It is quite a step change to move from a flat bar roadbike to a racing bike, but I realised that the time had come. Over the last few months I felt like I had plateaued – I was generating consistent times over my favourite routes, sitting at around the same speed and cadence, and beginning to test different and more challenging routes.
And while the Giant CRX One had been a great bike, I began to wonder whether I needed to change the bike before I could move to a new level. The answer came when I had the opportunity to take a spin on my father-in-law’s titanium Merlin roadbike.
Now, the CRX One was not a heavy bike, weighing in around 9kg. But this super lightweight Merlin was an altogether different beast. It certainly FELT faster. And it also felt easier – easier to get power to the ground, to climb and to descend. I felt it was time to shift.
Ordering from CyclingExpress.com
In late January I ordered an Azzurri Forza Elite carbon fibre roadbike from the CyclingExpress website. It arrived within days – and was a pain-free experience. It was easy to sign up on the site, check the sizing of the bike and make the purchase. After doing the research, it was really a no-brainer. On paper, the bike looks like a fantastic deal – a $2300 bike for $1400. It’s all carbon fibre and is kitted out with Shimano 105s.
The question really was – how will this translate in reality?
You can see my unboxing post here.
A few additions
Like most bikes, this one doesn’t come with pedals, pumps, lights, etc, so you do need to make sure you add them into your purchase.
I opted for Xpedo Roadforce titanium pedals – adding a tiny 170g to the weight of an already light bike. I also added two carbon fibre bottle cages, a front and rear light and the Union XR Cycling Computer. Kitted up it weighs in at about 8kg. That’s a full kilo lighter than the stripped back CRX One (which is closer to 10.5kg kitted out).
On the road
I have a couple of regular circuits that I ride – and I was particularly keen to see how the Azzurri would run over the same route.
Over my regular 20km route, the Azzurri performed exceptionally.
On the ascents, the bike was fantastically responsive. As I reach the bottom of the hill before the up hill climb, I normally hit the pedals hard. The bike responds immediately – bursting to life, accelerating in those first, vital metres. The Shimano 105s get a workout, clicking down as I push hard to maintain momentum. The main cog is smooth and silent. The rear derailleur crunches a little – but delivers all the way to the crest.
With the lighter bike and the lower riding position, I am reaching the crest in a higher gear and a better time. I can really feel the lighter weight working in my favour – something that continues across the different conditions across this route:
- On the straights it is easy to push and accelerate
- On the descents it’s responsive and stable
- On the ascents it is quiet and light
After the comfort of the Giant CRX One with its upright riding position and gel seat, I wondered how the Azzurri would rate. But after repeated runs on the 20km route, I am pleased to report that there is hardly a discernible difference.
A recent 50km route resulted in slightly sore shoulders, but I think this can be remedied with a slight adjustment to the handlebars.
The carbon fibre frame is a lot more forgiving on the road. Bumps and potholes are absorbed miraculously. Even hitting an unexpected branch at the bottom of a hill – hitting 65kph – did not jar as much as I expected. To be honest, I was happy not to hit the road.
The shift to the roadbike has required a change in mindset and approach. It’s a lightweight, responsive bike that is surprisingly comfortable over short distances but really comes into its own over the longer routes.
The Shimano 105 setup works very well for the non-professional (like me). It’s great being able to push along the long straights with not a sound coming from the chain or any of the gearing on the bike. Shifting up and down is accompanied with the traditional kerchunk sound, but this is hardly surprising. And any mis-gearing is easily corrected with a slight tap on the gear lever.
However, it is in the value for money stakes where this bike really wins. For a very competitive price you can have a high quality, carbon fibre roadbike.
Don’t forget you can sign up or subscribe to the CyclingExpress website here (use my servant [at] servantofchaos [dot] com email). Be sure to let them know I sent you