I took the titanium bike back to my friend Rick today. With the beginning of the new month, the bank account is flush again, and I took my own bike over to the bike mechanic to have it worked on. (I feel a bit sheepish about that now, because it took him only 10 minutes to fix it, and he charged me a whopping $8.)
After a handful of rides on Rick’s bike, I thought I’d give some impressions. The two big differences between his and mine — besides the size — were the titanium frame and the triple crankset.
The titanium frame had much the same effect as the steel frame I tried a few months ago. It smoothed out the roughness we encounter on our roads around here. But compared to the steel, the titanium was even smoother. That loose gravel I mentioned that we hit on Sunday was swallowed up by the titanium and the 25 mm tires. I know if I had run into the same conditions on my aluminum bike with the 23 mm tires, I would have been able to feel every pebble.
I’ve also concluded that if I ever get another bike, it will have a triple. The reason is simple: better gear selection. My Allez has a nine-speed compact. While some of the gears have a single-tooth spacing, others have a two-tooth gap. One has a three-tooth gap. On the Airborne, most of the gears were spaced only one tooth apart. For me, that had the effect of more precise gearing throughout my rides. As I told Rick, “I always feel that I’m in the right gear. With the compact double, I feel like I’m between gears sometimes.”
Of course, the triple made climbing hills easier, although I did not get a chance to try it out on some of the really challenging hills around here — the hills that I have trouble getting all the way up on my own bike. I did take it up some of the steeper hills on my Saturday morning route, and it made a couple of testers seem positively easy.
I used the 12-25 cassette for those hills. Another wheel had an 11-23. So that one would have gotten me a little bit more speed on the flats, when I’m in the 11-tooth gear, but really — my highest speeds come when I’m coasting down hills anyway. One tooth difference between cassettes doesn’t mean much.
So I enjoyed my time on Rick’s bike, but I’m eager to get out on my own on a Fourth of July morning tomorrow. Maybe, as Rick suggested, the perceived differences between his and my bikes were simply due to a “placebo effect,” and my own bike won’t feel much different, after all.