Specialized Transition Comp test ride at Cynergy

Cynergy Cycles in Santa Monica is a roadie’s dream. By roadie I mean, in the nicest of ways, a person who exclusively rides a road bike and cranks out miles with an iron chainring heart. I’m talking a person that wears their yellow Livestrong bracelet even at formal affairs. The bibs always match the jersey; like the carpet matching the curtains. In fact, no less than three people commented on how much they liked my Primal Wear muscle and bone jersey. Cynergy stocks the Rock N’ Republic bike clothing, the designer jeans turned bike team sponsor brand. A roadie likes speed in much the same way that a triathlete likes speed, but they eschew the bar-end shifters and live in the drops. Cynergy in Santa Monica was founded by and aimed squarely at the roadie crowd and they’ve done a great job in creating a store staffed by pros (who know a lot more than just clothing). They carry a limited line of great bikes. I say limited because they’re not going to stock one of everything. They have specific brands they proselytize and these are good brands. When I went in last week to scope their inventory they had two tri bikes, both by Specialized. The Transition Comp is the second from the bottom of the Specialized line, and the Transition Pro is third from the top. (There are 7 models in the overall line.) I had a friendly chat with a salesman and made a date to come by to test ride the Transition Comp.

At this point I’ve test ridden three bikes: the ’08 Jamis Xenith T1, ’06 Kuota Kalibur, and the ’08 Orbea Ordu. I had my suspicions about the Transition Comp because one, it was using a collage of components, and two, it was the second from the bottom of the product line. The bike was set up with a Shimano 105 front derailleur, Ultegra rear derailleur, and Dura Ace shifters. It should be noted that all Shimano group tri bikes have Dura Ace shifters because that’s the only bar ends they make. The mix n’ match setup was strange, but it’s how Specialized ships it as a preconfigured build. Triathlete Zombies has basically the same bike at a similar price taking up floor space. My salesman was great, took the time to measure up my bike and put the STC on a fluid trainer to check the early fit first. Seatpost height was good, but the bar ends were stretched pretty far out. Not bad enough to make a bad ride, but if I bought the bike we’d definitely have to cut the bars back. I also noticed my knees were close to the aero bars, but that’s also something that could be adjusted with a different stem.

I signed the waver, left my credit card and driver’s license, and took off on my test ride. I walked the bike around the corner and started my now familiar Broadway bike lane test ride. The very first thing I noticed was that the bike creaked almost as much as my aluminum road bike! I checked carefully to make sure nothing was loose and I was safe. Everything checked out safely so I kept on going – and there it was. A creak when I put pressure on a back and forth dance, shifting my weight from side to side. I cautiously opened up some speed on the false flat decline of Broadway and popped up to 21 mph easily. Braking was solid on the OEM brakes. I looked down to inspect the brakes and was blinded by the sun reflection off the high polish. I noted to myself that I’d have to buff or paint the brake if I didn’t want to pop a migraine every time I rode the bike. I continued on my ride testing the shifters and unfortunately the rear derailleur was misbehaving considerably. The front derailleur was sensitive to the bar end shifter adjustment, but I could get used to that. I was not pleased with the rear derailleur at all. I didn’t trust it to shift while applying my full torque. I kept on shifting, being sensitive to each change. I reversed course at Lincoln Blvd and took the incline pretty quickly. I began to feel like I wasn’t really able to access my own power. Back and forth I went, shifting up and down, powering up, recovering down. But each time I felt something I hadn’t experienced before – this was a chintzy ride. The carbon fiber had too much flex in it for my taste, I could feel a lack of stiffness throughout the frame. I felt like if I had a race the next day I could make it work, but I would have outgrown it, or been unhappy in less than a year of ownership.

I brought the bike back after twenty or so minutes and told my salesguy exactly what I just said. He wasn’t upset, and in fact said that I should try the bike with different wheels. I was riding on Mavic Aksiums, the stock wheels that came with the bike (the same entry level wheels I have on my bike). He swapped them out for Specialized Roval race wheels and encouraged me to go out and try again. I told him I didn’t want to waste his time. He was very kind and said that was what they did and he was happy to help.

I took the bike out again and I’ll be damned, but the better wheels improved the ride significantly. I’d say the better wheels improved the ride by 60%! No more creaking, more transfer of power to the road. Which means I was able to focus on the really low end components. I brought the bike back after ten minutes, thanked my guy profusely for all of his time, and had to decline the offer to ride the Transition Pro. There was no way to get it under $4K once pedals, computer, and tax got added in. The Orbea or even a P2C would be significantly less expensive, and potentially a better group setup. It was still good to have ridden the bike, and it’s certainly underscoring that with every bike I test I’m narrowing my focus.

To that end I emailed Arom at Predator Cycles and had him check his rough numbers against the Cervelo P2 – it’s a better number match than the Orbea Ordu. Now it’s clear, I have to test ride a P2 or P3 and see for myself. If it’s the clear superior I can mail order a Cervelo P2 from New York and have TZ build it (if they can). And yet I’m still hoping I can make the Ordu work. In a way, I’m setting the standard pretty high for the Cervelo. It will have to blow me away to knock off my feelings for the Ordu. If it rides the way my coach says it does, it might just be enough. 

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One response to “Specialized Transition Comp test ride at Cynergy

  1. The Cervelo mafia is waiting for you….join us…

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