People are always asking us two questions: First, what's the best bike in the world,
and second, what type of bike I ride. I can truthfully answer the same to both questions-
the TREK OCLV carbon-fiber. Here's why:
and probably most important, these bikes ride like nothing you'd ever
believe. And it's not just their outrageously light weight (under 16lbs for
mid-priced Madones). You climb on one of these,
and it just feels like it wants to go. It's the closest you'll ever come to the feeling of
twisting the throttle of a big-engine motorcycle and experiencing the thrill of a machine
that instantly and powerfully responds. I know, sounds like a bunch of hyperbole, but I've
owned one for over seven years, and it still blows me away every time I ride it. It never
feels old. If I had to describe how it compares (which people ask me every day, so it's no
great effort...), I'd say it's like the most wonderful steel frame you could ever imagine,
only it's much lighter and stronger. These qualities include a certain
"springiness" when you stand on the pedals and a great ability to absorb road
vibration. And, when you're screaming downhill, it seems able to hold just about any line
you ask it to.
Second, it's a great buy! Compared to other
"ultimate" bikes that aren't in the same category in terms of ride quality,
these bikes are a bargain. $2749 gets you Shimano Ultegra triple ($50 less
for a compact 50/34 double) with Bontrager Race wheels matched to TREK's
latest OCLV frame & fork, so it costs very little more than bikes with
conventional (read: heavier, less responsive, and probably not as strong) frames.
Third, we're talking long-term value here, for several
reasons. As mentioned above, I strongly feel it's the best riding bike you can buy at
any price, so you're not going to be thinking afterwards, "Gee, what would a
nicer bike be like? Did I buy the right thing?" Plus it's not an Italian
"30-feet or 30-seconds, whichever comes first" warranty (in reality, most
high-end bikes have a one-to-three year warranty; the TREK OCLV is now warranted
life!), and it comes from a company that's the strongest in the industry, with the best
reputation for customer support, so you know that, if something happens a few years down
the road, you're going to be taken care of.
Fourth, there are only two things that actually determine the
ride of a bike- the frameset and the wheels. This is where you should be investing your
money, because it's going to make the most difference in how the bike performs and because
it's a very expensive mistake to decide later that you should have bought a better frame!
Fifth, TREK's been building these bikes for
16 years, so
it's an established, not questionable, frame technology. Can you break one? Of course! All
frames are susceptible to failure caused by unexpected events, i.e. being hit by cars and
other nasty things that aren't within reasonable design parameters (for example, one guy
picked up a 1-by-4 in his front wheel...what do you know, it broke his fork!). These same
things would kill a steel, aluminum or titanium frame, and the cost to repair, if
possible, is similar for all (with the exception of titanium, which gets way up there!).
Fifth, part B- For those who know a friend of a friend who's
broken an OCLV frame... First of all, we have literally sold many hundreds of OCLV road
bikes over the years, and we see very few come back with problems. But some do (we live in
this thing called the "real world", after all...). Just like we see perfectly
built steel frames fail at dropouts and seatube/bottom-bracket junctions, and titanium
frame welds crack, and aluminum frames with sheared downtubes. You could build a
virtually indestructible frameset, but it would weigh more than something most people
would want to ride. So, all manufacturers engage in an exercise that determines how light
the frame can be made and still hold up for the substantial majority (95%+?) of riders.
This means that, once in awhile, a high-performance frame (high-performance meaning just
about anything that would feel fun to ride!) will fail that shouldn't have. Doesn't matter
who made it, or what it's made of (remember that "real world" stuff). Would it
make sense to double the weight so that virtually nobody could ever break a frame? I don't
think so, but maybe that's because I grew up on a 40-pound Schwinn Varsity!
Fifth, part C- We have now successfully crash-tested
an OCLV TREK ourselves! Not like it was something we were dying to
do or anything, but we now have first-hand proof of just how strong these
frames really are (stronger than my front teeth, for starters!).
Sixth, TREK, until
1999, was light-years
behind the competition in
sponsoring prestigious racing teams. It's only the past 10 years or so that they
finally got on the ball and first sponsored Saturn and then US Postal,
Discovery and VW teams. And
yet TREK is the most widely sought-after road bike in the world. Why? Because people
recognize their combination of value, ride quality and reliability. TREK bikes work, have
always worked, and, I suspect, always will. TREK is a driven company, similar in mold to
Intel in that they have a relatively paranoid corporate culture that believes that, if
they don't constantly strive to produce the best bike they possibly can, they will quickly
fall from the cycling public's fickle favor.
Seventh (and, thankfully, last), TREK is, first and foremost,
a bicycle manufacturer. This means that the engineers who design the product work less
than 100 feet from where the product is actually produced, and you better believe you get
pretty picky about things when you can watch your dream become a reality right in front of
your eyes. It also means that they have a huge capital investment to protect, so they
cannot afford to produce anything less than the best!
I could have gone on and on, naming the engineers who worked on the project, talking
about how TREK has changed riders' expectations of how a bike can perform, etc. I did
leave out the part about how OCLV technology represents such a substantial investment that
only a company like TREK could have brought it to fruition...so maybe I'll rework things a
bit later on. For now, be thankful I haven't yet come up with reasons 8, 9 & 10!
Lance Armstrong on his stock TREK OLCV frameset in the 1999 Tour de
France. This isn't just similar to what you can buy...it's the
same! Lance and his team can drop into a TREK bike shop just about
anywhere and hop on a bike that will feel instantly familiar (and
In fact, I verified on 7/27/99 that
Lance's bikes ship straight from the TREK warehouse, and are not
specially-produced one-ups. This is truly amazing, and unlikely to
have been the case with just about any other team's 'Tour bikes...but just
goes to show the quality of the TREK bike that both you and Lance can
ride. So if you've read anything weird in one of the newsgroups, it
just ain't true. The only bike Lance rode that wasn't a stock TREK
was a Time Trial bike he had produced for him a year and a half ago, and
was used in three of the 'Tours 20 stages. For the 2000, 2001, 2002 & 2003 TDF, Lance
used exclusively TREK-produced framesets, including the radical
full-carbon Time Trial machine that helped rocket him to victory. --Mike--
Unbelievable. This is a stock 2001 OCLV 5500,
reflectors, spoke protector, bottle cage, pump and computer...at 18lbs
4oz. 9/22/00 --Mike-- (In 2008, this bike becomes almost
laughably "heavy" compared to current offerings!)
What Frankie Andreu (US Postal Team racer) thinks of his TREK OCLV- (taken
from an on-line chat)
Dean Lazenby: Frankie, I am wondering if your Postal Service
Trek 5500 would be your bike of choice. I am planning on buying a Carbon
Fiber frame and I am undecided between a Kestrel and a Trek. Any
suggestions?? Thanks....Dean Lazenby
Frankie: I love the Trek, I think it's the best bike out there.
It's stiff and very light wich makes it very responsive. I'm really happy
we have Trek's on the team. Good luck on your purchase..frankie
And yes, I do know a thing or two about great steel
case anybody thinks I'm seriously biased and have no idea how a great steel frame
rides...at the left is a picture that shows my "retro" past...an Ideale 90
leather saddle mounted on a beautiful 1974-vintage Cinelli racing bike. We're
talking classic bike, the type that a collector might now pay a good amount of money for.
I bought it when I was a pseudo hot-dog racer type, and it was in such demand at
the time that you ordered them 18 months ahead of time. Cinellis were legendary for
their incredible craftsmanship, rock-solid stability and sheer beauty. They were
also among the rarest of high-end frames...considerably less common than the
Colnagos and Pogliaghis that were also used by the top racers.
That bike brought me half-a-zillion 2nd place finishes, and one first. Some people
might think there was something not quite right upstairs with a guy who had so many 2nd
places, and perhaps they would have been correct...on the other hand, I was consistently
racing far above my ability (based on how little training I did...my racing career was
really just an outlet for riding a bike more, seeing new places, meeting new people etc).
The Cinelli remained my primary bike even after I no longer raced...it eventually became
outfitted with (gasp!) a Sugino triple crank and a Huret Eco-Duopar rear derailleur and
served as my touring bike sometime around 1983...the same time I got my first TREK road
bike, a White 750 built with Reynolds 531SL tubing. It was lighter-weight and
smoother-riding than the Cinelli, and was followed three years later by a TREK 1500
aluminum bike, which was a real eye-opening experience...that thing really represented a
quantum leap in performance!
I will always have a soft spot for my Cinelli, and I could never sell it...even though it
will probably never be seriously ridden again. It's a part of my past, and of
cycling's history. It represents a time when the very best racing bikes in the world
were built by hand, using torches, files and brass brazing rod.
(Addendum 04/28/02- the Cinelli has been resurrected, with
almost all original components, as my utility bike for rainy days etc.
Still has Campy Nuovo Record hubs, cranks, derailleurs & shifters, along
with a Modolo rear brake. What's changed? I've gone to a Shimano
dual-pivot brake up front for at least some stopping power, and the rims are
now Mavic Open Pro clinchers instead of tubulars. It's fun owning a
near-stock relic, but it constantly reminds you how much things have
improved in terms of shifting performance and comfort. But, it does
live on, and will be out on the road whenever rain coincides with a day that
I'm out on the bike!)
Since then, steel frames have gone through several metamorphosis, first with an increasing
number of "SL" (SuperLight) ultra-thin tube sets, which gave us flimsy, unstable
bicycles that were lightweight but not much else. Next came the "Unicrown"
fork, which dramatically reduced the weight, complexity and cost of a steel fork with no
downside other than appearance. This change was borrowed, interestingly enough, from
mountain bike designs. And finally, just a few years ago, new super-strong steel
tubesets (most notably Reynolds 853) came on the market that allowed not only
less-expensive means of building frames (no more lugs- these tubes could be
but also lighter-weight as well...new 853 LeMond frames weigh a scant 3.5 pounds, compared
to 4-5 pounds for top-quality steel frames just a few years ago! And, I must admit
that these new frames ride quite nicely, although I still feel there's a significant gap
between the best steel frame and a TREK OCLV carbon.
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