Late last year, I bought a bike. And wrote about it. And rode it also. But not so much. Firstly, I went to Brussels (and took it along), but didn’t ride so much there. Then when I got back to Berlin, I began riding it more, but delicately. After all, it’s a new new bike, and I knew how hard I rode my last one, or rather, how hard I crashed it on occasion.
I missed the winter/spring Cyclocross season – rain, cold, mud, and so on – and still intend to join a Verein in Berlin, but have been riding it enough now – both around Berlin and longer trainingsradeln – to say some things about it.
First, the things that make me a bit mmm … conflicted about it.
The brakes. The XT V-brakes I had on my Marin could flick me over the handlebars with the lightest pressure, especially good for dog-legging the narrow alley between bonnet and boot of cars cooling their heels at the lights. In theory, the cantilevers on the CAADX should provide a similar hard stop, but for me they’re a little too light, especially riding on the hoods. In dry weather I can halt pretty rapidly, but only by hauling on them much harder, but in wet weather … it’s a little like having no brakes unless I ride in the drops. Also the profile is somewhat wide on them, perfect for catching things like bags slung over the bars or body parts when crashing. The carbon forks also don’t help in this, giving some pronounced judder if I don’t brake hard or soft enough.
The frame. Having ridden on a slightly undersized frame for years, and this time buying one that should be my size, I would in retrospect have bought the smaller one. Though equally if I’d done that, I might be saying, “Bah! should have gone one size up.” Mainly it’s a combination of the arrangement of the frame with the bars. The front-end feels a little high and big and far away. Perhaps setting up the bars differently, or buying a new set (the first thing I did on my old bike) would be enough. For long rides or casual around the city, they’re fine, but for really attacking or for snappy responsiveness, it feels just slightly ungainly.
Also, while the frame is enjoyably light (I can easily pick the whole thing up above my head with one arm) it’s also a little delicate. I slid on one of Berlin’s utterly rubbish ‘bike paths’ and clipped a pole at walking speed and put a garish dent in the top tube. It makes me a little nervous, knowing that it might not survive even the lightest crash.
Perhaps also I’m slightly tainted by my old bike, which I rode for so long.
So, on to the good stuff.
Ah! it’s good!
I went for a 3 hour ride up and back to Liepnitzsee last weekend, and despite the derailleurs needing tuning (€12 at the bike shop around the corner), it was an utter pleasure. It rides well in the city in any conditions, and with slightly lower tyre pressure makes even the cobblestone streets fun (I can pretend I’m a Belgian Hard(wo)man in A Sunday in Hell). As for getting up speed on the country roads, it’s more an issue of my inability to use up all the gears than any slovenliness of the bike. And off-road, it just shines, it’s even better. it’s somehow as if the whole time it’s on the road (even cobblestones) it’s thinking, “mmm… dirt?” and once the tires touch unpavedness it just has a fit of excitement.
It handles the sand of Berlin-Brandenburg comfortably – I never felt like the frontend was going to bite in and throw my face at the ground, and the backend conversely didn’t feel like it was scrabbling all over the place. It’s also possible to really lean over the bars and attack (of course with aforementioned slight ungainliness). Like my last bike also, I can be dead tired, sick, utterly blah and jump on and have that feeling the bike is doing the riding for me.
I have a set of Specialized SPD pedals which Radkom threw in for free when I bought my bike, and well … they’re not Shimano. So probably along with new handlebars (and spending some time in a shop getting the bike set up properly with them), a new set of SPDs is likely.
The 105 groupset (along with the FSA BB30 bottom bracket and cranks) is – when it’s set up well – a pleasure to ride. 20 gears really doesn’t leave for wanting much, and the ratios make for balanced changing. The seat and bars are ok for the moment, but as with my old bike, I can see finding something I like more. I’m also happy with the inclusion of eyelets for panniers – just for the hypothetical idea one day I’ll go on some long trekking through central Europe.
There’s a fairly comprehensive review on road.cc, which I largely agree with; the CAADX is fine out of the box for the in-between world of city/road/cyclocross/trekking, but a little more spent on setting it up is well worth it.
Tomorrow I have a plan to ride up to the Biosphärenreservat Schorfheide Chorin, mixing in some road riding with trails, so perhaps I’ll have something more to say … and more photos.