Saturday, March 24, 2018

Yes, I'm Posting On A Saturday, But You Don't Have To Read It Until Monday

I am, ostensibly, a semi-professional bike blogger.  Furthermore, in my capacity as such, I am ostensibly engaged in a long-term test of the Renovo Aerowood sporting-style drop-bar bicycle.  And while these days my blogulations may be appearing with more frequency over at Outside or on the bike Bike Forecast, I can assure you that I've not been shirking my wood-testing responsibilities, and the purpose of this post is to update you on that ongoing testing forthwith.

By way of a reminder, here is the Renovo Aerowood:

That's ten grand's worth of wood and crabon you're looking at right there.

I also note that Renovo has now quoted me on the product page:


Five months later I still stand by that sentiment, though it does sound a little creepy out of context.

Anyway, apart from changing the saddle from a Selle Italia whatever-was-on-there to a Fizik (sorry, "F:i;//;%zi@k") whatever-it-is, I'm still riding the bike exactly as I received it:


Of course, there's a huge difference between even a long and challenging ride you undertake at your own pace and an race where you're pushing the bike as hard as you can, and for this I happen to believe that it's impossible to evaluate a bike like this without racing on it.   Does it feel stable when you're millimeters away from the wheel in front of you, or when exertion has robbed you of your finesse?  Are there quirks that only reveal themselves in the heat of battle?  Odd cable routings or poorly-placed braze-ons?  Basically, a bicycle's character comes into sharp relief when you're toiling atop it, and evaluating a racing-type bike without actually racing on it is like testing out a pair of sunglasses at the mall: they may seem okay, but you don't really know anything until you hit the beach.

As it happens, I've recently relapsed and after a multi-year hiatus have been tentatively dipping my Sidis into the tepid waters of amateur bicycle racing again.  In fact, the Renovo is partially responsible for my relapse, since riding a swoopy aero bike with crabon wheels and electronic shifting made me think to myself, "It sure would be fun to race this thing."  And so this very morning I headed down to Central Park and did just that.

This was my second race of the season, and as you may recall for my first race I opted to ride the Ritte Rust Bucket:


You may also recall that I got dropped, since jumping into the pack after a lengthy absence was a bit of a shock to the system.  This time around I was somewhat more prepared, at least psychologically.  I also opted for the Masters race due to the shorter distance and more genteel pace, though this was somewhat offset by the much smaller field which offered me no real place to hide.  The upshot of all of this is that while I was nowhere near the pointy end of things, I did ultimately complete the allotted number of laps alongside more than one other rider from my field, so I'm going to go ahead and call this go-round a skin-of-the-teeth "pass."

So now let's talk about the Renovo, of which I have no race-day photos because my phone died, so instead here's a picture of a woodpile:


Granted, this was only one race outing (and a particularly undistinguished one at that), but overall it performed very favorably as a race bike.  While I'd opted for the Ritte last time because I thought it might feel more stable, my concerns turned out to be unfounded and the Renovo inspired confidence beneath my scranular region at all times.  I also like the components much more in a racing context.  For example, consider the handlebars, which I don't have a photo of, but which I believe are these:


While I prefer my old-fashioned round-tubed handlebars for everyday riding, it turns out these weird nooks and bulges feel great when you're racing.  Furthermore, as flawless as the electronic shifting is, until today my impression has been, "Sure, it's really nice, but it's not that big a deal."  Now that I've raced on it however I totally think it is a big deal, because when you're clinging to the wheel in front of you for dear life like I generally am you really appreciate how amazingly consistent the electronic shifting is.  I'm not saying this translates into any meaningful performance benefits, but I am saying it feels really good--kind of like someone's kissing your hands every time you shift.  Also, you're probably a hell of a lot less likely to drop a chain with it, though Central Park is pretty much a big-ring course.

Of course, you can put fancy components on any bike.  Here's the real question: Is there anything inherent in the Renovo's woodiness that makes it perform well?  I dunno.  I do know the bike felt fast, and that going forward I'd choose it over the Ritte for my Fred races.  I also know this is what Renovo says about wood:

Wood is Smooth.

Renovos have an unequaled smooth ride. This is because vibration is absorbed by the wood itself, enhanced by our designs where appropriate.

Hey, my experiences with the bike don't contradict this, though whether it's because of the wood or because it's a well-fitting bike with lots of fancy parts on it is anybody's guess.  (I will say the bike felt pretty much the same with cheap metal wheels on it, so maybe the wood is in fact magical, but as a rule there are three things I'm very leery about putting faith in: divine beings; helmets; and frame materials.)

And in case you think I'm being disingenuous in expressing pleasure at riding an expensive bicycle, I can assure you that while it is indeed a lot of fun to ride it ain't perfect.  Consider, for example, this:


That is the bicycle's only bottle cage mount.  Firstly, it seems odd to me to bill something as an "endurance" bike and then equip it with only one bottle mount.  Secondly, while I like my bottle in the seat tube cage for more casual riding, when I'm splayed out over the bars in a race-type situation it's much easier to reach down and grab a bottle off the downtube, so being forced to keep it here was annoying.  And while it remains to be seen whether or not I'll find myself fit enough this summer to contest any hot two-bottle races, carrying a pair of bottles certainly is something your racing bike should allow you to do.

So that's where we stand so far, but rest assured there's lots more testing to come.  And while I'm a long way from drawing any conclusions about this bicycle, I think we can all agree that in many ways a $10,000 hunk of wood is perhaps the quintessential Masters bike, and that the only way I could have out-Mastered myself this morning would have been by taking it home on the back of a Porsche Boxster.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

What happens if you wreck the Renovo? The frame material would worry me in a fall. Not worried about getting splinters, worried about breaking it.

wishiwasmerckx said...

After racing, do you have to rub the Renovo down with Lemon Pledge?

Lucas Tarr said...

Is this a real podium or a fake podium? I've never been on either type before...

NourskSiklist said...

I have to say, every time I see that cellulose-based biek, two cartoon references battle for my admittedly juvenile attention: Firstly, Fred (!) Flintstone,because the Bedrock Bicycle Shop would be cranking out something similar. And second,that Pink Panther episode where a voracious termite wreaks havoc. It's on the Tube of You if anyone's interested. I see that wooden contraption and in my mind's ear there's a loud "bzzzzzzowww" as it collapses into a pile of sawdust. Can't help it. So beware when Spring starts springing and hungry critters are abroad once more.

Anonymous said...

Once a Fred always a Fred.

Anonymous said...

While you road wood I got out my custom ax to clean up from the storms. Are you gonna post your results? Any finish line pics out there?

Anonymous said...

Snobby wrote:

"...and that going forward I'd choose..."

"Going forward"!? You're actually using that language now?

I guess that happens when you ride a $10,000 combustible bike.

If you start talking about "synergies" — all is lost.

Hoghopper said...

Saturday? WT actual F?

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 4:27pm,

Seems like a pretty innocuous phrase to get hung up on, clearly you've got some weird associations with it.

--Wildcat Etc.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 3:31pm,

Fairly confident I was DFL.

--Wildcat Etc.

Skidmark said...

The Ironic Ritte stainless-steel rust bucket.—Dear Sirs @ Ritte bicycle works, how is your latest generation stainless steel proving itself? How about having BikeSnobNYC do a long-term test of a new frameset for all of us loyal readers? Thanks for your consideration.

Jake said...

Coming soon to the Vision product page: “these weird nooks and bulges feel great” -BSNYC (ongoing self-exam)

BamaPhred said...

Snob has to be the hardest working person in the bike blogulation bidness. Putting in work on his day of rest, already.

HDEB said...

turning the big ring on a swoopy bar bike is hard work

Some guy from upstate said...

Saw this on the Strava and was hoping there'd be a report. Glad you've decided to jump back into the fray. Nothing like it as a reality check to one's ego.

I have to assume Renovo figures if you can afford a $10k bike you can hire a domestique to keep you hydrated.

N/A said...

Wildcat, we've all been discussing your recent return to Fredliness (over at Lovely Biek's blogulation, since she's not using it anymore), and we're wondering if you are going to quit changing your own flats now? I guess you're going to have to count on Janine or Leroy to happen upon you in those dire times. Also, have you noticed your supply of stretchy bike clothes increasing? Any inclination towards buying Primal jersies?


Also, I like the idea of a new Ritte test horse, as mentioned above. But since you're all full up with bikes, I'll volunteer to be the test rider. On account of me being a team player and so forth. Helpful, I am.

Anonymous said...

getting a tune-up on the wooden bike would be like renovating.

Anonymous said...

Just nail a bottle holder onto that down tube.

bad boy of the south said...

Is it branching out or branching back into the sport of biek racing using said ronovo?

dop said...


If you give me a few minutes with the Renovo, I think I can solve the second-water-bottle-cage problem.

Fourhourerection said...

Monday podio?

Ellie said...

Since you've had the Renovo for 5 months, are you going to get to keep it forever? If not, is there a used Renovo dealership??

Anonymous said...

Enter your comment...

Lieutenant Oblivious said...

Are they still called braze-ons if the frame isn't steel? Got a phone number I can dial to confirm it?

Anonymous said...

Nice of this fellow to fill in for Snobby while he's indisposed, but I look forward to the return of the guy who regularly writes here. This other fellow might as well just write for BUYCYCLING Magazine, no? I was waiting for the "vertically compliant..." and the rest of the bike test catch phrases we're all so tired of.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 7:52am,

Clever comment. "Buycycling!" Did you just make that up? Never heard that one before!

--Wildcat Etc.

PS: Had a column in Bicycling for years you know.

Stump said...

sorry, Snob, Fizik is the giant in Princess Bride
I hope my comment doesn't make you run and hide