Posted by: Ian | December 22, 2011

The Cervelo R3 in normal weather

Last time I reviewed my new R3 on the basis of 100 or so miles of riding in high winds. I had planned on sticking with my Astraeus and Tempo over the worst of the winter months. However, despite today being the Winter Solstice, the weather has been surprisingly mild and I decided to take the R3 out for another spin. I chose a 32 mile circuit that I rode on Saturday on the Astraeus; the weather then was a little colder – 41 deg F instead of today’s 49 – but not transformationally different. This, then, was my first decent ride on the R3 in normal conditions and I can sum up the experience in one syllable: Ha!

To see where I was riding faster/slower than I had on the Astraeus, I used my Garmin 800’s Training Partner feature, defining Saturday’s ride as a Course and tracking my progress today against how I fared then. On the relevant page you get a little graphic of two bikes indicating whether you’re ahead or behind and two numbers: Time Ahead/Behind and Distance Ahead/Behind. Initially I focused on the relative distance. I found, consistently, that on the downhills my relative distance was increasing quickly whereas on the uphills I was tending to give it back. This surprised me as the R3 is lighter than the Astraeus and should be differentially better on the uphills, which is how it actually felt. My route took me down into Axminster and then up a short, sharp hill into the town centre. I was sure that I gunned up it quicker than I had on the Astraeus but the Garmin showed me losing a significant amount of ground in a very short run. On the longer hill out of Axminster, I found that I was steadily losing an increasing amount of the distance I had gained on the descent into Axminster. About halfway up the long drag, this turned around and I started gaining ground again.

Once I had made it up to the Crewkerne road I stopped for a banana and realised what will have occurred to more alert readers more quickly than it did to me: the pattern I was observing was exactly what I should expect on a faster bike. You can skip to the next para if you see why already, but, if not, imagine a faster and a slower rider setting out on the same route, which, let’s say, is initially level. The faster rider will steadily pull away. Then, imagine that a steep hill appears. As the first rider ascends he’ll slow down markedly and the distance between him and the slower rider will compress. When the slower rider reaches the hill the distance will start to open up again as the faster rider will, we presume, also be climbing more quickly. Then, when the first rider reaches the top and goes over the other side and starts going downhill the distance will begin to open up dramatically until the slower ride starts going downhill too.

Having figured this out, I switched my attention to the Time Ahead shown on the Training Partner screen. As I rode, post banana, I could see this ticking up monotonically until I got home. Naturally, the fact that I could compare my progress against Saturday’s ride would itself tend to make me go faster but the extent of it surprised me. On Saturday I covered the 32 miles in 2 hours, 14 mins, 7 secs; today I did it in 1:57:33, about 16.5 minutes faster. My impression is that the bike made all the difference. Here’s a chart, from Garmin Training Center, showing the profile of the rides and the comparative speeds:

It’s irritating that as the miles progress Saturday’s ride opens up a slight erroneous amount of distance relative to today’s, leading the speeds get slightly out of sync. Even so, it’s clear that on the Cervelo (shown in red) I was notably quicker all the way along than on the Astraeus (shown in blue), both on uphills and down. My fastest speed today was 37 mph, compared to only 32.4 mph on Saturday. The difference is even clearer when comparing pace at each mile:

Here it’s clear that my pace on every mile was quicker, and usually very significantly quicker, than it was last time. (The only ostensible exception – at 20 miles – is seen to be an artefact of the misalignment of distance if you look at the actual speeds over that mile from the chart above.) And the Astraeus is by no means a slow bike.

I’m not going to extrapolate what this implies to my event pace until I’ve done a lot more rides on the R3 over routes that I’ve done many times on both the Astraeus and the Felt. But this does suggest that my feeling that it’s a very quick bike, which I reported before, should translate, to some extent, into faster times on those events where I’m doing my best to get round the course quickly.

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