Friday, September 7, 2018

BSNYC Fall Product Review Spectacular Part 3: Renovo Aerowood

This past weekend I partook in my final Fred race of the season.  I'm pleased to report that I passed, largely because I finally came to terms with the fact that I belong in the B field and not the A field.  There are many reasons that I pinned on a number again after a six-ish year hiatus, but one of them is this bicycle:

I took the above picture on my ride today--which, in a way, was a perfect expression of what this bicycle was about.  Basically, I fucked off while the rest of you stiffs were hunkering in your cubicles, rode up to Westchester farm country, and ate a farm-to-table lunch for $20.  Then, while I ate said lunch, somebody stopped to admire the bicycle and discuss it at length.

This is life on an exotic wooden bicycle.

Of course in my case it's all a sham.  I'm not free to ride on Friday because the market is way up and my hedge fund is basically running itself; I'm free because I don't have a respectable job.  I'm not riding an exotic wooden bicycle because I've got money to burn; I'm riding it because someone was dumb enough to send it to me.  As for blowing $20 on lunch, hey, when you spend all week eating frozen Indian food from Trader Joe's you can afford to splurge once in awhile.

Anyway, as I mentioned this bicycle was a not-insignificant factor in getting me to start racing again.  See, after years of solitary solo rides on no-frills bikes I can't deny that it was kind of thrilling to suddenly find myself perched on a bicycle with fancy crabon wheels and push-button battery-powered shifting.  Without realizing it the bike racing Voltron was forming again deep in my subconscious--the Strava, the years of blogging solitude, the need to compete with my wife who has become a SoulCycle dynamo--and so this glossy pile of matchsticks just happened to be the head.

Of course, as I've mentioned, despite the aero styling the Renovo isn't quite as "racy" as my other road bikes--especially when it comes to the kind of racing we're doing here in New York, which is riding around a rolling six-mile (Central Park) or four-mile (Prospect Park) circuit really fast.  Basically, what you want for that is a light and stiff bike with a low front end, reasonably aero wheels, and a pretty large top gear.  (The Renovo could use a 52 or a 53 large chainring for this application.)  Still, it was perfectly capable in that regard (much-maligned single bottle on the seat tube notwithstanding), and while in the drops I was exactly as low as I needed to be.

Nevertheless, the bike that inspired me to start racing again really isn't a racing bike.  It's a bike for going on long road rides.  (Much-maligned single bottle on the seat tube notwithstanding.)  I've been riding this thing for almost a year now (I got it last November) and after trying it with cheap wheels, going from bike to bike, etc., I'm prepared to say that, yes, the frame really does make for a smooth ride.  Really smooth.  Like nicest-bike-I've-ever ridden smooth.  I'm sure there's a psychological factor at play--it's pretty much the only bike I have that doesn't have rust spots on it--but, be that as it may, it feels really, really good to ride this bicycle.

Even so, the bicycle is kind of ridiculous.  Much-maligned single bottle on the seat tube notwithstanding, the tight clearances preclude any unpaved detours.  In fact, this morning I picked up a staple in the tire, and the extra millimeter was enough to rub as it passed through the frame:

Therefore I had to remove the staple, which resulted in immediate deflation.

Still, despite being the antithesis of pretty much everything I stand for, I profoundly enjoy riding this bicycle.

As for the parts, the Shimano Ultegra Di2 has been amazing.  I don't even know if it's the latest version (I can't keep track of this stuff anymore) but I don't really have a single bad thing to say about it.  Also, in just under a year I've only charged the battery three times, and the only reason I did it that often was out of an abundance of caution.  (Granted, I have like 50 bikes so it's not like I'm riding this every day, but still.)  The crabon wheels have also been better than I expected.  The braking is good--yes, was quite loud at first, but it's quieted down considerably.  They've also stayed very true--EXCEPT that back in July I dropped a water bottle basically into the back wheel during a race, which resulted in a small blip.  I then went to touch up the wheel, but they must use some serious threadlock at the factory, because in attempting to hold the bladed spoke still it got twisted, and I'll be damned if I can un-twist it.  So now the wheel is acceptably true (certainly more than any other wheel I own, but I do have a high tolerance for wobbles), but the spoke is still twisted, and because I'm afraid of crabon I may have to do the unthinkable and bring it to a professional.  Who the hell knows.  At any rate, even as a born-again Fred I don't think I'd splurge on crabon wheels, but I can sure see why people like them so much.  Light wheels are super fun.

I've even gotten to like the overwrought handlebars, which are basically these:

Though if I were starting from scratch I'd go with a good old-fashioned un-flattened design. 

So there you go.  None of this is to say you need a $10,000 bicycle, or one made of wood, by any means.  However, it is to say that I've enjoyed riding one tremendously, and even after a year I still want to roll up to people and ask if they have any Grey Poupon.  I'd also go so far as to say that after 11+ years of semi-professional bike blogging I deserve it, goddamn it.

Just stay away from me with your goddamn sandpaper.


HDEB said...

To me, BSNYC's bicycles all seem fancy. The Engin is the coolest in my opinion. I've been telling myself for decades that if I ever get rid of my credit card debt that I'll buy a new bicycle.

BikeSnobNYC said...


Don't buy a new bicycle when you're debt-free, buy one when you're already in debt anyway!

--Tan Tenovo

Matt said...

I've found that having bicycles that are far more capable than I am is a good problem to have. A really good bike IS just more fun to ride, period. I think this explains your Renovo-fetish (and that it is FREE to you makes it even MORE appealing). Great article on Outside btw (I am remiss in catching up, just saw it today). You're pretty much in there with Dennis Miller on the do it very well! I certainly wouldn't want to debate you...I'd be slaughtered. Have you ever showed up and mercilessly lambasted a local politician during a town-hall type affair? I'd think you'd be the guy they quickly escort out before you embarrass them any further. If you haven't you should consider'd be very good at it I think (just IMO).

If wishes were horses beggars would ride said...

I really have enjoyed the evolution of your thoughts on the wooden chariot - it certainly looks spectacular, and I would love to take it on a looooooonnngggg ride myself.
Yes, sandpaper is a danger, as are axes, chainsaws, and sharp pruning shears, but aren't they for all plant-based things?
Keep it up, Snobby!

Chazu said...

Some of us thought you were going to retire from semi-pro bike blogging on your ten year anniversary. Thanks for not doing that.

Indeed you do deserve nice bikes. Destroying the Renovo shipping box upon receipt was a brilliant move.

I seem to recall a recent photo of your worn-out keyboard(?) You deserve a new keyboard.

Anonymous said...

Grammatically incorrect advertisements, tut,tut. Cleavage to the navel is also tacky...

The staple getting stuck because of absurdly small clearances sure gave me a chuckle.

Anonymous said...

I can't understand why, having 'come to like' the H.R. Giger handlebars, you'd wanna revert to plain old vanilla bars?

I've often thought there'd be a great market for a custom handlebar builder — I know that I spend more time than sane people would modifying my handlebars with insert padding fashioned from chopped up grips etc, strategically placed to shape handlebars that "fit" my hands just perfectly. I've come close to creating my ideal woman... err, handlebars once or twice, but absolute perfection still eludes me and I expect finding it will be a lifelong quest.

Surely sticking with the ergonomic, fancy-pants, sci-fi contours of the fitted bars are, in the anthropometric sense, the better choice?

Grump said...

If you're going to do Crits, you don't need an aero wheel unless you plan to spend time off the front...….....or off the back. If it was me, I'd use the Milwaukee with a 12-25. (unless it was flat...then a 12-23)

BikeSnobNYC said...


A 6-mile loop is not a crit.

Anonymous 7:470pm,

The palm grooves on the tops by the shifters feel comfortable at first but after awhile seem to promote numbness. (At least for me.) Standard shape just works better for me.

--Tan Tenovo

Anonymous said...

that staple was meant to pin the race number on the bike.

Anonymous said...


I'm glad it hasn't bamboozled you.

hey nonny mouse

STG said...

I just got my first pair of flattened drop bars - but in aluminum. 3T Tornova Pro. The cable grooves under the flattened tops allow for really smooth cable routing, which improved shifting.


Steve near Stone Barnes said...

So do they just habitually let you in to Stone Barns with a bike now? Because I've been refused entry in the past.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Steve near Stone Barns,

I've never been refused entry with a bike. (Though I only go once in awhile and not on summer weekends.) I emailed them awhile back and they said they were reviewing the bike policy and said something about moving one of the bike racks up by the parking lot. (Though I haven't noticed if it was there.) I've always just walked my bike right up to the cafe, and nobody seems to care.

--Tan Tenovo

dop said...

I think of the Central Park Loop as one of the great un-technical courses. If there was no traffic, you’d never need to touch the brakes. The turns aren’t tight, and each descent flows into a long straight, or into a sweeping turn into the next ascent.

wle said...

"" I've always just walked my bike right up to the cafe, and nobody seems to care.""

Forgiveness trumps (sorry, "beats") permission.

wle said...

I'm forever waltzing right into a store and leaning my bike on shopping carts or whatever...
Though lately I'm not even caring enough to do that, I just leave it outside leaned on a trash can or a newspaper box near the front door..

Mark said...

Hi BSNYC: You're free because you don't have a respectable job, sooooo: are you free from respectable activities September 11 at 4 pm? if so, please come give a bike-related talk at Montclair State U. (a short rail trip or slightly longer bike ride) in our Sustainability Seminar Series. We had "Bicycling as a Game Changer" lined up but our speaker has had to bail. We provide travel expenses and lunch, plus an optional dinner at a restaurant in Montclair (I could give the talk and take advantage of the free supper -- but sadly I Iack your natural charisma). p.s. if you ride, you can bring your bike into the building. Also, you get a unique view of Manhattan from our CELS building. --Mark

BikeSnobNYC said...


Descent before Harlem Hill at race speed requires some attention.

--Tan Tenovo

You're a hypocrit, we're all hypocrits, so let's eat said...

Soory, but it appears someone compared you to that assmunch Pennis Miller - your so much better than Miller and his pseudo-intellectual scam

Seattle lone wolf said...

Sandpaper? I'd be more worried about termites and beavers.

bad boy of the south said...

Looks like I'm gonna have to trade my n+1 bikes for n+1 kayaks this week.
Everyone, be safe in Florrie's path.
Perhaps the cheeto-in-chief can toss some paper towels this way.

JLRB said...

Freedom, not freedom like America. Freedom like a shopping cart. Or bicycle.


A staple. David and Goliath.

Staples said...

That Was Easy