Sunday, September 15, 2019

Tresca Aluminum Going-Fast Bicycle: First Impressions!

Firstly, I want to thank you all for your Jones submissions.  They are making for highly compelling reading.  Please be patient while I determine a winner, as I received even more applications than I expected.

Secondly, here's where I am on the Tresca:

That joke never gets old.  Never!

Okay, so on Friday I nipped out for a 40-ish mile jaunt.  Of course riding a new bike means you're going to stop every now and then to tweak stuff and so forth, which can be distracting.  So while my first impressions were quite favorable overall, I refrained from drawing any sweeping conclusions about the bike

On Saturday, I headed out for a ride of similar length on my beloved new-to-me "Forever "Bike:

It would have been more appropriate to compare the Tresca to my plastic Specialized, inasmuch as the latter bike is my dedicated park racer, and the overall demeanor of the former is quite sporting.  (Note saddle-to-bar drop, for instance.)  The Litespeed on the other hand is my middle-aged-guy-reliving-his-20-something-dreams bike, and it has come to occupy a special place in my heart.  You may think it ugly--the decals admittedly are, and the silver-to-crabon fade on the fork is embarrassingly turn-of-the millennium--but sweet hairy Jeebus do I love this bike.  It's been awhile since I've had a road bike I felt compelled to dote on as opposed to just maintain, but this is it, and lately I've been doing stuff like replacing the brake hoods and changing the brake pads.  (So far the SwissStop greens I just got feel great and I think they'll be even better once I run them in.)  All of this means it's not the ideal bike with which to compare the Tresca, but basically the Specialized needs a new chain and I haven't gotten around to installing it yet.

So how did the Tresca compare to the "Forever" Bike?  Well obviously I liked the "Forever" bike better, it would be weird if I didn't.  But it was hard to say how much better I liked it since my first ride on the Tresca had involved all the typical new bike futzing.  So on Sunday morning I headed out on the Tresca again and did the exact same ride I had done on the Litespeed:

I liked the Tresca even more this time.  I mean yes I still like the Litespeed better of course, but I had also kind of expected the Tresca to be a huge letdown in comparison and this wasn't even remotely the case.  One reason for this is that by now I had everything pretty much dialed in so I could just ride without thinking about it.  Another reason was this:


See, I ride without gloves--unless it's cold of course.  I also generally use cork handlebar tape, and the tape on the Tresca is (according to the spec sheet), something called "Fizik Microtex SuperLight (classic)."  While I do like the texture, it is also pretty thin stuff, and by the end of that first ride my hands felt kind of fatigued.  So I wore gloves this time, which solved the problem.  At the end of the ride I felt great, and I felt great about the bike.  Obviously at 80 miles its still wildly immature to make definitive pronouncements, but let's just say that if I'd bought this bike I'd be feeling very good at my purchase right now.

Speaking of which, why would you buy this bike?  Well, firstly, you'd buy it if you wanted a road racing bicycle.  This is not an "endurance road bike" or anything like that--which is not to say it's uncomfortable, far from it.  It's just that, as you can see from the fit, this is a road racing bicycle with a short head tube that puts you in a fairly aggressive position.  The bike I'm riding is a size medium, and at 5'10" I'm pretty much right in the middle of the height range they recommend:

The sizing feels great to and I'm right where I'd want to be for racing, but if I wanted to be more upright I'd have to flip the stem--not that there's anything wrong with that, but if you're starting from scratch with a new bike and you want your bars higher you'd obviously go for a frame with a different fit.

So again, we're talking race bike here, and it's on this basis I'm evaluating the bike.  Sometimes people are tempted to lump all drop-bar bikes together, and they start making critiques like, "It doesn't have enough tire clearance," or "the head tube's too short."  So let's not do that.

Secondly, if you're going to consider a Tresca, you not only want a race bike, but you want an aluminum race bike.  So why would you want an aluminum race bike?  Well, on balance aluminum race bikes are cheaper than crabon, while still being plenty light and all the rest of it.  Yes, there lots of relatively affordable crabon bikes out there now, but it's still fair to say if you're looking for a go-fast bike you'll get more for your money from aluminum.

Also, not to be reductive, but there's also just something cool about aluminum bikes.  Certainly some people find them objectionable, but I happen to be one of those people who has always liked them, and who prefers the overall sensibility of metal to crabon.  (Again, I fully acknowledge I'm being purely emotional here, but it would be foolish of us to discount the emotional nature of our bicycle purchases.)  In fact, when I was looking for a dedicated park racing bike I fully intended to get an aluminum one, but as I've mentioned before the plastic Specialized practically fell into my lap, and when a crabon bike with Dura Ace falls into your lap you don't push it off just because you think aluminum's "cool."  Also, the Specialized came in black and it has a threaded bottom bracket shell, so despite being plastic it checked pretty much all my other boxes.

In any case, speaking of my boxes, when I was surveying the market for aluminum road racing bikes I found there weren't that many of them that checked them all.  In fact there weren't very many aluminum road racing bicycles period, which I gather is why Tresca thought they could start a new bike company.  I didn't much care whether the bike had 105 or Ultegra since all that stuff works pretty much the same, but one important one was a threaded bottom bracket.  I liked the idea of the Specialized Allez, but I believe it had a press-fit bottom bracket.  I also liked the Cannondale CAAD-whatever-they're-up-to (I've owned three Cannondales over the years and loved them all), but they also have some kind of wacky bottom bracket.  Same with the Trek Emonda.  At a certain point I just reconciled myself to the fact I'd probably wind up with some sort of newfangled bottom bracket, and told myself maybe they're much better now and I was just being characteristically retro-grouchy.  (I'm sure someone will chime in with other awesome aluminum bikes I overlooked, but frankly after the plastic bike fell into my lap I stopped caring.)

All of this to say that if you're me one year ago, and if plastic bikes with Dura Ace don't fall into your lap, you're a potential Tresca customer.  I'd certainly have considered one if I knew about them back then, and when they asked me if I wanted to try one I said "Yes!" for precisely that reason.  Certainly pricewise they compare favorably to the other bikes I mentioned above, and I also appreciate the following:

  • The Threaded Bottom Bracket: Evidently they originally designed the bike with a PF30 but decided to go to a threaded to avoid potential creaking.  This is good, because you really can't go wrong with an old-fashioned threaded bottom bracket;
  • Rim Brakes: I have no problem with disc brakes.  I fully acknowledge this is the way road bikes are going and that one day I too will probably have a road bike with disc brakes.  At the same time, as Tresca points out, rim brakes work, and they work well.  I'm sure for plenty of people a rim brake road bike is a deal-breaker, and I also know there are people out there who really benefit from discs over rims.  At the same time, there are also plenty of people like me who are in no hurry to change, who have bins full of rim brake components and accessories, and who aren't doing rainy 10-mile high-speed mountain descents on crabon rims on a regular basis.  In other words, it is possible to acknowledge discs as important technology while at the same time thinking rim brakes are a selling point;
  • Component Choice: Tresca proudly point out they spec all brand-name stuff on the bike.  Frankly I'd be surprised if there was any difference in quality between the Fizik bars and stem on this bike and the Specialized-branded stuff on my plastic bike.  At the same time, if you're a paying customer and not a jaded bike blogger, there's no denying it's nice to have a bike with parts you recognize on it.  It's all stuff you can look up online, read reviews about, price check, etc.  This is even true of the cheapest bike, which is what I'm riding.  (By the way, it's hard to see why you'd go beyond the cheapest bike, since the 105 stuff is great, it's as light a bike as you could possibly need even without anything fancy on it, and you might as well save the extra money for a second set of wheels.)
  • General Compatibility: The frame has newfangled internal cable routing, but what with electronic shifting and all the rest of it, in 2019 I don't think it's possible to market a bike without it.  Other than that, the bike takes standard parts.  There are no D-shaped seatposts or proprietary cockpits or anything like that.  This is good if you're a home mechanic, or a longtime racer with lots of parts at home.
So there it is.  As I mentioned, with only 80 miles of riding on the bike I've barely gotten to know it, but so far I've only got good things to say about it.  I still need to ride it back-to-back with my plastic race bike, switch wheels, and all that stuff.  I also need to try it in an actual competitive Fredding event, and as luck would have it there's still one more park race this season.  Anyway, I'll keep you apprised, and if you have any questions feel free to ask.


Tom said...


Anonymous said...

Only here for the podio. Probably not. Good day, sir.

BamaPhred said...

Hut hut hut helmut
Yer listener needs to learn to spell
Everyone knows it’s helment

cyclejerk said...

Bought an $800 Aluminium framed Velovie from State a couple years ago. All 105. Guy that assembled it name of Helmut. Hell-moot. There's something ironical in that.

Dooth said...

That Fresca looks tresh

HDEB said...

"it would be foolish of us to discount the emotional nature of our bicycle purchases" -- drop bars are silly and handmade in uh-mer-uh-kah (or Colombia, or France...) steel is the only frame for me.

mikeweb said...

I've been using the thick version of the matte 'soft-touch' Fizik bar tape for about 5 years now and really like it. And yeah, I ride without gloves also - unless it's cold (obviously), but also if it's hellishly hot, since my brake hoods will get slippery with sweat.

George Krpan said...

I have steel, carbon, and aluminum gravel bikes. There is no way the aluminum bike is inferior to the others. It might even be my favorite.

DaveD said...

Technically, you should be referring to your new Tresca as an "aluminium" bike. This is a constant source of aggravation to editors and spell check apps...

wle said...

Well - **I** happen to like Aluminum--

2 Kleins and a GT, both from 2000-2001 period
And a Fuji Finest, 2003, also Al
And 2-3 mt bikes, I think all Aluminum, which I don't ride much

I don't WANT to find out I might like something else better!


Anonymous said...

"Brand name components"? Chinese s--t with a fancy name screened on if you ask me. But hey, these recycled soft-drink can bikes should be a smokin' deal as soon as the British pound goes swirling down the drain post-Brexit, right? Convert those Fresca checks written in pounds into 'Murican dollars quick Snobby!!

JLRB said...

Will you come and Loofah my stretch marks

Mr G. Umby said...

I bought my first alu road bike recently - a full campy Cannondale R600 of the nine-ties. So light! But I am a Brit steely and terrified of the yank alu forks. It is more terrifying than my bickerton folder. Which is crap but I only ride that at wanking speed. Are alu forks safe after 25 ish years? Anyone?

Some guy from upstate said...

I have only one question - where does one have to place ones lap such that a spiffy carbon road-racing bicycle with Ultegra might fall into it?

I've been pretty happy with aluminum bikes, but they were all MTB's or the cross bike, which is one of those USA-made Cannondales and seems to work fine on the road. I don't have a plastic bike to compare it to, so I'm looking forward to hearing about how the Tresca performs in your next park race.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 12:26pm,

Obviously the "brand name" stuff and the OEM stuff is probably coming out of the same factory, but why is it "Chinese s--t?" We've come a long way from the sleeved bars of yesteryear, and the idea that something's poor quality because it's manufactured in Asia is laughable. Frankly it's embarrassing so many bikey people still cling to it.

--Tan Tenovo

PS: Pound is already a bargain, good time to buy a Tresca.

Ellie said...

Hey Tan! How many bikes do you have now? Just wondering. I love my '98 Trek aluminum 1220. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Iojb, crabon park bike, forever bike, ritte, Milwaukee, smugness flotilla, Jones x2, midlife crisis fixie

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 3:16pm,

Ritte is now a part of the Classic Cycles museum collection, along with the Renovo!

--Forever Bike
--Crabon Fred Sled
--Midlife Crisis Fixie
--Artisanal Singlespeed
--Jones LWB
--Jones SWB (but not for long)
--Smugness Flotilla
--Ironic Orange Julius Bike

I think that's it...?

--Tan Tenovo

Some guy from upstate said...

I think you forgot the travel bike (or more recently the non-ironic singlespeed cross bike) ...

Skidmark said...

—Surly Cross Travelers Check?

BikeSnobNYC said...

Some Guy and Skidmark,

Right, I did for get about that! Though it is broken down at the moment and I am uncertain of its future, which is why I forgot to list it.

(I also have at least two bikes worth of frames and parts on top of all that but I'm not counting anything I can't hop on and ride.)

--Tan Tenovo

Anonymous said...

The aluminum BMC Team Machine is another example of a nice race bike with a threaded bottom bracket and a normal round seat post and normal seat post clamp.

Mikael Huntenjager said...

I’ve ridden an old (early 90s) R600hard for the last 15 years. No issues with frame or fork.
Kid at LBS warning me about spending $250 on used aluminum can bite me. Bike outlasted that shop.

Wesley Bellairs said...

I notice many of your readers never bother to venture off the Trek, Cannondale, GT plantation. Just shoot me. Do they sit in the coffee shop staring pensively out the window wondering why nobody has inquired about their super-rare gray Trek 2300? You don’t see those often! Is it European?
I need to go ride my Guerciotti.