A death is a painful thing to experience. Particularly, I imagine, for the one doing the dying. For those left behind, it takes time to mourn and come to grips with the change; it is an unpleasant process, but such is the way of things.
The crack in the chainstay of my beloved Cervelo R3 had been weighing on my mind ever since I discovered its existence while cleaning my bike in Hawaii. Assuming the crack was superficial, I continued to ride the machine and took it with me to Belgium to rattle along over the cobblestones during Keepers Tour. It was during this trip that Andrew, a carbon fiber engineer for B’Twin, pointed out that the crack was not superficial and in fact quite serious.
I continued to ride it, and slowly made peace with the fact that my favorite-ever road bike was destined for retirement. Denial turned into anger, anger turned into grief, grief into acceptance, and acceptance into glorious Rule #12 obsession, deliberation, and contemplation. Still, my final ride on my trusted friend was bittersweet; I was on great form that day, and together we turned mountains into hills and carved the many curves as we rode along the seaside in the somber knowledge that this would be our last day out together.
I contacted the shop where I bought it and had them reach out to Cervelo for a warranty replacement, but even if they warrantied the frame, I wouldn’t want one on account of the tall head tube they’ve adopted on their large frames. I’m very picky about my position, and loved the ride and fit of my R3, so I was left with a conundrum as to what bike to get as my new #1. Then Mark, the owner of Veloforma, pointed out that he’d designed his Strada iR based on the R5ca, along with several improvements to the design. And he could do it in a custom Velominati paint scheme. Sold to the obsessive-compulsive Dutchman in the back! (That makes two Veloformas bought in the span of a few months, the VMH pointed out when I delivered the news.)
As much as I loved my R3 for its ride quality and fit, I have never been crazy about the 73 degree head tube angle. You wouldn’t think a half degree would have much effect, but the Strada’s head tube is relaxed just a hair to 72.5 degrees, and it really smooths out the handling compared to the the Cervelo. Aside from that, the dimensions are similar enough to my Cervelo that the first ride on the new steed felt like a reunion with my lost friend.
This thing is embarrassingly light at 6.3 kilos. For a 61cm. The head tube is nice and short at 19.5cm so I can get as low as I need to but tall enough that I still get to slam my stem. I also got a new carbon Pro Vibe stem whose paint job accidentally matches the markings on the frame’s custom Velominati paint job. It is almost too glorious for my tiny little brain to handle. Also, the front derailleur hanger is mounted at a slight angle which brings the derailleur cage in perfect alignment with the chain rings, which results in lightning-quick front shifting. Its little things like that which really impress me about Mark’s attention to detail when designing the bikes. Now that I think of it, both my Veloformas have the best front shifting performance of any bikes I’ve owned. Finally, the internally routed cables makes it astoundingly quiet; the lack of rattling cables makes this machine the high water mark in my quest for the Principle of Silence. And that paint job, oh that paint job.
I haven’t ridden the Strada a whole lot, but I did The V to V Cogal on it which consisted of two long days in the saddle and featured a lengthy session with my old friend, the Man with the Hammer. I’m happy to report that she climbs and descends like a monster. The bike has the road feel of my R3, but is more responsive with a stiffer BB and steering column. But the relaxed head tube makes it handle like a Merckx; the descent off Mount Saint Helens had some seriously sketchy tarmac in places and her handling probably gave me too much confidence in light of my Schleckian descending skills.
What started as heartbreak ended in a love affair. Funny how that works out some times.