Now it's 2012 and R&D is the name of the game. Computer modelling, wind tunnels, alternative technologies borrowed from motorsport and other diverse manufacturing sectors are revolutionising bicycle design.
Way back when most race bikes were steel, Columbus and Reynolds tube sets reigned supreme, now carbon has replaced steel as the favoured material. My part in this began in 1975 when one of the other kids in town had a Campagnolo nuovo record group set - the rest of us could only dream of riding a Campagnolo equipped bike. That year I found the address of the Campagnolo company in Italy and sent them a letter asking if they had some stickers or posters of riders like Eddy Merckx. Merckx's classic Molteni - Campagnolo jersey was a real winner and is still a perennial favourite for cycling aficionados. Months later a huge Campag sticker arrived in the mail from Italy with a letter which read "with compliments from Campagnolo and we wish you all the best with your racing career". For a fifteen year old country kid in 1975 a letter from Campagnolo was a big deal, despite the fact that at the time I couldn't understand one word written in it. I must have read it hundreds of times because it was from Campagnolo and it came with a big Campagnolo sticker! (Later on I did get to race in Italy and on a Super Record equipped bike.) The bike I raced on in 1975 was built by Jock Bullen in his shed, Jock also built one for his son Mark. The frame might have been a Reynolds tube set, who knows. The frame was built for track racing, so we'd just use the same bike for everything, training, road racing and track. That's how bike racing was in Australia, you just raced on what you had and bikes were built to be practical hard working machines.
Now it's 2012 and technology is the name of the game, computer modelling, wind tunnels and carbon have revolutionised bicycle design and development. There was a time when an Italian hand built steel frame was the pinnacle. Now we are spoilt for choice and if you can't find what you are looking for off the shelf you can still opt for a customised frameset. The array of wheel sets, group sets and after market components makes setting up a new race bike a whole lot more fun than it ever was. Building up a new bike to suit your exact needs is a very personal exercise especially with the myriad of options available today.
Now in I'm riding a 2011 Trek Madone 6.9, a far cry from the hand made steel bikes that I started racing on in 1975.
Trek's marketing arm describe the Trek Madone as "Our flagship 6 Series embodies all the qualities a pro-tour rider demands: precise steering, instant acceleration, long-ride comfort, hand-built quality, and personal customization." I originally chose the 6.9 in 2008 because of these inherent characteristics. The bike steers and tracks through corners precisely, if you have to change your line for any reason the bike inspires confidence. On fast steep descents where hard braking is required or if you're the type of rider who likes braking late the front Shimano 7900 Dura Ace caliper compliments the E2 Trek forks perfectly. Under hard front braking the front end will hold and stay planted perfectly, the only question here is the skill of the rider.
"The Bontrager E2 fork tapers from a 1.5" lower bearing to a 1-1/8" upper bearing. The larger-diameter lower bearing keeps the E2 fork stiffer under cornering loads and distributes forces more evenly, increasing the life of the bearings. Result: a more confident and durable ride."
Dura Ace 7900 has been superb, now with Di2 Dura Ace and Di2 Ultegra we've crossed over into an era of electronic shifting. With new technologies there are no boundaries for modern bicycle design. In this era brakes have gained extra stopping power for the times when you really need it. Relegating their 1980's counterparts to collectable curiosities for bike collectors. Shimano say "The Dura-Ace 7900 brakes present a new, durable shoe compound that produces 210% the stopping power in wet conditions, 120% in dry conditions and 50% longer wear."
The Trek Madone 6 Series offers untold flexibility when it comes to getting a bike set up just right. Firstly it's designed to be comfortable all the way through a Tour de France. If you're a highly trained athlete you can choose the H1 fit which rewards those who've worked on their core stability, flexibility or posterior chain training, whichever way you favour your off the bike training. According to Trek the bike is,
For more on the Trek philosophy of matching athlete to bike, check out Foundation Training with Dr Eric Goodman. Lance Armstrong worked with his personal trainer Peter Park, using Dr Eric Goodman's Foundation Training, maximising the benefits of strengthening and increasing the flexibility of the posterior chain.
For less flexible athletes the Trek H2 fit makes it a bit easier to sit upright with the introduction of a slightly higher head tube, handling is not compromised. Recently Specialized have tackled this with a newly designed stem which has inbuilt incremental height adjustments, allowing for variable fine tuning when creating the ultimate bike fit.
Getting rid of ugly plastic computer sensors fitted with cable ties is a breeze, the Bontrager DuoTrap computer sensor is inbuilt into the frame. The unit is compatible with Garmin, Powertap, SRM and Bontrager ANT+ wireless devices. You may need to purchase the DuoTrap unit separately. Installation is quick and easy, just swap out the "DuoTrap ready" plastic unit for the real deal. Slip on the crank sensor, no cable ties required here, then fit a magnet to the wheel, synch the DuoTrap with your device and you are good to go.
Where bicycle technology leads to from here can only lead to one thing, more fun for bike riders.
Of the three Trek 6.9's shown here the 2007 version developed a hairline crack then the 2010 Matte Black version that replaced it became a casualty - the result of being a "Friday afternoon beer O'clock" job, someone forgot to clear coat the bike and check it before despatch, so the Trek bike decals peeled off the top tube in a matter of weeks. After just six months I was riding the new 2011 Yellow and Black version. Some say that's a pain and what an inconvenience, but that's what the lifetime warranty is for. I've been totally satisfied with the ride and that's what counts for me, It can't be all that bad upgrading to the newest version.
Second Opinion: I spoke to a rider who knows about finishing the Tour de France, Stephen Hodge who's finished on the Champs-Elysées six times, Stephen rates these frames highly having owned Trek Madone's himself and agreed that you couldn't find a more "neutral" bike.
Soon we'll be featuring Stephen Hodge's current bike, a carbon and titanium composite bike from Seven.
Compliance features built into the Trek bike six series frame, include an extra wide bottom bracket, the E2 Head tube and fork, and now the 700 series Hex SL Carbon plus customisable ride fit make this an easy choice when tailoring a bike to your specific requirements. You can also customise even further using Trek's Project One facility. Throw in your favourite wheels, and your choice of group set including your preferred after market equipment and the TREK system will provide untold cycling enjoyment whatever your aims.