Friday, July 15, 2011

Bicycle pornography

Today, on the request of an old friend, I dropped by a local bike shop to "check out" a saddle he was interested in.

The location (separate from the regular bike shop) doesn't look like much, and the only clue to its purpose is that Mini I that I saw parked outside, but inside it's probably one of the top places in the United States for high-end bicycle equipment, aka bike porn.

This is what my friend was interested in. A POP saddle made of carbon fiber weighing just 60.4g:

Price was a very reasonable (to me) $300.

Now, if you think $300 is not unreasonable for an uncomfortable-looking unpadded bicycle seat, you're probably a bike weenie like me who knows that the price and weight of these things scale inversely.
In the interests of full disclosure, I used to ride this 145g (and another even lighter 99g) Selle Italia Flite carbon fiber saddle shown below (until both of them cracked under my own weight).

(I had even completed a 600 km brevet in 24 hours on it and remember declaring afterwards that it the most comfortable saddle I'd ever ridden because it was smooth and didn't snag on bicycle shorts or cause chafing.)

But that was a decade ago. And time has moved on. Saddles are lighter and more flexible. (And my butt has forced me to move onto 150g padded saddles.)

Bicycles are also a lot lighter and more expensive than they were a decade ago. I was told the bike below costs $24,000.

Might look like it's nothing but this is a state-of-the-art modern bicycle. The aficionado will recognize it's something special as soon as they pick it up with one hand.

Crumpton custom carbon-fiber frame. Custom glued-up carbon stem and bars (not bolted). Trick THM Scapula carbon fork with front brake hidden inside the fork legs (see that brake cable sneaking into the right fork blade). THM rear carbon brake. Shimano Dura Ace Di2 (electronic) shifting (see the battery pack peeking out from under the bottom bracket). Low profile tubular wheels. (Old school) Aerolite pedals. It has a carbon saddle as well (not visible in above picture). Probably takes at least a year to source, order and build everything from scratch. It weighs about 10lbs and probably isn't a noodle. I tried squeezing the frame tubes and they didn't seem fragile like an aluminum soda can. (A decade ago, that kind of weight was utterly unattainable.)
(I was told the bike behind it with ENVE clincher wheels weighs 12lbs. Also unattainable a decade ago.)

There you go. A brief glimpse of bike porn, and illegal for use in the Tour de France (way too light).