Out with Carbon, In with Steel

2013 Bianchi Volpe
New steel

I’ve been crazy about bikes since I was a little kid. It was our main form of transportation growing up. Our parents didn’t take us places in the car; if we wanted to go somewhere we rode our bikes. I had several bikes over the years. When I was a teenager I inherited an old Motobecane road bike from my older brother. When I started college, not  owning a car, I went to the local bike shop and bought a French Gitane road bike. I put quite a lot of miles on that bike. I rode it all through college and 6 years of graduate school. When I was moving back out west I decided to sell it because all the components were very worn and since it had French threading (before things were standardized), it was difficult and expensive to find replacement parts.

For several years I rode my mountain bike and a series of commuter bikes. (I’ve been commuting by bicycle for almost 30 years now). As much as I like mountain biking, I really missed riding a road bike. About two years ago I decided to get a road bike. After lots of searching and riding dozens of bikes I decided on a Scott Addict R3 with full Shimano 105 components. The bike fit well, was comfortable (for a stiff carbon fiber racing bike), and I really enjoyed it. After two years, I realized that deep down I wasn’t completely satisfied. Recently I kept thinking about the beauty of a steel road bike. Actually I wanted something more versatile than a racing bike. I wanted something that I could also tour on. After much thought, I decided to sell my carbon fiber road bike. The very day it sold I headed up to a bike shop in Salt Lake and bought a new bike.

Scott Addict R3
Scott Addict R3

I wanted something that was still a road bike, but that I could also load up for touring, and I wanted a steel frame. I narrowed my choices to the Surly Cross Check, the Salsa Vaya, and the Bianchi Volpe. In the end it was the Volpe that felt the best for me. It is technically a cyclocross bike, but is well suited to touring as well. I wasn’t too crazy about all the stock components so I swapped out a few things. Here is how I changed things up:

1. Handlebars: the stock bars were way too narrow for my shoulders, so I had them put on a Salsa Cowbell 3, with brown, leather-looking Salsa bar tape. I really like these wider and flared bars. Very comfortable.

2. Seat: I’ve been riding with a Brooks B17 on my commuter bike (which also has served me on two bike tours) and there was no other choice. I went with a B17 in honey.

3. Pedals: It came with basic SPD pedals, which I did not have shoes for, plus I really like old school toe clips. I swapped for MKS Sylvan Touring pedals. Then later I put on MKS deep toe clips (so I can ride with sandals), and Velo Orange elk hide toe bumpers. I like how they look with the honey saddle. I later also decided to get clipless pedals for touring. I went with the Shimano pedals that have SPD on one side, and a regular pedal on the other. I like having the flexibility of footwear on a tour (I like to ride in sandals when it is hot).

4. Tires: The stock tires were a skinny 28c knobby cyclocross tire. I upgraded to Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tires in creme color. They look nice with the highlights on the frame and they are a super plush ride. I’ve been riding on Schwalbe Marathons for three years on my commuter bike. The Marathons are a bit faster, but also harder. The Delta Cruisers are soft, yet still plenty fast. I really like them, and I love that mellow creme color. It gives the bike a nice retro feel.

I also bought a Velo Orange Croissant saddle bag. The leather accents work well with the Brooks saddle. It also holds a ton of stuff. It will be great for long rides.

I’ve put almost 600 miles on it in the past five weeks and I am completely satisfied. It really is fun to ride. I have ridden everything from flat farm roads, to steep climbs and descents (the Alpine Loop road above Sundance), to dirt roads. It has performed well on all terrain. Riding dirt was pretty squirrelly compared to a mountain bike, but also pretty fun. I even loaded it up with touring gear this week and did a two day 75 mile loop to see how it did with a load. Again, nothing but praise. I love the feel of a steel frame. Yes, it is quite a bit heavier than my carbon fiber bike, but it is so much more comfortable to ride.

Here are a few photos.

2013 Bianchi Volpe
2013 Bianchi Volpe
Nice wide Salsa bars
Nice wide Salsa bars
Brooks saddle, Velo Orange saddle bag
Brooks saddle, Velo Orange saddle bag
Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tires
Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tires
Velo Orange elk hide toe clip bumpers
Velo Orange elk hide toe clip bumpers
Fully loaded
Fully loaded

 

 

 

 

 

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