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Promoting the bicycling lifestyle in The Buckeye State
This is the fourth part of my ongoing review of my Salsa Fargo bicycle. To recap, in Part 1, I talked about my initial impressions based on a couple of short-to-medium road rides and commuting. In Part 2, I compared the Fargo to a traditional full-suspension mountain bike on singletrack rides. In Part 3, I put the Fargo to the test for loaded touring on a Sub 24-Hour Overnight (S24O).
I’ve done a pretty fair amount of road and mixed-surface riding on the Fargo since then. In fact, I find that the Fargo has become my go-to bike for most long and short road rides, just because it’s so much fun to ride.
The longest ride was a century I did with the Akron Bike Club on Sept. 11 of last year, the Circle Cleveland Ride, or their version of the Emerald Necklace Tour that the circles through and around Cleveland using mostly the parkways of the Cleveland Metroparks system. Most of the other folks were on regular road bikes. The ride started out with a several-mile climb out of the Cuyahoga Valley from the Brecksville Reservation. I still had the Fargo set up in fully-loaded touring mode, with front and rear racks, and full-coverage fenders, so I was at a significant disadvantage whenever the road turned uphill due to so much extra weight. It wasn’t so hard, though, holding my own in a paceline on flat land.
All of this has had me thinking, with the question of whether the Fargo is “one bike to rule them all,” how would it hold up in a head-to-head showdown against a pure shave-my-legs-and-go-fast road bike? So, I planned a test ride similar to the way I did the Singletrack Showdown for Part 2, with alternating laps on a short, repeatable loop course.
My road bike is pretty typical of the style–traditional flat-top-tube frame geometry, carbon fork, mixed Shimano Ultegra/Dura-Ace drive train. Gearing is a standard road double (53/39 chainrings) up front, with an 11-27 cassette on the back. The tires are Continental Grand Prix 4-Season 700×23.
I normally use Speedplay road pedals on this bike, and Crank Brothers Egg Beaters or Candy pedals on all of my other bikes. For today, I swapped a pair of Egg Beaters onto my road bike so that I would not have to change shoes as I changed bikes for each lap.
The task the night before was to configure the Fargo in basic “just go for a ride” mode–removing all of the touring/bikepacking gear I’ve been trying out recently. Off came the frame pack and oversize seat bag, off came the fork-mounted bottle cages. On went the bottle cages in the usual positions in the main frame triangle.
I chose to use a pair of Serfas Drifter 700×32 tires on the Fargo, mainly because that’s what I happened to have around that would work. I wanted to use something comparable to a road bike tire, but a 32mm wide tire was about as narrow as I felt comfortable using safely on the wide-profile Salsa Semi 29er Disc rims. I probably could have gotten away with something like a 700×28 tire; I did have a spare Continental Ultra Gatorskin in that size, but only one. I’ve used the Serfas Drifters for long road rides on my cyclocross bike in the past, and they roll surprisingly well. Plus, I figured it was a good compromise between using something “roadie” and keeping the Fargo true to its fat-tire character.
Weight for the Fargo with this setup was 27 pounds, 8 ounces. The weight for the road bike was 20 pounds, 5 ounces. Note that these are not stripped-down “cheater” weights; these are the full real-world ready-to-ride weights, which includes pedals, bottle cages, mini-pump, and small seat bag with spare tube, patch kit, tire levers, and multi-tool. I did not include water bottles in the weight; for the test, I used the same brand and model of bottle on each bike (one each of a Camelback Podium and Podium Chill on each bike).
Choosing a test course was a no-brainer; those of us who live in or near the Cuyahoga Valley have been riding what we call the “Valley Loop” for years as a quick test-ride or pre-work/post-work spin whenever the time doesn’t allow for something longer. It’s an 18-mile loop with a few rolling hills, and one somewhat significant climb near the end:
If you’re interested in seeing a map and elevation profile, leave a comment and I’ll email you a .GPX file.
I did four laps, starting on the road bike for the first lap and switching to the Fargo on the second and fourth laps. I tracked myself using both my on-bike computer and my smartphone using the Strava Cycling app. The distance for each lap came up at 17.7 miles on both devices. Here are the results:
|1||Road||53:36 / 53:26||19.9 / 19.9||33.6 / 32.7|
|2||Fargo||58:02 / 58:15||18.2 / 18.3||30.4 / 31|
|3||Road||56:02 / 56:15||18.9 / 18.9||30.5 / 30.1|
|4||Fargo||59:44 / 1:00:19||17.7 / 17.6||30.4 / 30.8|
Times listed are for time in motion, not total elapsed time.
As you can see, I was slightly slower on the Fargo compared to the road bike. It would be hard to say for certain, but I think that most of the difference came from the overall weight difference, with the wider tires playing a much smaller factor. Of course, if I were to switch to a narrower road bike tire, that would reduce some of the weight difference as well. I could feel the weight effect at the beginning of any uphill stretch on the Fargo, when the additional weight made it a little more noticeable when gravity started to suck my momentum out a little bit sooner compared to on the road bike.
Theoretically, the more upright geometry of the Fargo made me less aerodynamic, but whenever I felt this came into play on descents or into the wind, I could hunker down in the drops and bend down lower over the stem to make up the difference.
Ideally, if I really had to use the Fargo as my full-time road bike, I could have chosen rims with a narrower profile that would be more amenable to swapping on a skinny road tire. I could always get a second set of disc-compatible 29er wheels and just swap wheel sets on and off the bike as needed.
My conclusion is that you wouldn’t want to use the Fargo for road racing, but the difference in on-road performance is negligible enough that you wouldn’t notice it on your average B-level club ride. The difference would be even less if you were to compare it to entry-level road bikes, where the weight difference would be even less.
This test confirms the characterization of the Fargo that I’ve been finding all along: that it’s as close as you’ll ever find to a true jack-of-all-trades bicycle. It would be perfect to take on a cycling vacation–use a pair of fat, comfy slick tires to ride fully-loaded to your destination. If you want to check out some local singletrack, swap on a pair of knobbies. Want to join the local hammerheads on a road circuit? Switch on a pair of narrow slick tires and never look back.
This morning, I did a quick 5-mile ride around a loop consisting of some local neighborhood streets and two local bike/hike trails, the Old Hickory Trail and the Center Valley Trail. The weather was perfect for a nice, long ride, but due to other plans, I had limited time to ride, and got this ride in to continue my participation in the 30 Days of Biking challenge.
A geographically-dispersed group of software developers, known as Automattic, are the people behind the platform known as WordPress.com, which this blog uses. They’ve planned an event, dubbed the Automattic Worldwide WP 5K, encouraging all of their staff to run, walk, or bike at least 5 kilometers today. Other WordPress bloggers and any other interested friends were invited to participate. My ride today qualifies as my contribution to the worldwide effort.
Another WordPress.com promotion started at the beginning of this year, and was aimed at getting bloggers to blog more often. I’ve been trying to participate in “Post-A-Week 2011” and have been successful so far, although some more ambitious bloggers are doing “Post-A-Day 2011.” This post lets me mark off the notch for this week early for a change.
Hopefully, you’ve heard about this already, because if you didn’t start yesterday, it’s too late to join the worldwide movement and sign up to ride every day for 30 days! Why? Just to prove you can! To motivate yourself to ride more this year! To motivate your friends and neighbors to ride more! Just for fun!
All you have to do is ride your bike every day in April. It doesn’t matter how much you ride each day–do a short spin around the block just for the sake of riding! If you can ride to work or school, do a long training ride or group ride, all the better!
Sign up to let the world know that you’re in: just go towww.30daysofbiking.com and fill out the online form. If you use Twitter or other social media, post daily updates on your daily biking experiences. Use the hashtag #30daysofbiking to automatically include your updates in the worldwide feed! Also, see the 30 Days of Biking page on Facebook!
Yesterday, I got started in the spirit of “around the block just for the sake of riding” by taking a short break during work to test-ride the Raleigh XXIX singlespeed mountain bike with belt drive. Today, I took a road loop on the Surly Cross-Check around Twinsburg, Aurora, and Bainbridge Township, for a total of 26.5 miles. I plan to ride to work tomorrow, so I’m off to a good start on the 30 days.