I rode over to Maplewood Bikes to check out a Trek Madone 5.2. Its hard to believe that the same basic ride used to win the Tour de France three years ago is a box bike.
The specs for the Madone are basically the same as the Roubaix; the difference being 23c race tires on Bontrager rims, a 53/39 front chain ring, and about a pound heavier.
A quick aside: the service I received at Maplewood Bikes is the best I've experienced at a bike shop - ever. The shop has changed quite a bit since I bought a Trek mountain bike there in 1998. Tim Ray worked with me. He is about my age, and really seemed to understand my approach to riding, and what I want in a bike. He spent an hour fixing the fit problems I have with my Cannondale before he even looked at the Madone. The fixes included a new stem, new handle bar position, a change in saddle height and position. The changes made the Cannondale really comfortable. The pressure came off my shoulders, my back no longer felt over-stretched, I had full leg extention (more power!), and for the first time since I can remember, my feet didn't go numb or ache after a ride. Amazing.
By the time Tim finished all his adjustments, it was late. I had planned to take the Madone out to Marshall Rd but there was no time. I opted for a basic 20-miler through Webster Groves.
So...the Madone. I don't know what the hubbub is about. The bike felt dead to me. There was no zip - no glide - not like what I experienced with the Roubaix, or even the Cannondale. It seemed like I had to work constantly to keep the bike in motion. Handling was OK. Climbing was pretty good. Cornering was sharp. The bike was stiff. There wasn't much else to it. I don't know if it was the gearing, or the combination of components, the frame, the meticulous fit, the weather or what. The bike just didn't impress me.
I'm not really sold on carbon anyway. Yeah, its light and stiff, and the bike material du jour, but it also seems really fragile. There is an image in my mind of a rider hitting a divide marker in the road during a stage of this years Tour. The rider came away from the bike, and the bike shattered against the marker. The whole frame gone. Closer to home, I read in the blog of a local time-trialist how he cracked the top tube of his carbon bike just by running into a ditch. I've had my share of crashes, and I couldn't afford to replace the frame if something like that happened to me. What about regular repairs? The seat post on the Madone is part of the frame. Could I clamp it to a stand? I doubt it. I'd probably have to buy an adapter of some kind.
Back at the shop, Tim and I talked at length. For one thing, I'm sold on compact chain rings, and a compact chain ring is not an option on the 5.2. For another, at $3700, the Madone is way out of my price range. For that kind of money, I want a little more peace of mind. Tim gave me some other options: What about a different level of Madone? Or why not buy a good frame and move the drive train over from the Cannondale?
I like the good frame idea. I've never ridden a bike with a titanium frame. I'm told its nivarna. I made an appointment with Tim for next week sometime to try a Serotta or a Lightspeed (who wouldn't like to have a Serotta?). We'll see....