2011 Winter bike build shortlist

Roughly this time last year I wrote a blog post on winter bike choices (http://girodilento.com/2010-winter-bike-thoughts-and-options), which was for me somewhat hypothetical at the time. Re-reading it whilst I was pondering this post, I found I still agreed with all of the key points. What’s cool is that this year I’m fortunate enough to be one of those people with a Dura Ace clad lightweight carbon race bike that there’s no way I’m going to ride through the winter unless it’s a beautiful clear dry day. 

As my patient and long suffering wife had also noticed, our garage already had lots of bikes in it – but to me none of them were quite right for winter riding. So an ebay sell off has ensued (see: http://girodilento.com/au-revoir-allez) and I have cleared out two bikes from the garage and have some money from that to go into a proper winter bike build. 

This post marks the start of that journey to my first “proper” winter bike with full mudguards.

What’s also been interesting in re-reading last years post is that I’m wrestling with many of the same choices/trade offs as I wrote about before and these are as follows: 
  1. What do I want to use the bike for?
  2. How versatile does it need to be?
  3. How big is my budget and what do I actually need to buy?
  4. What tweaking of the builds can I sensibly consider?
  5. What’s the shortlist I’m choosing from? 

So to answer these questions for me and my current challenge:
  1. Mainly winter/bad weather road cycling, including some commuting (so it would be nice if it’s not a major target for thieves as it may get looked up at the shops from time to time). Full mudguard mounts are essential and ideally rack mounts. I will also be doing some occasional family cycling on tow paths/off road cycle paths – like the family cycle trail at Bedgebury (http://www.bedgeburypinetum.org.uk/) – but this will most likely be relatively infrequent.
  2. In the short term the versatility I need may be different from the longer term as right now my daughter still wants to ride in a child seat – so I need rack mounts for that – but it won’t be more than a year until she can ride her own bike. My sons is doing more riding and he may get keener to do some more family cycle paths with me as things move forward and the bike will need to be strong enough and durable enough to cope with both of these things comfortably. I don’t want a bike for family riding and a bike for road riding – this winter bike needs to do both – but 80-90% of the riding will be on the road. 
  3. The budget is variable and not finalised at present. It will end up falling somewhere between the range of choices on my short list below – this is dependant on a few balls I have up in the air and it will take 3 to 4 weeks for the final budget to emerge. I already have a set of Easton EA90SLX wheels shod with a brand new set of Vittoria Open Paves on Michelin Latex Innertubes (which are a lovely combination). These are in my garage waiting to go on my new bike. So the wheels and tyres are sorted at least. 
  4. Some of the trade offs I am thinking about are for example – should I go for a higher end frameset and a lower end groupset (105 versus Ultegra)? I’ve been enjoying riding the FSA SLK carbon bars as well – could I get them into the build or something similar (Deda Presa for example) or is it more sensible regardless or depending on the final build to go for cheaper alloy bars? I fancy trying something different than the 3T I had on my Allez (although it is very nice stuff).
So with the positioning above my shortlist going to from low to highest budget is as follows:

Kinesis TK2
In many ways, this could be a bit of a no brainer as a winter bike and indeed for many people it is. It’s a proven design, it’s strong, durable, good to ride and will take a fair amount of abuse. It has good clearances and would cope fine with all of the challanges on my list. Shimano 105 would be a perfect groupset for it and it would look good in the grey colour as in the photograph. A TK2 build would also keep the budget at the lower end and would be a bike I’d be happy to ride and leave at the shops (locked of course). If I’m being honest, the biggest thing against this option is that compared to my lovely summer bike – it’s almost a bit cheap (although far from nasty).

Cannondale CAADX 105
For me, this is the wildcard entry on the list because it would be at it’s best on cycle paths etc rather than on the road. What’s good is that I have my set of road wheels for road riding and could keep the standard wheels for family riding. Cannondale have a terrific reputation for their aluminium frames, so it would be nice to ride one. A friend has just bought a 2012 CAADX and having taken a look at it – I think it looks good except for the finishing kit, which I thought looked cheap. Obviously that can be replaced though for not a great deal of money. The CAADX has mudguard and rack mounts – so would tick the family box extremely well and would be ok on the road. I’m just not sure I want a cross bike though – I worry that it’ll be like the hybrid I owned – a bike only ride if there is nothing else … or worse not at all.

Genesis Equilibrium 20
The Genesis is on the list as I think they’re a beautiful and sensibly priced bike and I’ve shared my positivity about them before: http://girodilento.com/the-stunning-genesis-equilibrium-20-2011 a post that has had over 8,000 views now, so there are plenty of other people who’re fans too. I like the fact that it’s steel but with modern geometry. It is supposed to have a good zingy ride and the only thing that I’m not sure about is if it could take the rack with a child seat. It may seem madness, but I would actually consider building one of these with Ultegra and probably in the Cherry Red. The standard Equilibrium 20 though is a good spec (and I could swap the wheels out for my Eastons), This is definitely a contender that I think subject to confirmation about the rack issue could tick all of the boxes on my list. I’ll update this post as soon as I know about the rack mounts.

Kinesis Granfondo
I’ve been a fan of this frameset since it was first released. To me this one of the first more “upmarket” winter frames and still is. I think it looks well priced, is reputed to be a good ride and is relatively flexible in its potential usage. In fact in last year’s winter bike post this was almost the winner … but then Dom and the guys at Kinesis brought something else to the party – which you’ll see below and that’s really put the cat amongst the pigeons. However it doesn’t rule the Granfondo out. I like the new black colour scheme and it would be a great bike with an Ultegra groupset. A strong mid-budget contender. Probably not so good for cycle paths like those at Bedgebury – but does have rack mounts.

Enigma Ethos
I know Enigma make some great bikes and they’re not far from where I live. In fact I had the Ethos recommended to me by Dave Arthur at RoadcyclingUK when I asked him about winter bikes early in the year (Dave has an Ethos I believe) and in the latest issue of Cycling Plus, the Ethos has had an absolutely glowing review. It’s a quality steel bike, hand made in Sussex and the ride is supposed to be very good indeed. It’s a classy looking bike … so it all sounds like a great contender. If you’re waiting for the but ….. well it was that I wasn’t sure about the looks. However, I have now seen the bike in the flesh and it looks good. I popped down to Enigma (not far from me) to take a closer look and in the flesh it gets the thumbs up. 

Kinesis Granfondo GF_Ti
I’ve always had a hankering for a titanium bike and to me it is the perfect material for a winter bike. The Kinesis is not the only Ti bike on the market but I think it just looks better than most of the more audax style bikes. I’m not a cycling traditionalist in any sense, I like the new and I like modern sloping geometry not just aesthetically but it also fits my body shape better (I believe). I looked at a number of other brands but I think the Kinesis just looks right. I also enjoyed Dom Mason’s (the designer’s) post on the design on the Kinesis Morvelo blog: http://kinesismorvelo-dom-mason.posterous.com/racelight-gfti-some-details This bike is absolutely at the top of my budget – but I think it could well be a cracker. 

And so…
Well the first thing for me to admit is that I’m not clear about or an expert on geometry. I’ve been very happy riding a size 56cm NeilPryde – the geometry has felt right. Previously I’d been riding a 56cm Allez and I like the slightly shorter top tube on the NeilPryde better. I also have generally enjoyed the slightly lower front end on the NeilPryde too – so I’m not looking for a super high front end. I’m 5ft 11 tall but with longer legs and a shorter torso, which is why I think I preferred the slightly short top tube. For me, these factors suggest that the Genesis, CAADX and maybe a 56cm Ethos might fit slightly better than the Kinesis choices but I’m pretty sure I could happily ride any of these bikes.

Where am I at with making a decision?
I have to say, I’m a bit torn at present – all of the options above make a strong case for themselves. If I can arrange some demo rides in the next few weeks I will try them out but it’s not essential. One way or another I need to whittle down this list so with that in mind I’m definitely open to comments or suggestions on other choices or options with regard to frames. I’m decided on either Shimano 105 or Ultegra, so am not looking at any other brands of groupset. I’m open to suggestions on finishing kit too – bars, stems, seatpost etc. If you have any thoughts – please do let me know. I’m certainly going to ask a few people (including some experts) for input and then I’ll post about how I make the final choice and also on the build as it moves forwards. I hope you’ll find it as interesting as I’m expecting to.

Thanks for reading…