It’s dawned on me that a significant number of my upcoming blog posts are likely to be about new kit that I’ve either bought or am trying out. I guess that’s too be expected really. With my eyes firmly set on the Trans-Continental in two years time, the current sabbatical from major events presents an ideal opportunity to experiment with ideas and equipment. Even I was surprised though by how a recent visit to William’s turned out. More on that later, first we need to catchup on the new road bike evaluation.

Giant TCR

The feature picture of this entry also isn’t my new bike – it belongs to William’s right hand man, Daryn. One very like it soon will be though. In fact,20151118_161615 it’s taken me so long to get around to this post that I’ve already paid a visit to see it in William’s shop last week, as witnessed in the photo. All it’s waiting on is some final tweaks and a proper fitting and it’ll be with me in time to ride Die Burger next Sunday (OK, yes, I know it’s now officially called the Stellenbosch Cycle Tour).

Much as I enjoyed riding the Propel, it took me just minutes after mounting up on the Giant TCR to realise it was the right fit for me. Although in fact “suited me” would probably be a better phrase, since the actual fit was no better than William’s Propel had been. This time the saddle and reach were both close to my setup but, Daryn being much younger than I, had a much more “bum up, bars down” setup than my aging frame is comfortable riding. Consequentially there were way fewer (in fact I think no) spacers under the stem than I’d ride with.

But I wasn’t judging either bike on fit, both of those would be resolved on my own version. I was looking for a rarer quality – a bike so natural that it disappeared underneath me, leaving no barriers to enjoying the road ahead. And that was exactly the sensation on the early ramps of my regular Rollercoaster route. As Parel Vallei school slid past I began my regular climbing mode, alternating seating and standing. Sitting spinning in a light gear the bike just seemed to glide up the gradient. The moment I stood up it surged eagerly forward. Not quite the savage acceleration of the Propel, more like a strong puppy towing you uphill by it’s leash.

I love to climb, but I’m not the most powerful of riders. The TCR’s combination of lightness and stiffness quietly hid my shortcomings and flattered me with a rapid and unusually effortless ascent even over the steep final section. The rest of the climbs on the route were more of the same, with some surprisingly fast and enjoyable descents in between. I have to disconnect those descents somewhat from how my actual TCR will ride, as neither Daryn’s wheel nor tyre combination are stock standard. Of course I can and will choose good rubber, but I’ve no idea how the Giant carbon clinchers will ride by comparison. I’m excited to find out – soon!

So that’s the N+1 part out of the way – nothing unusual there, but what’s this talk of N+2?

Niner RLT

William’s Niner RLT (Photo courtesy of William Keith)

The same RIDE magazine issue that featured my PBP article (woops – another blog post I still need to get around to covering) included a piece on the steel Niner RLT. I read it more out of curiosity really – a part of that being I love what the acronym stands for “Road Less Travelled“. It’s a name which just sings out “adventure” to me. Towards the end of the piece the thought struck me that perhaps this was an alternate machine to consider for that other TCR (the Trans-Continental). A big plus was a few shortcomings of the Burl’s that it could address – disc brakes, larger tyres if TCR 2017 has more gravel, and can be fitted with Di2 to ease shifting when hands develop palsy. All of those could be overcome with another bike I had my eye on (Mason Definition) but with a sizeable downside – a hefty price tag that would see me owning two endurance bikes. Why would I ever need two? The Niner RLT is something a bit different – a chameleon of a bike – part Cross bike, part gravel grinder, and part everyday long-haul adventure machine.

And that’s where the unexpected coincidence part comes in – at some point on the visit to test out Daryn’s Giant TCR, I asked William about Niner bikes. My fate was sealed within moments of his reply:

“I’m selling mine”.

Oh dear – N+2. What an earth was I going to tell Yoli? There was simply no way I could pass up a mint condition bargain of exactly the option I had just been contemplating for TCR.

So that’s how I came to leave William’s shop having accidentally bought two bikes and not just one. To be accurate, William wasn’t selling the whole bike – just the frame, fork, stem, bars, and seatpost. Which was, in fact, darned near ideal as it left me able to choose my groupset (Di2 for the reasons above) and wheels (more on those in a future post). Saddle will of course be the trusty Spesh Romin Evo, which I already have thanks to Theunis, whos trial of the same didn’t work out as favourable.

If I have one slight reservation about the RLT it’s the frame material – alloy. I’m not 100% convinced that will yield as much comfort as steel but only time and experimentation will tell. But with the right wheels, tyres, and seatpost, that may not matter – it may well be comfortable enough. And if not, I’m still reasonably confident the overall concept is right. So if there is not quite enough comfort there, then it’s a straightforward step to swap out the frame for an RLT Steel and keep all other components the same. And that’s really the point of doing all this now. Making as much use of the lull before real TCR preparation and training begins to get some of the basic questions out of the way – such as what bike will work best for me.

More on both bikes (and more kit trials) to follow …

23 Nov 2015 – Postscript on Giant TCR

But don’t take my word for it, here’s a review I just read posted on the Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0. One model up from mine, the main difference being Dura Ace over Ultegra. Always nice when you read a favourable review after doing the deed and laying out your cash.


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