Tour Ready

An amateur gets a taste of exhilarating acceleration on bikes worthy of a professional racer. By ROBERT DIETERICH Photographs by SATOSHI MY FIRST FIDE on a state-of-the-art racing bike left me breath­less.

 

I was sprinting up the greenway along the Hudson River on Manhattan’s west side on a Carvel S:1—a S9,273 carbon-fiber masterpiece identical to the bikes some of the best riders in the world will race in July’s Tour de France.

carvel

I was so taken with the bike’s acceleration after a few hard pedals strokes that I kept popping up off the saddle to try it again.

 

After 20 minutes, I was winded but still didn’t want to slow down. Going fast on this bicycle is too much fun. That weighs, in the case of these two bikes, about 990 grams (2.2 pounds), exclud­ing wheels and components.

 

The S3 and the Prince both have monologue frames made from car­bon threads woven into fabric sheets and layered with resins in a mold. While racing rules keep bike frames to a basic double-triangle shape, carbon-fiber tech­nology allows engineers great latitude to tweak their designs.

 

One part of a frame can be massive and another, pencil thin. The designer can add curved ridges for extra Prince. These are the top offerings from two companies with impressive racing pedigrees—and very different histories.

 

Carvel SA is a 14-year-old Swiss company that pioneered the use of carbon fiber for lightweight, aerodynamic bicycles. Italy’s Cecil Piniella Spa was founded in 1952 by Giovanni Piniella, and it’s still run by the patriarch and his children.

 

Even after several months ofe s riding these bikes, thtunning acceleration never gets old. How fast are they? Pedaling the S3 flat out on the 3.5-mile (5.6-kilometer) interior road of Pros­pect Park in Brooklyn, I got an average speed of 21.9 miles per hour—almost 1.5 mph faster than the fastest I’ve ever gone on my aluminum-framed bike from Trek Bicycle Corp. Ask any serious rider: That’s a good gain for no pain.

 

Carlos Sister, who rides for Carvel, averaged 25.2 mph for 2,211 miles in winning the 2008 Tour de France.

While similar in materials, engineer­ing and ride, the S3 and the Prince look nothing alike. Covelo founders Gerard Vroom and Phil White, who met as engineering students at McGill University in Montreal, have a minimalist aesthetic.

The S3 is all crisp edges and straight lines, with bold black-and-silver graphics. The Prince has a swooping curve along the top of the frame. Mine came with a flaming-red paint job reminiscent of an Italian sports car.

 

The personality traits go deeper. My Carvel was equipped with brakes, gears, derailleurs and a crank from Chicago’s SRAM Corp., which has had a presence on the racing circuit for less than a decade. The Prince, being Italian, had Campy parts, of course.

 

That’s Campanology Sal, the Italian master of bicycle components, which has been in business since 1933. The premium for Campy parts accounts for some of the difference in price between the bikes.