R-002 Review | Tested & Ridden

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.

The Opine

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.

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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:

  1. Head tube: 71.5°
  2. Fork rake: 44 mm
  3. Trail: 62.1 mm
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  4. Seat tube angle: 74°
  5. Chainstay: 406 mm
  6. 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.

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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.

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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…

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The Verdict

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…

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Technical Specs

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:

Three-star-rating

A bit of an updated post on the handling and stem setup
https://theroadsofascension.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/september-testing/

R-002 (the prequel to review)

I was going write up the R002 – SBK review in one post, but due to the lengthy aspect of explaining about certain conditions and prerequisites, I decided to break the review into two posts. The first post will deal with assumptions, conditions, criterion and caveats of what the review will be predicted on.

Let’s face it, a review is just an opinion and you know what is said about opinions…they are like  assholes, everybody’s got one and they usually stink. (yes, even the ones written here, though at least I will give you a background on the what and the why’s)


The Bad, the Ugly and the Good:

Let’s begin by pointing out the marginal issues and problems with the R-002/R-022 frame. The fit and finish is somewhat spotty on certain batches and as so happened, the TWO models I received (after sending the first one back with gross aesthetic issues) had fit and finish issues. One of the more glaring problems with the R-002/R-022’s seat tube Claimed size of  34.6mm is that it is slightly larger than the standard size for most road bikes. Two different 31.6mm seat posts would not fit properly on my R002. Subsequently, I had to shim the post to keep it from slipping.

Second issue, is the headset. The R-002 comes with a relatively cheap, suspect headset. Though not mechanically unsafe, it does result in a sub-standard fit and finished look.

Third issue is the bottom bracket cable guide. The cheap plastic piece that came on my R-002, had to be filed in order for the cables to actually move through the guide.

Fourth issue is the rear derailleur hanger. The hanger that came on the bike was bent. Which meant the derailleur would not line up properly. Good thing that a spare bracket comes with the frame. But, the bracket should NOT be bent in the first place.

Granted, none of these issues severely compromise the safety aspect of the bike, but, they are significant in their own way. It points out the lack of uniform quality control and  Standard Operating Procedures withing the Zhongwei-UIS factory. Now I’m not saying that all the R-002/R-022 frames have these same issues, but I have read that some buyers have had some similar issues. I am also not saying that the R-002/R-022 should be avoided, in fact I would purchase another frame from Zhongwei, but in a different manner. What I am saying is, that in my specific case, I am sure that my issues were not necessarily a production oversight…which is a shame.

Rather, I suspect that these consequences were a result of sending back my first frame, that turned into a sort of ‘punishment’. Which is why it probably took over 3 months for the second frame to be shipped, (after being told in numerous emails by a certain person that it was -“going out next week”) and then have a frame riddled with these 4 problems. I’m sure it’s a cultural thing, you know, insulting, denying, saving face etc. (and all that is just plain old ugly!) Let me not forget about the shipping cost I incurred sending back the fist frame (which I was promised a refund of half of the cost, which of course never happened) Lesson learned, I think 🙂

As for the good, there is plenty. Obviously, the price of the frame/fork is a bargain at around $360 USD. Then there is the very sleek and aero look of the frame and fork itself. The moderately light weight of the R-002/R-022 is also a plus when you consider the cost. My raw 52cm frame weighs in at a respectable 1088g and the fork at 453g.


Rider/Writer background:

As with any review/opinion, the perspective and qualifications of  the reviewer matters greatly, in lending credence to the review. (at least that is my opinion! ) All too often reviews are expressed by those with limited experiences or out of context point of views regarding the reviewed item(s). All too often, reviews seem to be nothing more than a scripted play titled; “Blowing Sunshine up your Ass”. Well rest assured, that the forthcoming review will NOT be of any such folly. What the review will be, is a balanced, truthful and thorough detail of ascertained experiences, albeit an opinion of the R-002 chassis.

I am in my 11th year of road cycling and my 8th year of mtb’ing. Previous to 2004, when I had started cycling, I road raced motorbikes from 1991 to 2003. ( I feel this is relevant experience to understanding two-wheeled dynamics and having developed a ‘knack’ for machine feel and feedback.

During my years of road biking, I have owned and ridden (in order) a 1980’s Schwinn le tour 12 speed steel bike, a 2004 Mercier aluminum Tiagra/105, 27 speed equipped bike, a 2006 Pro-Lite carbon fiber Ultegra 6600, 20 speed bike and now the carbon R-002. And, I have owned only one mountain bike, an aluminum Iron Horse Warrior hardtail.

So, I can state without question, that I have ridden various frame materials and types of bikes during the 11 years. While not as ‘seasoned’ as some other long-time riders who have ridden fleets of bikes, I’m not a neophyte either. Therefore, these known quantities and facts need to be taken into account when reading and analyzing the upcoming R-002 review. Stay Tuned

Tested & Ridden | Vittoria pro Slick Tyre Test

The following is an opinion (or review) of my first-hand experiences riding Vittoria’s Zaffiro Pro Slick Tires.

Keep in mind, that the review takes into account, the bike, the terrain and the rider/riding style.

Back in early May I had made the swap from Continental Ultra Sport tires to the 700×25 Vittoria Pro Slick folding tyres. The Conti’s are a 23mm width and I wanted to run 25mm’s on the 23mm wide wheels I have on the R-002. After some searching, I found an incredible deal on the Pro Slicks for 15 bucks a piece on nashbar.com. Being that they were Vittoria’s, I figured it was worth a try and a  bargain price at that mates!

 Testing the Pro Slicks:

It’s early days yet, with now about 340 miles on the Zaffiro Pro Slick tires but so far,the overall feeling is good. I still don’t know about the long-term tyre life, but I suppose I will find out over the coming months and miles.

The Pro Slick is not a true slick, but an intermediate type tyre, with narrow strips of tread surface left and right of the slick center. The tires are billed as trainers, which means they are slighter heavier than pure racing slicks and should have a bit more durability. One of the pluses is that Vittoria states their Pro Slick utilizes the same rubber compound as the more expensive Rubino Pro.

Seat-of-the-pants feel:

The Conti Ultra Sports I was previously running  have a slightly less aggressive profile, when compared to the Pro Slicks and subsequently, stability under heavy braking is not quite as solid as the Ultra Sports. I have locked the rear up three times on the road, while braking very heavily, down from fast descents. Something which had never happened while rolling on the Ultra Sports. One particular incident was on this section in the photo below, hauling down from nearly 40 mph, then 30, to zero in 0.2 of mile before entering Route 202, a very busy highway here in Morris County NJ.

Baily Bomb

When I first installed the Pro Slicks, I did mention that the profile was slightly taller, at about 1/16″ compared to the Conti’s. Now, that doesn’t seem very much at all, but under really hard braking, at speed, it is proving to be somewhat of a weakness in the construction of the Vittoria Pro Slicks. It is not something so disconcerting to me, but it is an issue none-the-less. Knowing this shortfall with the tires, means I will need to ride around the problem and recall the limits whenever I am in a hard braking situation.

On the road, the Pro Slicks feel slightly more pliable than the Ultra Sports. I would love to see a durometer reading of both brands. As far as grip goes, bite into corner entry and out of corner exit is mostly consistent and predictable. Edge grip seems to be good as well. Although I have felt the rear move around ever so slight during very hard and fast cornering on a couple of occasions. Here is one example in the photo below;

Dropping down into a fast sweeper, I could feel the rear get a bit unsettled as I was driving (pedaling) hard into  the tight left-hander. Entering at 41 mph and accelerating through the corner up to 46 mph. While that bit of pavement is not smooth as glass, it is not ripped up either. The slight movement from the rear indicated a momentary slip of the tire, but nothing too severe. For this particular test, I had about 100 psi in the rear and about 96 psi up front.

King George Drop

Since mounting them up on the Ekay Carbon Fibre wheels, I have to date, ridden them on seven occasions in all types of weather and road conditions. From cool and damp, to very warm temps and even in a downpour. On dirt and gravel, torn up macadam and smooth paved roads. My verdict is that the Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Slicks are a solid road bike tyre, especially for the cost. They roll well, have a decent amount of grip and seem to handle all the varying conditions thrown at them so far.

Although, they are decent, solid tyres, the Continental Ultrasports feel just a bit better overall. Having more a predictable feel when leaned over and under hard braking.

My hope is to get at least a thousand miles out of this set of Vittoria’s and if I do so without any issues, I will probably purchase an additional set.

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Technical Specs per Vittoria:

  • Bead: kevlar
  • TPI : 60
  • Type: clincher
  • Weight: 250g
25-622 700x25c 250g 111.3ZP.18.25.111BX