At the time of this write up, I have ridden the Zhongwei R-002 for approximately 70 hours (or 948 miles). The time spent in the saddle includes riding on; gravel, dirt, smooth pavement, bumpy roads and very rough and rutted tarmac on varying types of terrain. Rolling hills, flats and steep short climbs. Rolling mainly on the 23mm x 38 mm carbon wheels, with a few rides on a set of standard 20 mm x 27 mm aluminum rims for comparison.
Undoubtedly, I have put the R002-SS through its paces during the last 3 months. What follows is my best attempt to provide the most neutral review of the bike frame and fork that I can. As opposed to some of the apparent fluff and obvious lip-service from a contingent of inexperienced and/or naive riders regarding the R-002/R-022. If you have not read the Prequel to the Review, then please go ahead and scan the short post before delving into the full bike review.
With its sleek lines and shaped tubes, it’s easy to see why the R-002/R-022 bicycle frame is one of the most popular of the Zhongwei Composite bikes produced in China.
The R double-O 2’s aggressive look and relatively lightweight (my 52cm frame weighs in at 1088g) make for a very solid build. It’s a sportier type mid-level race machine, geared more towards the aggressive club rider and weekend racer, rather than the touring/fondo crowd, despite its somewhat partial ‘touring’ type bike geometry:
- Head tube: 71.5°
- Fork rake: 44 mm
- Trail: 62.1 mm
- Seat tube angle: 74°
- Chainstay: 406 mm
- Wheelbase: 976.90 mm
The 44 mm fork rake and the 62.1 mm trail yield an aggressive, quick steering type of machine. As does the somewhat shorter, beefy 406 mm chainstays with a wheelbase of only 976.90. While the 71.5° head angle and 74° seat tube angle, suggest a more relaxed ‘touring’ type of geometry. The bike seems to have a split-personality, with respect to overall chassis design. Something of an engineering flaw, whether planned or not.
I liken the double-O 2 to a middleweight supersport bike- It’s relatively light, sharp and fast. But it’s also very stiff. In fact, the chassis is so stiff, it is absolutely unforgiving when configured with carbon wheels. Stomp down on the pedals and there is nary a hint of flex from the bottom bracket area. The bike just seems to push forward with proficiency. Though with aluminum wheels under the R-002, it is still quite rigid, but soaks up the bumps and ruts a bit better.
But in reality, the R-002/R-022 sacrifices everyday/touring type utility and comfort, for performance. This is not a bike of choice for long-ish rides and-or fondo/ touring, but rather it is more of a crit-type machine, one that will reward a rider with instant responsiveness and power efficiency. The massive, shapely chain stays measure 406 mm’s from the center of rear axle to the center of the BB, aiding in the bikes stout climbing prowess.
It’s evident from the massively sized down tube and bottom bracket area that R-002 has a pronounced amount of lateral stiffness, that much is absolutely true from riding it. There’s a tapered head tube with 1-1/8″ to 1.5″ lower bearing, that also contributes to the stiffness. The frames rigidity is apparent from the slightest inputs through the handlebars, resulting in immediate steering response– thanks in large part to its short trail. . The bike exhibits efficient power transfer from a wide range of speeds and its stiffness is without question.
T he R-002 accelerates rapidly, on semi-smooth or smooth macadam (if you can find any!) the bike is fast, solid and precise. Though comfort and composure are definitely not the R-002’s strong points. It’s not at all smooth and/or controllable over rough roads and there is a lot of jarring feedback through the frame and fork.
Unfortunately, this is the big compromise in the frames design, trading ride smoothness for the high level of chassis stiffness. On gentle roads, the firm chassis makes for a confident ride with the sort of cornering character that makes you push harder as you learn the limits of the bike, wheels and tyres.
The R-002 has some keen aerodynamic features as well; with internally routed cables, shapely carbon lines and a sculpted head tube. Though specifically, the R-002 is not an aero bike. And the jury is out as to whether the ‘aero design’ has any edge or advantage over any other type of non-aero road machine. It certainly is a uniquely shaped machine and well, it just looks frigging awesome…
After rides lasting several hours on the R-002, lower back discomfort and some marked fatigue become evident (at least to those of us who are over 40…and at close to 50, I feel every bump and jolt from the road surge through my body). The frame and fork are unforgiving in shock absorption, not so assuring on big hits and not at all good at soaking up vibration from the hardier bumps and ruts.
But if you’re sprinting, climbing out of the saddle or throwing it in to the corners, the R-002 absolutely shines when the tarmac is unbroken and unrippled. Though overall, the chassis is not well balanced for varying terrain and conditions, it’s a one-trick pony. More of a point and shoot type machine that gets the job done, though not with grace and composure, but with a sheer rawness of power and speed. Not at all suited for the 50 and over crowd…
Overall, I am very pleased with the appearance and the build, but very disappointed with the bike’s ability to track over unstable roads and its long ride performance. My previous carbon rig served me well for 9 years, something I can not see happening with the R-002. As I age, my preferences will undoubtedly shift even more towards comfort combined with performance, something that the R-002 is just unable to deliver. Final grade:
A bit of an updated post on the handling and stem setup