With great anticipation, I headed out to Scottsdale May 1; two weeks of riding with John (Zmudshark to you board members), and finally getting to put the new Strong to the test. You would think that I would dive into completing the Strong day one, but with chores and fatigue, it got pushed off day by day. Meanwhile Zmud was beating my brains out on the hills in North Scottsdale and Camelback and Mummy Mountains-his fitness level is truly awe inspiring, and I am more motivated than ever to try and catch him. The routine was pretty simple-one day I would drive down to his house where my EBAY Strong took up residence and we would ride down to Paradise Valley and ride the hills and gape at the $15mm homes. Then he would journey North to my place, where his gorgeous fuscia (?) De Rosa SLX resided, and we would do the Carefree hills and the road to Seven Springs. The trip was interrupted by a side trip for me back to the east coast for a job interview, but I bolted right back when I finished. Course it helps to have a friend like John who let me borrow one of the family cars for the duration, took me to and picked me up at the airport, etc. He?s one in a million.
Meanwhile I took the Strong out for short rides dialing in the fit and fine tuning the build, but never got it quite ready for the rigors of the rides out there-Zmud was already getting impatient with my feigned issues that allowed me to catch my breath-I couldn?t start having REAL bike issues too!
So for the last few days I settled on the SLX Merckx, the 7-11, for the bike of choice-my favorite DA 8 gruppo. I rode it on the BIG RIDE to Bartlett Lake and marveled how well it took the chipseal, handled the big descents and climbs.
The time passed quickly and before I knew it, it was almost time to go. Friday was going to be an easy ride, just to get the legs going. Zmud came up, and finally the Strong was ready for a real test. It was a good test too, because it has the identical gruppo to the SLX-DA8, same wheels, etc. The first thing that I noticed was the fit. I built it as Carl designed it (duh!!), and everything felt exactly spot on. The Rolls saddle was perfect, and I felt instantly comfortable. We headed out the gates and down Legend Trail. The roads in the area are good, but not perfectly smooth. Not chipseal, but high aggregate content, so you can feel the road. Now let me say, I am not one of those guys that has any romantic notion of the superiority of old European lugged frames-I own them and I love them, but I have also had modern steel bikes-Serotta, and of course the Strong that I bought on EBAY. I have no doubt that the Modern American Masters like Strong, DeSalvo, Sachs et al, make the best steel bikes EVER made. I EXPECTED my custom Strong to be my best ride, I mean, otherwise, why bother?
But having said that, I was still stunned, STUNNED by the ride. The first thing that I noticed was how it took the bumps of the road, it was smoother as I expected but not by a little, by magnitudes! The only way I could compare the difference, was when I went from my low end aluminum Trek 1000 to a Serotta. Yes. It was THAT different.
We headed across Pima down Westland taking some detours through the empty residential areas. I noticed that when I accelerated the bike seemed to respond differently; it responded instantly yet so smoothly. Maybe it was all the riding that I had done, but I felt more powerful, faster, smoother, more in control. We did the loop and heading back up Westland to Legend Trail, about 3.5 miles of easy climbing. It was a joy, just smoothly accelerating up. I honestly think Zmud could tell the difference in my riding.
So now I get it. Now I know why Toomanybikes sold a bunch of older steel bikes and has three Strongs and a Pegoretti. And why Len J sold me his Serotta when he got his Sachs. Look, I love the ride of the SLX and the Primato, but I see the potential dilemma of having a bike that feels SO superior to them, that I just won?t ride them anymore. I mean ultimately, it?s all about the ride isn?t it??