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Thursday, March 17, 2005

First ride on the Fuji Team SL

After years of riding primarily on heavy bikes, I finally bought a really light one: the Fuji Team SL. It's a stock 2004 model except:
  1. I put a 12-27 cassette on it. (Why do stock bikes always come with such high gearing? I'm not Lance Armstrong and it seems to me that most other riders aren't)
  2. I made the brakes moto-style (right front, left rear)
  3. I'm replacing the tires with Avocet 700x25s as soon as I can.
  4. I've got a Sigma sport computer mount on it.
Initial impressions: the big difference between a really light bike (< 17 pounds) and a heavy bike is how easily you accelerate. It's amazing to stomp on the pedals and almost immediately get up to cruising speed. I expected a big difference in climbing, but that actually didn't come out right away (though thinking about it, the fact that I was climbing 16% grades in the low gear of 36x27 is pretty darn impressive --- I had to stand up, but I didn't have to swing switch-back). And of course, I was climbing faster! Significantly faster 2-3mph faster, maybe more.

Descents were a blast --- the bike does ride a lot like my Bridgestone RB-1 used to: extremely neutral and stable on descents (a sure sign of good geometry) with no skittishness whatsoever. This is a bike that wants to carve corners. The wheels seem to be a bit fragile to me, but maybe that's because they feel so light! I took the bike up to about 35mph and will have no qualms doing 40mph.

Ultegra STIs take some getting used to. Standing up and shifting is nice, and a little bit disconcerting at first but I think I can get used to it. The brakes take a bit of reaching to, and I think the handlebars need to be rotated a bit. I think I'll have to dial in the fit a bit more. I don't know why, but every time I get a new bike I have a tendency to set the seat too high at first and then adjust it down. By the time I was done, though, (not surprisingly) everything was set up like my Heron touring bike, except for the low handlebars. (Nothing I'm going to do about it, it's a racing bike and wants to be ridden like one) We'll see. It's better to adjust one thing at a time.

All in all, for $1642 (after new cassette, all the labor fixing up shipping damage, etc), it's not a bad deal. My RB-1 cost $2200 after all was said and done, and weighed 8 pounds more! Of course, the RB-1 ran for 8 years before getting hit by a car, and ran as nice 8 years later as the day I bought it, despite hard use, and I'll be surprised if the Fuji Team SL does the same. Nevertheless, I think it'll be a nice experiment for someone who has between 1993 and now never bought a stock bike (and in fact, after I bought a stock bike in 1992, I almost immediately thrashed the wheels and headset and replaced them with good stuff!).

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