium outlier in this squad of aged carbon stablemates, it was easily the most compliant and enjoyable to ride. While the Shimano shifters had less lever throw than their 7800 predecessors, the amount of throw was especially noticeable given the light-switch button shifts of today’s electric versions. Still, as is a legacy Shimano commodity, “light action” is the most accurate verb for describing the shift effort.

CannondaleGiant BicyclestitaniumCanyon Bicyclessram redCanyon AeroadShimano Di2Zipp WheelsGT Edge