This past Friday I had a chance to get out on the resurrected Erickson for an afternoon ride on my semi-off Friday. While I’m not someone who has much interest in wine or beer tasting, I do truly look forward to riding different bicycle frames, frames with different forks and wheel/tire combinations and different component configurations just to see how they influence the ride characteristics of the bikes.
The return of the Erickson to the road marks my first time back on a steel road frame since 2008 as the Calfee Tetra Pro that I acquired and rode as part of my decision process for our Calfee tandem in the spring of 2008 ended up becoming the only single bike that I used on the road thereafter. The Erickson was put up for safekeeping, then stripped for parts and the Dean Castanza was relegated to the stationary trainer and rollers in the exercise room over the garage.
Before even leaving the driveway I knew the handlebars were both a bit too narrow and too low for my normal riding position and just accepted it “as is” since I didn’t want to spend any money on the bike until I decided if it was something I’d be riding on a regular basis. That’s still the case, but I’m chomping at the bit to get a new stem, bars, tape and therein lies the slippery slope.
For this first ride the Erickson was fitted with its original Chorus/Mavic CXP33 28* wheelset rolling on a set of 4-year old 700x25c Vredestein Fortezza tires inflated to 135 psi. In contrast, the Calfee Tetra Pro rolls on a set of Record/Mavic OpenPros with the 700x23c Vredestein Fortezza tires at 140 psi. About 1.5 miles into our normal loop ride I hit a stretch of road with cracked asphalt and was truly surprised by how every little defect in the road seemed to be transmitted through the frame and into my hands, feet and tookus. In fact, I immediately pulled over and let air out of both the front & rear tires to retune the ride quality. It felt much better on the softer tires and the handling also improved: funny how you forget about those things when they’re no longer relevant. I’m still not sure which is the lessor of two evils: having a bike that masks road feel or one that over-communicates!
With the tire pressure adjusted, the ride became far more comfortable. However, I still didn’t have the saddle nose high enough for the type of saddle I was using and assumed that I’d just adjust to that. This was something I regretted not fixing earlier in the ride as my shoulders, hands and neck conspired to make me adjust the saddle after about 40 minutes. Again, like altering the tire pressure, the improvement in ride comfort and posture on the bike was immediate.
The Campy Centaur group that I installed worked well and was dialed-in quite nicely. The brakes could stand to have some fresh pads installed or to at least have the faces of the current pads shaved-down a bit to expose some fresh rubber. And, as well as the new Shimano Ultegra shifters are working on our Calfee tandem I still prefer the ergonomics of the Campagnolo “Ergo shifting” thumb and forefinger paddles as well as the more classic brake hood shape of the older Campy shifters.
There was only one other thing about the bike that took me a while to understand and adjust to and that was the compact triple crankset. Being a triple and a compact, while the “big ring” is the same as my Calfee Tetra with its 50/36 compact double, the other two rings split the difference on the 36t ring by using a 40t for the middle ring and a 30t for the alpine gear. I was momentarily perplexed as I began to hit some of the early hills on our local loop as I found myself using nearly all of the rear cogs while I was in the middle ring. This struck me as odd since I only had to go to the 17t or 19t on the Calfee; what was the deal? Oh yeah, I’ve got an extra 4-teeth on the Erickson’s middle ring!
Anyway, all said and done, it was nice to ride a different bike and I’m pretty sure I’ll continue to ride it. That said, on Saturday Debbie joined me for a longer-version of the same loop on the Calfee tandem. While a lot of the comfort on the tandem is enhanced by the long frame, my hands and shoulders were loving the far-more comfortable ride that our Calfee frames deliver. Steel may be real, but these old bones prefer the fantastic plastic on most days.