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On pace to hit 400 miles this month; Getting close on road bike choice.

Saturday, October 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


Last month I rode 346 miles, and my October goal is to better that by biking at least 400 miles. So far I’m ahead of pace, and have put in five rides in five days for a total of 86.84 miles.

Yesterday I did another pretty tough workout: 10 laps on the Florida Flo loop at Mt. Dora with no rest breaks. That’s the second time I’ve done that workout this week, and it’s a good one. I don’t ride all-out the entire time I’m doing this workout, but I’m still moving at a pretty good pace. Yesterday’s total ride time came to 1h37m, and my average heart rate was 168 BPM. The total distance was 15.5 miles, and included over 1,000 feet of climbing.

I won’t be riding today, as I have a weight training workout on tap, and I also have about 4 hours of yard work to get done. I’ll be doing at least 14 miles tomorrow, and that will put me over 100 mile mark for the week. With 31 days in October, I need to average 90.328 miles per week to reach my 400 mile goal. I’m off to a good start!

Once I start incorporating road riding into my training riding 400 miles in a month will seem quaint by comparison. Don’t be surprised if I set a goal of 1,000 miles in a month at some point in the near future.

The hunt for a road bike continues, and over the past month I’ve been diligently watching Craigslist, checking the local bike shops for deals and doing tons of research. Coming from the mountain biking side of things, there has certainly been a learning curve involved in this process.

I’ve seen some pretty good deals, but nothing that has blown me away. I’m pretty shocked by how high some of the used bikes are priced on Craigslist–especially considering the condition many of the bikes are in.

The 2011 Trek Cronus Pro is a solid bike, but even on sale is it the best bang for the buck?

The 2011 Trek Cronus Pro is a solid bike, but even on sale is it the best bang for the buck?

There are some good deals to be had at the local bike shops right now, and I’m looking hard at those. For example, check out this 2011 Trek Cronus Pro. The Cronus Pro normally retails for almost $4,000, but it has been reduced to a closeout price of $2,500.

That’s a great deal, but here’s the problem (and this is something I simply cannot overlook): even at that drastically reduced price, the Cronus Pro (with tax) would set me back close to $3,000. The specs on the 2013 Motobecane Immortal Ice are as good (or better) than those of the Cronus Pro, and the Motobecane is $1,000 less expensive. No sales tax, no shipping.

The Monocoque High Modulus Carbon Fiber frame found on the Motobecane is very well-reviewed, and it has a lifetime crash replacement warranty that is much better than Trek’s. The groupset on the Motobecane is entirely 2013 Ultegra 6700–better than the 2011 Ultegra parts found on the Cronus. Vittoria Rubino PRO III Kevlar tires on the Motobecane are excellent performers based on reviews that I’ve read. The Ritchey Pro Zeta wheelsets found on the Motobecane are (arguably) the only spec that lags behind the Cronus. Total weight of the Motobecane is reported to be 16.5 pounds, and that’s about 2 pounds less than the Trek.

About the only negative reviews I’ve seen on the Motobecane have come from people who don’t even own one! Those who have purchased the specific bike I’m considering have almost unanimously praised it.

I’ve approached this choice with an open mind, and I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that there is a lot of bike snobbery out there. I can only roll my eyes when I see it. I do my own mechanical work, and so I simply can’t justify paying a huge premium just for a “big” name on my downtube.

I’ve still not made up my mind, but I’m 90% there.

John Stone Fitness Comments

26 Responses to “On pace to hit 400 miles this month; Getting close on road bike choice.”
  1. John, FWIW, my general impression of Trek’s is that they’re just not a good value compared to competing brands. I own two Treks, and I haven’t been disappointed with either one (far from it!), but when I compared the specs of their road and mountain bikes to those sold by Specialized, there was little question as to which was the better buy. That’s what persuaded me to go with Specialized when I bought the 26er you saw at Mt. Dora. Trek charges an eye watering $3400 more for their version of it, which just left me scratching my head.

    I was also curious about why Motobecane gets such a bad rap, so I asked Tommy Costello about it. He said that Motobecane made a name for itself by under-pricing everyone else, and to do this, they’ve had to cut corners in every area imaginable. Unlike Trek and the other ’boutique brands’, they also don’t spend a fortune on advertising and sponsorships, nor do they have a dealer network. The cost of all that, needless to say, is passed on to the buyer. But Tommy was also pretty scathing in his criticism of their products. You may want to talk to him before you buy one.

    It’s not a bad idea to consult owners, but remember the old adage that when you ask an owner his impressions, you’re talking to the salesman. Owners have a vested interest in justifying their own purchase decisions, and can’t be counted on to provide an unbiased opinion. Any negative report would be an admission that they’d made a foolish decision in buying it, and no one wants to look foolish.

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    • Bikes Direct has a very easy, no-hassle return policy, so I would expect to see some negative reviews from people who were unhappy with their purchase and returned them. I’ve found none.

      The owner reviews I’ve read have been backed up by quite a few 3rd party reviews from unbiased sources. I’ve even read statements from bike shop mechanics who completed final assembly of BD-sold bikes and were very impressed with them.

      I’ve yet to see any evidence supporting the general statement that Motobecane “cut(s) corners in every area imaginable”. Just like every other brand out there, the bikes are not always 100% perfect on delivery, but I’ve seen time and time again that problems, when they happen, have been corrected quickly and painlessly.

      Tommy is about as biased as anyone could get–he owns a local bike shop! I certainly don’t blame him for his view, but the fact remains. In any event, over the past few weeks I left a phone message for Tommy, left a message on his shop’s FB page and sent an email to him. I’ve heard nothing back.

      I’ve done extensive research on BD over the past month. As I said, I’ve approached this with a very open mind, and let the facts guide me. You’ve posted several times now without doing much (any?) research, or having any real factual information at all. I’ll assume you mean well, but come on, man…

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      • John, I have no personal stake in which bike you end up buying. I mentioned what Tommy related so that you could talk to him about it, as he knows much more about the subject than I do. If it seems to you that his opinion is biased and without merit, you’re perfectly at liberty to disregard it. As I’ve told you before, I’ve owned only one Motobecane: the 600DS. That bike happened to be a heap of junk, but I see no reason to conclude that it’s indicative of the brand as a whole. If you’re comfortable buying a Motobecane, buy it. With a return policy like theirs, it’s hard to see how you could go wrong.

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  2. The name on the down tube costs a lot of money and that’s stupid in my opinion. I love my off brand. Especially last weekend when I beat a guy on an Orbea TT bike with Zipp wheels. He rode into transition, saw I was already running out, and was pissed. Sorry about your $7k bike, guy. It doesn’t make the rider!

    My $1200 road bike, aero bars, and $120 aero wheels does just fine.

    Get what you feel is right and smoke the people who would look down their noses at you because you don’t roll an electric shifting roubaix.


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    • Looks solid, but even $1,800 for the Ice is pushing my road bike budget. I suspect shipping would be an additional factor with the Planet X bike, as well.

      Use your muscle and have them send me one, I’ll give it a fair review! 🙂

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      • Yeah, shipping isnt bad and there are no import taxes. They should have all the bikes available from the Portland, Oregon warehouse by next spring. Just thought I’d throw it out there. I’m trying to convince them to let me keep the Rockstar and do another winter lightening project on it, I figure I can get it in the low 24 lb range by stripping it and going carbon on the bars & seatpost and putting a set of AC 29 Race wheels with tubeless Michelin Racer R’s on it.

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  3. I dug around and found a breakdown I did a few years ago. Don’t mean to get preachy. (Cred: Over twenty years working as a mechanic and running bike shops.)

    “A few words of advice: You get what you pay for. These guys are able to sell their bikes at a lower price for good reason: they cuts corners somewhere, most often on frames and by installing lower-end components in areas where the customer doesn’t tend to look.

    I just looked at one of their Dura-Ace builds and noticed that the cassette is a 105-level that would cost you $80 less. The hubs aren’t Dura-Ace and the wheels themselves are considered to be “budget.” Brakes also aren’t Dura-Ace, nor is the crank or headset. The tires are wire-beaded Michelins, which cost less than half of
    Rolling this up, they have probably shaved over $1000 from this bike that the customer isn’t even considering.

    How about the frame? Well, Motobecane, Windsor, and Dawes were once real, proud bike companies, but mass producers bought their intellectual property in order to sell low-end frames with a bit of name recognition.

    Question is, you can save some money up-front while also buying a heavier, lower quality bike than you might find locally. Where do you want to spend your money?”

    Listen, I’m not a raving fanboy of any one manufacturer and fully realize that carbon fiber frames present a higher level of pitiful bullshi* than any other facet in the history of the bike industry. That said, I also think that companies like Bikes Direct do a disservice to the bike industry and riders. It’s all smoke and mirrors, and their profit margins are as high or higher than most local bike shops because they grind out cheaper stuff at high volume. They aren’t doing you any favors, and as companies like BD grow, more local shops are going to go out of business. To me, this is a shame.

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    • Thanks for your comments.

      I can’t say I agree with most of your criticisms, and I’ll explain why.

      First of all, I’ve seen boutique brand Dura-Ace and Ultegra builds that also use the 105 cassette, lower end brakes (Cane Creek, for example) and and budget wheelsets. It’s far from an exclusive Bikes Direct practice. Take a look at some of the current builds on Bikes Direct. You’ll find some bikes where compromises have been made and lower end components were used, and some builds that are rock solid in every respect. Same is true of Trek, Giant, Fuji, Cannondale, Specialized and so on. In fact, with Bikes Direct you see that information right up front; it would be much easier for an unscrupulous bike shop salesman to gloss over or hide budget components from the consumer.

      Also, I think you’re giving consumers way less credit than they deserve (“… installing lower-end components in areas where the customer doesn’t tend to look.”) Now I’m not talking about people looking to purchase sub-$500 bikes (that’s an entirely different discussion), but anyone who is willing to spend $1,500+ on a bike is almost always going to have some real knowledge about what they are purchasing. That 105 cassette or budget wheelset is not going to go unnoticed, and that may be a compromise the consumer is willing to make in exchange for a lower price. It’s all out there before the purchase, so it’s not like BD is hiding anything from the consumer.

      For example, take a look at the build on the bike I’m considering. That’s a real solid build, but I also know the wheelsets, while far from junk, are not high end; that’s a compromise I’m willing to make. Heck, I could take those wheels off the day the bike arrives, toss them in the dumpster, go spend $1000 on new wheels and still be way ahead.

      We’ll have to agree to disagree on the frame. The frame on the bike I’m considering is very well-reviewed, and I’ve seen absolutely no data that indicates it has a failure rate higher than any other carbon frame. That’s probably because all the carbon frames used on today’s bikes are manufactured, as you know, at the same few plants in Taiwan and China. In fact, The Taiwanese frames are considered the highest quality, and that’s where the Motobecane Monocoque High Modulus Carbon Fiber frame is manufactured.

      I’ve purchased the other three bikes I own from LBSs, and I want to support the local guys, I really do. But LBSs are not the only ones struggling–the consumer is hurting right now, too. I would always recommend that someone who is new to cycling buy from a LBS, as they’ll need the support that only a bike shop can provide. But for someone like me–a decent bike mechanic with a nice home shop and several bikes already under my belt–the benefits of buying from a LBS are almost non-existent. Because of that, I’m simply not willing to spend $4,000 when I can spend $1,800 for something equivalent.

      I think it’s time for the LBS model to change. Maybe offer “full service” prices to those those who need that extra care, and much lower prices for those who are more than able to assemble their own bikes and don’t need any hand-holding.

      Adapt or die. Those are not my rules, but we all have to play by them.

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      • “Because of that, I’m simply not willing to spend $4,000 when I can spend $1,800 for something equivalent.”

        Keep in mind also that even if they are NOT equivalent, there is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to spending more, just as there is with anything. I recently passed up buying a substantial component upgrade for my 29er which would have cost me in excess of $600. I did so because the shop owner was candid enough to tell me that the ‘felt improvement’ would be pretty marginal; the difference would be significant to a pro racer, but probably not to anyone else. So the more important question, it seems to me, is not whether you can buy an ‘equivalent’ bike for considerably less, but how much the in-equivalence between them actually matters to you.

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  4. Oops. Bad cut-and-paste. Incomplete sentence. Couldn’t figure out how to edit.

    The tires are wire-beaded Michelins, which cost less than half of what you would normally find on a bike being sold at this level.

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  5. Well, I have been a road cyclist for 25 years and currently own 4 high end carbon bikes and 1 titanium. The Motobecane is a piece of shit and it won’t weigh 16.5lbs in you size. Not even close once you put pedals on.

    Look at Colorado Cyclist and see the Focus Cayo they have for $1899 with Sram Force. I have that bike with Ultegra but I put on lighter handlebars, seatpost, seat and $1k wheelset and it still weighs in at 16.5lbs with pedals and cages.

    My Giant TCR Advanced has Sram Force and is my lightest bike at 15.5 lbs and I just put on 38mm carbon clincher wheels. Sram has pushed the envelope on weight and it works well. Plus Giant draws their own carbon. Most others got to them for carbon and make their own molds.

    Shimano is smoother and I still have 2 bikes with Dura Ace and Ultegra, but even the cheaper Sram Rival is as light. I have bought online and saved and at bike shop. I prefer to support shop for my bike purchases when I can but have picked up some online because I liked the deal.

    You are not even new to road cycling, but you speak as if you already figured out how it all works. You can buy a Pedal Force frame and build bike from components online but to get a sub 16lb bike road ready will still cost you well over $3k.

    I also have a Specialized SL3 with 50mm Carbon Wheelset and that is a hair over 16lbs with pedals. That Motobecane is a total piece of shit with good groupset, but the wheels, handlebars, seatpost are crap. No quality control either at bikesdirect.

    Colorado cyclist, competitive cyclist, Jenson USA are all better sites and you can find better frames. My Focus Cayo which is this exact bike in this review was ridden in the 2011 Tour De France by Katusha team as well as Team Jelly Bean here in usa.


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    • I don’t know who you are (I see you just joined a couple days ago), but I’d still like to take your thoughts seriously; however, when you start off your post with “The Motobecane is a piece of shit…” and then offer no factual evidence supporting that claim, what am I supposed to do with that?

      Yes, I’m sure the manufacturer claimed weight was taken using the smallest frame size–obviously without pedals. No surprises there.

      No, I don’t “have it all figured out”, nor am I attempting to present myself as someone who does; that would be obvious after a mere cursory skimming of my posts on this subject. I’ve simply posted some thoughts based on my research, and so far I’ve not seen any convincing evidence that the conclusions I’ve drawn are incorrect. Sorry, but “Motobecane is a piece of shit” isn’t a swaying argument. In fact, that’s precisely the sort of thing one spews when she’s run out of substantive thoughts.

      I don’t understand the vitriol and negative tone of your post. I’m simply a guy who’s trying to get the best bang for his buck. I’ve posted my honest thoughts publicly, and I welcome legitimate, fact-based opinions that support or contradict my findings.

      It’s just a discussion, calm down.

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  6. Bikesdirect has a bad reputation amongst real cyclists as we know these bikes are not exactly put together well from the facotry. Carbon frames resonate sound, so if the bottom bracket or any other contact area where components are installed aren’t put together by a competent mechanic, your bike will click and make noises that will drive you nuts. Trust me.

    The Motobecane is a very low end carbon frame. It resembles carbon frames that were made 12 years ago. It is not a stiff platform and you will see that the better brands have HUGE down tubes and bottom brackets to make them stiff under hard acceleration. The Focus I attached is German engineered and this frame is ridden by professional teams. The Sram Focus is way lighter than Ultegra as well. I own both Ultegra and Force so I can compare them and both work flawlessly, but if you get into road cycling, you will eventually look to save weight.

    Trust me, the best value in high end road bikes are Focus right now. Bikesdirect stay away.




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    • If I were to buy a Motobecane I would completely dis-assemble and re-assemble the bike on arrival. I may be new to the road bike scene, but I’m a competent bike mechanic. Are the bikes put together poorly? I don’t know from firsthand experience (reviews say otherwise), but in my case it’s a moot point. I will put the bike together properly, and I will certainly note (and call out publicly) any problems I discover.

      Whenever “real cyclists” (come on, really?) rag on Motobecane, it always seems to come back to the frame. The frame is the easiest area to attack, because it’s not as quantifiable as, say, a Shimano derailleur. Every time I see a bang on the frame, the comments are always very vague and not supported by demonstrable facts. Please, back up what you’re saying with some supporting evidence. The end user and 3rd party reviews I’ve seen on the Motobecane Monocoque High Modulus Carbon Fiber frame have been stellar.

      You said “trust me” twice in your post. Sorry, but no. I have no idea who you are. Why would I trust what you are saying without supporting facts? That’s not to say I don’t believe you are a fine and experienced cyclist–I do. But you don’t own the bike I’m looking at, and you’re clearly not impartial.

      I have an open mind–if I didn’t I would have already placed my order. In fact, I’m going to another LBS early next week because I really WANT to buy from a local shop if I can.

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      • Sorry. Wall of text…

        A couple points come to mind: John, you’re a competent mechanic and therefore have the tools and skills to assemble your bike correctly. Any good bike shop does this for their new bikes, but unfortunately many don’t. Some just put the wheels on, tighten nuts and bolts, make a few fast adjustments, and put the bike on the floor twenty minutes later. Time is money, but this leaves the customer holding the bag on problems down the road.

        Pay particular attention to bearing sets. If the wheels have cup-and-cone bearings, plan to loosen the bearing set far enough that you can get the tip of a grease gun in there. Most component companies use “grease” that is more of an anti-corrosive than a quality lubricant, and the bearings are oftentimes poorly adjusted as well. Grease the cables, true the wheels, and make sure the crank bolts are properly secured. After that, you’ll just be tuning up the bike.

        Where the frame is concerned, it’s anybody’s guess, which is why I hate carbon frames with a passion. True, they’re light, but the material lacks many of the structural properties required to make durable bikes. Put another way, every carbon frame is a temporary frame. I have seen more failures — some catastrophic and many cracks — in the last few years than I did over decades of selling and working on steel, aluminum, and titanium frames. It’s downright frightening, so get in the habit of inspecting your bike regularly, paying close attention to the drop-outs, under the headset, the fork crown, and under the bottom bracket. Once carbon starts to crack, the show is over. Companies that spend more money on R&D as opposed to ordering generic carbon frames design their frames to minimize the flex that kills carbon, but it’s still delicate carbon fiber.

        But, repeating myself from the last post, it’s all smoke and mirrors these days. A decade or so ago consumers could look for tube sets with great reputations — Columbus, Reynolds, True Temper, Tange, etc. — inspect the welds, see the design decisions, and make informed choices. Now it’s carbon + eopxy + bondo with a pretty paint job. Very few people know how the carbon was laid up or the actual material that was used, and until somebody does a qualitative analysis — literally cutting frames open to compare how they’re made — it’s impossible to state that one company sucks while another is “great.” But eyeballing the dimensions and shapes of the tubes can provide an indication of where a frame is likely to flex — which is also where you will sacrifice pedaling forces.

        Personally I think that you’ll probably do fine with a BD bike, but you may find yourself reinvesting some of your savings back into the bike over the next year or so. If the frame fails at some stage, get it replaced or buy one elsewhere and rebuild your bike.

        Other suggestions: It’s already been mentioned that companies like Trek and Specialized get a premium for their bikes, which may or may not be justified. But there are smaller profile companies where there might be greated value. I know riders who have had great luck with Felt, Scott, and even some die-hard riders on Fujis.

        Good luck with your purchase.

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        • I really appreciate your thoughts and experience. There was some excellent stuff in your post.

          I definitely plan to tear the bike down and rebuild it. Not only will that ensure that it’s done right, it will be good experience for me since this will be my first road bike.

          I now see what you mean now about “smoke and mirrors” with regards to the carbon frames. It really does seem like there very little real information out there.

          I’m in the habit of doing a quick bike inspection before every ride, and a detailed inspection at least once per week. I’ll certainly continue that practice, and will pay special attention to the areas you noted.

          On my ride this morning I stopped by a local bike shop. I took a look at several bikes, and the 2012 Fuji Altamira Team Replica looked like a solid bargain. The shop quoted a price that was a little on the high side, and with sales tax there’s no way. I left the door open for the shop owner to contact me if he wants to make the sale. Even though the specs on the Altamira are not quite up to the Immortal Ice in a few areas (alloy seatpost, alloy handlebars, 105 cassette), it’s mostly Ultegra 6700 stuff with a few of Fuji’s house brand (Oval) components. I don’t know much about the Oval wheelsets and the Rotor 3DF cranks, so I need to do some research. If that stuff checks out I’d take this bike over the Motobecane if the shop could do a little better on the price.

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  7. Didn’t you buy new wheels a while ago? Just get some slicks and a new cassette and bam! Road bike(ish). 🙂

    But I don’t own a road bike and don’t plan on getting one so I just don’t see this foolish talk! I do want a fatbike though. Oh do I want a fatbike.

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