Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Flagship : Giant OCR-c2

It's a very miserable Sunday here in downtown NJ. Here was me hoping for my first group ride for several weeks, but rumbles of thunder in the middle of the night indicated it was going to be a very wet morning. And I know that if you didn't like getting wet in the UK, then you'd never go cycling ever. But this is America ... and besides, I don't want to get wet either.

For the past three years my main ride has been the Giant OCR-c2. A full carbon fibre road bike, with SRAM Rival components, and a couple of major upgrades. The OCR-c2 has now been superceded by the Giant Defy Advanced 2 and the Cannondale Synapse 2 would be a very tempting upgrade, but my orange Giant is so dialled in to me, that it's hard to justify replacing it.

My Giant OCR-c2
I originally bought this bike from Halter's Cycles before I started helping them out in the shop. Jason, the owner, transformed my riding position from my previous Trek 1200. In theory the frame is too small for my very long legs so I don't even ride a Large frame (it's a M/L), but the critical measurement in fitting a bicycle is the effective top-tube length. Leg length is easily sorted out with an appropriate seat-pin, but it's harder to adapt a top-tube.

Bicycle Frame Components

This also means the handle-bars have to be stacked up. A custom-built bike would probably incorporate a longer head-tube.

When I first bought it I was pretty ambivalent about the orange, but I've come to love it. There aren't many orange bikes about. An orange Timbuk2 seat-bag (no longer available) and Polar bottles (they say they're gold but look orange to me) and the final detail, orange cable end caps, give it a very together look. I know it's a joke amongst my riding colleagues, but I go for the colour-coded  thing ... okay ... I'm a poseur, I admit it.

Over the past couple of years I have made some serious upgrades to this bike. The most effective was to upgrade the wheels.

Shimano carbon tubeless wheels and Hutchinson tubeless tyres
Of all the upgrades you can make to a bike, wheels are the most significant. Most road bikes can easily be transformed by better quality wheels. In my case I went the whole hog to Shimano Dura-Ace tubeless wheels, matched with Hutchinson Intensive tubeless tyres and Stan's Sealant system.

In close to three years, except for one exception, this combination has resisted flats. The sealant system means I am unaware of any punctures at all. Except, I did have one disaster, when a piece of road debris ripped the sidewall of one of the Hutchinsons. The system worked well in that it could probably got me home, but I was a long way out on a charity event. Now I know how to deal with that circumstance, and I was certainly not really in a worse situation than had it been a regular flat. You live and learn ...

Anyway, otherwise the wheels ride smoother, truer and more responsively than the originals. There is far less rolling resistance and on downhills, the bike drops away faster than most, even with no pedalling input.

Other major upgrades have involved replacing the alloy handle-bars with a carbon fibre version.

Compact drop carbon fibre handle-bars
I also upgraded the seat-pin from a carbon-wrap alloy to a full carbon.

Fizik carbon fibre seat-pin
What is it about this carbon fibre stuff? Firstly, it is light and it is strong. But, for me, it has a unique ability to filter out road buzz/vibration, that makes a ride far less fatiguing.

Many people of a certain age tell me that carbon fibre isn't for them because they're not fast, competitive riders. However, the real advantage is its comfortable, fatigue free ride characteristics. So when you're up for your next bicycle purchase don't rule out carbon fibre as only relevant to competitive cyclists.

Of course, some other frame materials can match, if not surpass, carbon's innate characteristics. A well-made, if not custom-built, steel frame springs to mind, but that's a whole different ball-game.

Another significant upgrade has been to Shimano Dura-Ace pedals which are extremely light and have an extra-wide platform which helps to reduce stress on my feet. It's a small improvement, but perceptible.

The bike's mechanical componentry is a mix of Shimano and SRAM. The SRAM Rival drive chain has been a very good element although I like Shimano Ultegra too. If I had to choose it would be a tough call, but I would be more than happy with a bike with either of these components. I guess we're lucky to have such a competitive choice.

A large part of the enjoyment of cycling comes about from a well-fitted, comfortable bicycle which is one you want to ride again and again. For me, my Giant OCR-c2plus, has become an essential element in my enjoyment of this great pastime, which gets me out and about and keeps me fit.

So, it's still p!ssistently raining. I can hear the cellar sump pumps cut in and, across the road, the water is running off the golf course like a waterfall. It looks like today is a right-off. Oh well, let's see what's on at the cinema ...