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The Doctor is In

Here’s another one with many names. Sometimes he’s known as geek since he is always into the technical bits of bike especially about Ti. Other times he’s known as Doc. Well that’s cos it’s his job in the real world; misguided surgeon as he prefers to be known. And if he wasn’t doing that he’d be a pilot.

He’s been riding for as long as he can remember. With a break of 6 months during his housemanship from hell. With some many years of riding, he's had a ton of bikes.
My many Frames….

Since we are on the topic of bike frames, here's the Ti-geek's opinion on all things Ti and not Ti.
My first 2 worthy bikes were steel. That’s because in the old days, there wasn't much choice.
Ti was used in MiG 21s and the F15/16s then, not to mention the all time cool plane, the all-Ti SR71A Blackbird.
Carbon? Well, there was the Lotus Time Trial bike but it cost the same price as the Lotus Esprit, so why buy a bike when you can get a car.
Aluminum, this material was getting into common use at that time but it kept breaking and the ride was harsh. Not to mention that it cost an arm and a leg then.
So steel was all there was to go with.
Hmmm, my first bike was my chopper and then followed by my cheapo BMX. Those were the days and I digress.

Unnamed? steel Peugeot cross bike

My first decent bike was used exclusively as transport during my first year in Dublin, Ireland. Great days and nights weaving out of the unending traffic jams spread T@'s plan for World Domination™. Not much in terms of fun and it was a cross bike. It was a black Peugeot with Sach's parts. It was comfortable but weighed a ton.

British Eagle Reynolds 531

The beginning of frame appreciation started with my first British Eagle MTB. It had a Reynolds 531 steel frame, weighed a ton but was it comfortable. The only snag was that I got it cheap because the color was sky light blue. It was uncool even in those days. The geometry was traditional with no sloping top tube. It had a nice ride to it and I managed to do 52km/h with fully loaded panniers going down Conor Pass in County Kerry. That’s about coming down 600m to sea-level all in5 km. It carried me with aplomb and did not at anytime feel twitchy. I would recommend the Reynolds steel especially the new heat treated 853s to anyone, that’s if you want steel. I think the Lemonds still come in that flavor.

Colnago "PUB pipe"

This bike was dodgy. It had all the good parts, Campagnolo Shamal (1995) rims, DuraAce and Shimano 600 parts so I bought it for $1000. Good value because the sum of the parts was probably worth more than the frame by a factor of 5. It was a decent frame till I saw a crack on the top tube. Despite the omission of crucial bits of metal, it was a thrill to ride. I still have it sans parts and hanging from the roof. I kept it because this will be the only Colnago I'd ever own. The ride was predictable and steady. Very little road transmission was felt but I realized that the size was a wee bit too small for my torso. It was a 52 cm. Moral of the story shows that steel is still real and will not crack catastrophically and one can still ride one till it literally bends.

Willy" Wilier Triestina Columbus Thron

My last road bike was a true to Italian tradition steel bike. The Wilier came in Columbus Thron. The angles were steep and the seat stays were so short that my wheel clearance was less then 0.5cm. It was comfortable and very stable, it was great for time-trialing, not that I did any of that. The wheelbase was also very compact so it made for a fast and lively steed if not for the weight of steel. I still miss the ferrous ride and guess its color: Banana yellow! Sadly there are no pictures available so mosey over to the Wilier website and appreciate the lovely ovalized downtubes and tight wheelbase firsthand.

Jamis Diablo LE circa 1990

This is the wife's bike. The 4130 Cromoly is cool, the tubes being ever so slim, especially with the 1" headset. I have not taken it for a ride off road but I must think the ride must be the epitome of a good steel bike, what with the Jamis north shore tradition. The seat stays are welded to the seat tube in the old style with chamfered edges. Works of art. I'll have to take it off road one day.

Trek 8000 (1995)

My first time on aluminum was on my friend's Trek 6000. It was heaven compared to all the other bikes that I had tried before. More so because it was so light and responsive. Then I had only a short ride on it and could not fully appreciate the feel of Alu.

Once back in Singapore, a short visit to Treknology (advertisement plug) got me my first Alu bike, a red Trek 8000, it blew my first bonus but what the heck, its cycling! Haresh in his wisdom had recommended the 1996 model in banana yellow, saying that it would be the "in" colour. But No, I had to go for the 1995 colour scheme in insipid red instead. I said it was too "loud". Notice the trend about my taste in choosing color here……Now I try to get everything, bike parts, stickers, even cars in banana yellow.

This bike was great in terms of weight but the ride was harsh, I had incessant backaches and vibrating nerves from all the rides in BTT. I also clocked the best ever times in BTT then. I think it was because I was still young and not so much the frame weight or characteristics. The Alu feel is indeed lively and gives much more feedback. Coming from steel, it was a whole different ballgame. It was not predictable but the ride was much more "fun". Sprints and climbs were in a different league altogether. I'll recommend Alu for the enthusiast due to its multitude of advantages compared to the other materials available. Nothing beats Alu for the price performance.



Merlin Taiga(MTB) and RSR(Road)

These two bikes are my current rides, the team does not call me a Ti geek for nothing. These 2 frames are what they (the bike magazine test riders) call "budget" quality Ti. They are not full 3/2.5V frames, the seat tubes for both and the top tube for the RSR are G4 pure commercial Ti. That’s why they call it budget. "Budget " is not an adjective normally associated with Ti. This was before Airborne got a lobang to get the Chinese fighter aircraft factory to build bikes for cheap!

These 2 bikes are gems. They ride ever so wonderfully, I have no more backaches as a result after riding them. Smooth as silk both on and off road, they seem to float on the terrain. The ride I admit is too soft for some riders and a bit damped for some but I like it that way. They transmit just the right amount of feel. I must agree that the Taiga is a bit jumpy on downhills, but that gives it the right amount of fun. However, no matter how it rides, it never feels like it would be uncontrollable at any time.

The frame is maintenance free, no worry about the paint chipping like in steel and Alu. Carbon just delaminates! No need for paint and colour here so no problem with lousy colour choice. Ti grey is perennial. If it ever breaks, the guarantee is life-long for the first owner,that’s if Merlin is around that long.(Latest news: Merlin now owned by Litespeed but will run independently! Phew! My RSR has become a collector’s item I hope!)

Ti bikes are not as light as they claim to be except for perhaps for the Merlin Extralight (www.merlinbike.com) and Seven Odonata ( www.sevencycles.com). If you want light, go for the new Trek 5900, race proven in the Tour de France. Lifted one just today and the Bike Lust bug is beginning to bite: 15.7Ibs all up except pedals. The best discussion on all things Ti and Steel are best explained at this website: http://spectrum-cycles.com/material.htm. For all things carbon check with Beef!

Both the frames cost me several bonuses and pounds of flesh and lots of hard earned cash to purchase. So if you suffer from 2 yearly bike lust, this is not for you. I currently do not have that problem and have had the Taiga for nearly 4 years now. However, hanging around the team does make for bike lust. So don't be surprised in the months to come.

That leaves only carbon that I have not tried, so perhaps it will be carbon next.

Till bike lust strikes again….

My best non-bike purchase is my engagement ring for wife Sam. (Aww. How sweet). It blew my account post NS but my wife allows me to ride!!!!!!!! and encourages me to ride if I doesn't ride enough! Who says carbon does not rock?! This carbon does not even crack like C40s.

My worst non bike purchase is his Nikon Coolscan II. I've used it twice and slides are still yet to be scanned 6 years down the road. I've been riding too much.

Comments or criticism can be sent to doc@teamabsolut.net

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