Back to Road Again
When I first started this blog way back in the autumn of 2008, I had just purchased my first ‘proper’ road bike, an Orbea Aqua 2009 model. It was a £500 bike, as I recall, and it set me on the road to my current lifestyle in many ways, as I have cycled as a matter of course when ever time allows, ever since.
As regular readers of the blog will be aware my cycling tastes have evolved ever since. The Orbea donated many of its parts to my next purchase, a lovely Post Office Red Thorn Audax Mk3. That was ridden a fair bit, including my first 100 mile ride, and in the summer of 2010 I sold that and bought my Thorn Raven Sport Tour with the Rohloff gear hub. Along the way, I also acquired a Circe Helios tandem as well. So why, you might ask, am I now writing about my most recent purchase, a 2011 Cube Streamer road bike?
The Cube was one of those ‘too good to be true’ bargains in the autumn sales, when bike shops habitually clear out the ‘old’ year’s models in readiness for the coming years bikes. This one was reduced in price significantly, but also had an extra 10 percent off as well, which made me crack. But why a road bike, after all this time?
Well, I have to admit that the frequency of my riding has dropped off somewhat this summer. Partly that was due to being busy most of the time, but it was more than that. The Raven Sport Tour is a heavy bike. It runs 1.4 inch tyres on 26 inch wheels. I guess I was finding it hard to get excited about doing my regular circuits on a bike which, I was painfully aware, took a massive amount of dragging around. And the problem with doing less riding is that you get less exercise. Which kind of leads me full circle – I began to recall the excitement that a lightweight bike with close tolerances gave me.
Since about March this year I have been using the excellent Garmin Edge 500 GPS computer on my rides. This, when you connect it to the Garmin Connect web site, allows you to upload ride data and analyse it – average speed, distance, time, elevation, heart rate, etc. When you are faced with actual metrics regarding your riding, it becomes too stark to ignore. My average speed was declining, my ride frequency was less; in other words, alarm bells were ringing. And so it was that I began to seriously consider a road bike again, as an addition to my stable.
A quick look at the bikes on sale caused the usual problem – where to start? I anted to go for something rather less entry level than my Orbea, which, although an excellent bike was rather sparsely equipped. And I must admit to having considered Cube last time around as well – the dealer I bought my first bike from was also by chance a Cube dealer. Being German, they are a very respectable marque, who along with the likes of Focus, Rose, etc have penetrated the UK market quite successfully in recent years with bikes that have a standard spec way above their price bracket. The Streamer is a mid-point model – between the entry-level Attempt and the ‘serious’ level Agree, it had the same Aluminium frameset as the higher priced line, and a decent level of kit – which included Ultegra levers and rear mech, 105 triple chainset and front mech, cassette and chain, and ‘old’ 105 brakes. I’m not sure why the Germans tend to supply so many of their bikes with triple chainsets, and after much pondering I decided to change this to a double Ultegra chainset and front mech.
So, what was it like taking to the tarmac on a sleek road bike, after a year of riding an upright, long wheelbase comfy tourer? In a word, my first ride scared me senseless. The excitement and engagement that a road bike gives you came flooding back. I rode around the village in a mile long loop, and came back heart pounding and smiling all over. Since then, I have managed a couple of decent rides, the last one being just over 30 miles. I am getting accustomed once again to the feel and position of the bike, and the very direct feedback that it gives.
I have replaced the standard fit saddle with a bargain last years model Specialized Romin SL, which is feather light and very comfy. I have also fitted the cadence sensor that came with the Garmin, so I can now use the ANT+ links that allow the heart rate monitor, speed and cadence sensor as well. These modifications have got me motivated once again.
The bike has a Deda carbon fork which gives a nice comfortable ride, and on normal road surfaces it is a very firm but not uncomfortable bike which seems to be stiff and not given to flexing under accelleration. The standard fit Easton EA-30 wheels [made specially for Cube, I guess, as you can’t seem to buy then anywhere else] are perfectly reasonable hoops, although a wheel upgrade will be on the cards at some point. But even so, it gets up to spped easily, and seems to hold that speed as well, the awesome Ultegra brakes bringing me back to a more sensible pace when applied. I have taken the step of replacing the standard pads with Koolstop Salmons for the winter. The Ultegra levers, which are carbon bladed, allow very precise modulation on the brakes, and the gear shifts are sweet. Having moved from 105 triple to Ultegra double seems to have been a smooth transition, given that the left hand [front mech] shifter is actually designed to work with three gears not two. I just figured that living in flat old East Anglia, there would be little use for the small 30 tooth ring and I always liked the 52-39 gearing on the Orbea, so have replicated this against a 12-27 rear cassette. I just have to accept that next time I try and do Holme Moss, Mark will beat me to the top as I struggle and puff away….
I’ll report further in a few weeks, but initial impressions are good.