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.
Paul Jakma says
How much was the Ti and how much was the tyre? Try fitting 25 millimetre to your Al bike to factor out that difference (my bets are the larger tyre made at least as much difference as the frame).
Bike Noob says
I’ve got a 25 on the rear, and will put one on the front when my front tire wears out.
I’ve recently bought a compact (12/26) and have the same issue with gear selection, in hindsight I should have gone with a triple or more sensible ratios. I guess I will end up swapping my rear cassette unless I improve my fitness soon as I run out of gears going up hill! The other thing is that for some reason the triple is sneered at in the UK, whereas in Europe it’s more standard, I guess it’s because the British Isles are essentially flat, who knows! Great blog, keep up the good work.
I’m sure the 25 over the 23 makes a difference, just as my 25 over the 32 on my other bike. Still 1 bike is “STEEL” and the other Alum. and IMHO, the STEEL rides much better over rougher road surfaces and has a “limo” feel to it. Jmho, Ymmv, have a most excellent day! 🙂