Monday, February 2, 2009

In an Inaugural Year, Cadence Backs Two Winners: Wilier Cento Uno & Cannondale SuperSix

What is the perfect bike? Does it exist? Is the "perfect ride" something like the "perfect bottle of wine," namely, an ephemerally elusive and entirely subjective experience that transcends objective criteria?

Let's dissect this for a moment: for high-performance bikes--like great bottles of wine--we can all agree that there are fundamental objective criteria we look for in determining a better from a lesser ride. For instance, we know that bottom bracket stiffness and power transfer are absolutely critical qualities. In addition to this, head tube stiffness is essential for sure-footed handling. None of us would prefer to ride a bike that is wholly inefficient at transferring power or is unsafe on windy, high-speed descents.

Then there are the admittedly subjective criteria: ride quality and road feel are among them. A bike that feels "smooth and buttery" to one rider may feel "harsh and jarring" to another, and vice versa. Some riders prefer the solid, rugged feel of aluminum, others prefer the soft feel of titanium and steel, and still others like the snappiness and lightweight of carbon frames.

So here's the dilemma: given the hodge-podge of the objective criteria we can all agree upon and the subjective criteria we're likely to disagree upon, how do we all agree that one bike is the perfect bike? Surely this problem isn't as difficult as, say, sorting out whether or not a sub-atomic particle has a determinate state! We're talking bikes, after all!

Here's where we stand. For 2009 two bikes are standouts. In fact, these two bikes may just be the best damn bikes we've ever ridden. From an objective standpoint, both bikes are phenomenally stiff with lightening fast acceleration, and both have massively oversized and stiff head tubes for rock solid, precise, and confidence inspiring handling, sprinting, and cornering. As for subjective criteria, we have consensus on our side: those who have ridden both bikes sing effusive praises for the uncommonly smooth and solid feel of these framesets. So what bikes are we talking about? The 2009 Wilier Cento Uno and the 2009 Cannondale SuperSix.

These bikes are good. Amazingly good. Reports on the Cento Uno range from "as good as a bike gets" to "quite possibly the perfect ride;" ironically, reports on the SuperSix are nearly identical! The remarkable thing about both these bikes is that they are extremely light: the Cento Uno size medium just tips the scales at 1100 grams, but that includes its integrated seat mast which, on other super light frames, would add an additional half-pound of weight! Light as it is--light as both these bikes are--they ride with a weighty, confidence-inspiring assurance that one would only imagine possible on a steel or titanium frameset.

Where do these bikes differ? The Cento has a kind of plushness to its ride that is immediately belied by its uncanny willingness to jump to life as soon as you put power into the pedals. On a steep ascent where you want to accelerate, or just getting going off the start line, the Cento Uno will dumbfound you with its remarkable power transfer. Let off the reigns a bit, though, and the Wilier is as docile and comfortable as your grandfather's Cadillac. The Cento Uno seems a mix of conflicting qualities, but ride one and you're likely to agree. The Cannondale, on the other hand, may lack a bit of the Wilier's road-going finesse, but that's not to say it's any less of a bike. The ride may not float over bumps and macadam like the Wilier, but it eats up the road so fast, so solidly, and so confidently that you'll not want to ride home...ever. The Cannondale leaves no doubt that racing is in its blood, but it does so without the constant reminder in your jaw that you're on a thoroughbred. Like the Wilier, the SuperSix jumps to action at the slightest provocation, but if you think the SuperSix is harsh or rough, think again: it too provides a remarkably compliant, comfortable, and fatigue-staving ride--exactly what the pros on Liquigas need!

At the end of the day, choosing between these two bikes is a really difficult proposition. The Cento Uno provides a sublime ride with oodles of power; the Cannondale provides a race-inspired, solidly compliant ride with oodles of power. In a perfect world you could have both. It's not a perfect world, but at Cadence you have the chance to ride both in our demo program!

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