Bike Testing 2012: Road Highlights

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Gates Pass, trip number seven. Photo by Jen Judge.

The 2012 Outside Bike Test ended on Saturday, and thank goodness. After seven days of straight riding, I needed a rest day. But we had plenty of fun. Between a total of 57 testers, we racked up 1,700 miles and over 157,000 feet of climbing on 58 bicycles.

We spent the last three days of the test spinning road bikes around McCain’s Loop, a 12-mile lasso from the hairpin pull-out on Gates Pass, on Tucson’s western outskirts. But the laps never ended there. As is so often the case when you get a bunch of strong riders together, testosterone trumped good sense, and nearly every test loop ended at the top of the pass three-quarters of a mile beyond—after a three-minute uphill sprint. Even the coast back to the truck became a contest to see who’s bike descended best. I thought of protesting once or twice but then realized just how good a test it was for the bikes.

The 2012 Scott Foil 10

The big story this year on the road bike front is aero carbon. Companies such as Cervélo, Felt, and Blue have been making wind-cheating frames for a few years, but a couple of big players have jumped into the game for 2012. Specialized is launching the Venge, with a beautifully sloped top tube and fin-like down tube, and we logged lots of saddle time on the SRAM Red version of the Venge Pro. Scott’s take on aero came in the form of the Foil, with aerofoil-shaped tubes minus the elongated tail. Scott says the shape yields the same aero benefits as a full aerofoil with less weight and a more compliant ride. At first, many of our testers were skeptical of the claims made surrounding these aero bikes, but most ended feeling as if the shaped frames and high-profile rims definitely felt faster on the flats and rollers. I witnessed this firsthand when one of our testers, a retired pro racer renowned as a strong rouleur, rode everyone off his wheel aboard the Foil.

Back in Santa Fe, I’m now sorting through all the feedback on the bikes to discern which ones will make the magazine cut. And with unseasonably warm, dry weather here in New Mexico, the testing isn’t done yet. I took three bikes out tonight for back-to-back comparison, and numerous friends and racers are still piloting the fleet to chock up additional critique. You know what they say: It’s a tough job…

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