Friday, December 9, 2016

Test riding, and how I Felt

What follows is a monsoon of uninformed opinion. But:

  • I am stuck inside with a bad cold, and besides
  • It's raining
So here's another post for bike nerds who may or may not care about my opinions, but who like reading about bikes anyway. And with no segue...


The interwebs have brainwashed me. Or I've brainwashed myself because of my reading of the interwebs.

It is easy, I believe, to form opinions based on the experience of others. We all do it. "On the You Need A More Expensive Bike Forum, five out of six posts state unequivocally that you need to lube your dynamo hub with real Italian extra virgin olive oil...so anyone who settles for any other kind is deluded!"

So of course I need a steel bike. And it has to be all steel. No carbon fiber parts at all. And no skinny tires. Because the guys on the You Need A More Expensive Bike Forum told me so.

This idea was stood on its head the other day when the owner of my favorite LBS talked me into test riding a Felt V85; an aluminum frame bike with a carbon fiber fork and seat post. And 28mm tires, which I've always thought would make the ride uncomfortable. I surprised myself by liking it a great deal. It ranked with the Salsa Vaya Deore for ride comfort, but it was lighter and in terms of ease of shifting, I liked the drivetrain (Shimano 105) more than than the SRAM/Shimano drivetrain on the Vaya.

Of course, this post wouldn't be complete without a picture of the bike under discussion.
This picture belongs to Felt Bicycles and I only hope that their lawyers don't come after me for using it.
In the past, I've always felt that the rider should be happy with the looks of the bike; that that would contribute to the enjoyment of riding it. That's another idea that got turned around when I rode the V85. I don't find the frame particularly attractive. I don't like that the paint job is ninety-nine percent black. But when I rode the bike, I just didn't care what it looked like. I've also read that Felt bikes are geared largely towards racing. I would find this off-putting except that riding the V85 showed me that it would be a great bike for many purposes. I could easily see using it as my main commute bike, for one.

Was there a downside to this bike? Well, one big one...it's no longer in production. I wrote to Felt Bicycles to ask if the spec was changing for the 2017 V85, and was told that the V series was being replaced by the VR series. Of, if you prefer the marketing terms, the "Adventure" bikes were being replaced by the "Endurance" bikes.



Side note: Is anyone else made uncomfortable by the idea of a carbon fiber seat post? I know that carbon fiber parts are probably pretty tough, but...I'm older and I've heard a lot of stories about carbon fiber parts breaking. The idea of the seat post snapping makes me a little bit queasy.

My next step, then, was to find the equivalently specified bike in the VR series.  That would be the Felt VR30, shown below:
Ditto on the ownership of the picture, ditto on the lawyers.
It is a more attractive bike as far as the colors go. It also has the 105 drivetrain. Also the carbon fork...but on this one, the steerer tube is carbon also.  I don't know much about the fork construction, but I would feel a bit more comfortable with a metal steerer tube. And though I'm sure that the spoke count wouldn't be an issue, I would be more comfortable with the 32-spoke wheels on the V85 than with the 28-spoke wheels on the VR30.  The VR30 also has thru-axle wheels; whether that's good or bad depends on where you fall in the QR versus thru-axle debate.

While I reserve judgement on how the bike rides (largely because I haven't ridden it yet), I have quibbles with the carbon steerer post and the decreased spoke count. This is because I'm slightly overweight, older, and persnickety. And while I don't have solid opinions based on experience, the interwebs have told me that these things could be problems.

Felt also makes a cross bike that almost fills the bill for me: the F65X. Which of course you need a picture of:
Owner, lawyers, you know the drill by now
I say it almost fills the bill because of a few things. One is that I have never ridden a bike like this for over five miles, and I don't know how comfortable it would be on rides of twenty to thirty miles. The other is that the front wheel has even less spokes ("Yeah, sure," I can hear some saying. "It doesn't make a difference, get over it.") My problems with the spoke count could be nit-picking; but the comfort issue might come up. But it does have an alloy seat post (at least I think it's alloy -- the description is in a secret code) and an aluminum steerer tube.

So...do I have to have a steel frame bike? Before I rode the Felt, I would have said yes. But now I see how an aluminum frame bike can ride as well as a steel bike, the waters are a little bit muddier on this issue.

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