Saturday, May 10, 2008

The beam bike - people seem to love these things

I snapped this photo at the 2008 Cat's Hill Criterium in Los Gatos, CA. This fellow and I were watching the men's 1-2 racers top out on the hill. Myself having ridden there on my steel frame road bike and himself having ridden there on the beam bike. I interviewed him. He told me that the mega downtube was welded aluminum and that the beam was titanium. He said that the guy who makes the bikes welds up custom beams given the weight of the rider, to give the right amount of flex. The owner said that he never notices the flex, but that people riding behind him see him bouncing down the road. Says it's great for his back. The frame is probably stiff as hell laterally, since it's a giant aluminum box beam, and vertically compliant, since your sitting on a diving board, only, it's probably illegal to race on. Why? Because Merkx didn't use one, that's why. Besides not having a good place to put water bottles (same problem with most dual suspension MTB's), or mount a rack (which very few factory bikes are set up for these days anyway), there's no reason why people shouldn't be racing and riding on beam or "Y" bikes. There's a whole set of nerds out there who are devoted to the Trek Y-Foil.
Photo pilfered from
Well, the industry is probably too wrapped up in the "Race it on Sunday, sell it on Monday" mentality where they are afraid to manufacture (and the stores are afraid to carry) models that don't look like what the pros ride. Hence full suspension Magna mountain bikes. Truth is, except for one or two models at the top end (Specialized Roubaix SL and Tarmac SL, or Orbea Orca for example), 99% of the bikes a big company makes will never see action in a sanctioned race. I'm not crazy for liking the idea of road frames with passive suspension. Or, if I am, I have good company:
Ok, so you say the last two opinions come from eccentric bike nuts. What about this:
Regardless of where you fall on the issue, you can't deny that the Titanflex in the picture above has serious style. Check out those gold wrapped handlebars, those Shimano components and Campy front wheel. Those fiber rear spokes. This man is a collector, and godspeed to him and his flexy, aero bike.

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