Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Carbon Disc Road Wheels: 2021 Zipp 303 Firecrest DB Review

Summary: This XL rider says Zipp 303 Firecrest DB wheels are great.  They are smooth and light, but can be tricky to set up for a large rider. 

With these wheels, the tire width and PSI can really separate an amazingly smooth ride from barely tolerable one. 

Finally, it takes time to figure out the right spin cadence.  Once you do, these wheels hold speed really well and roll pretty effortlessly.


  • Light.  Stop and go made easy.  They take off and accelerate fast.
  • Climbs well.  Great for climbing in terms of speed, stiffness, ease of pedaling and to a degree comfort.
  • Love the hub sound.  It is nice and loud, but not obnoxious.
  • Smooth.  Amazingly smooth ride with 30mm TL Schwalbe Pro One tires at recommended pressure of 62 PSI for rear and 55 for front for my weight.  Get them 5 or 10 PSI higher and the ride is pretty harsh.
  • Stable: Barely gets affected by wind

  • Looks good, but not great.  The graphics don't really stand out, like some of Campagnolo, Zipp, Enve or Roval wheels
  • Holds speed pretty well.  Vision SC 40 DB wheels take less effort to maintain speed.  With these wheels, it took a while to find the right cadence.  But once I did, it felt amazing.
  • Comfort can be tricky.  28mm TL tires turned a smooth Colnago C64 into a rattling experience. Even dropping to 40 PSI did not make a huge difference.  30mm did the trick at the recommended tire pressure, which was 55PSI for front and 62 for rear.  
  • Fork fit.  30mm Schwalbe tires measure close to 32mm on these wheels.  This may be an issue for many road bikes.  It barely fits on my Colnago C64 Disc. As a point of reference, Roval CLX50 DB wheels with the same tires measure below 30mm.

  • Comfort level with 28mm TL tires with any pressure was not good. Even 10PSI makes a huge difference on these wheels.  Much more so than on any other wheelset I have experienced.
  • Cornering can take a little time to get used to.  It is a little twitchy and sensitive, but it os also very responsive on the positive side.

In summary, these are absolutely amazing wheels as they combine low weight, great handling, wider tire fit, and fantastic mixture of comfort, smoothness and road feel.  However, you may need some patience with finding the right tire set, tire size and PSI levels.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Specialized S-Works Roubaix - 1,500 Mile Review

Third Fourth time is the charm.  After trying three different Roubaix models over the last 5 years, I finally found the one I really like.

2018 Specialized S-Works Roubaix has become my favorite bike.  It has a perfect balance between speed and comfort. 

It is very easy to live with.  It goes fast when you push it.  It feels very light.  It is to get going.  It rolls nicely when you want to go slow.  It climbs well without punishing you.  It descends really nicely too.

Compare Roubaix with my Pinarello Dogma K8s Disc.  Pinarello is more aerodynamic.  It absolutely flies when pushed.  It descends with unmatched precision.  It feels like a race bike.  However, it fights you when want to go slow.  It is harder to get going in a more comfortable tempo.  It begs you to go fast,  which is good for many days, but if you want alternating paces, Roubaix is clearly the bike of choice!

My 2018 S-Works Roubaix has Shimano Ultegra Di2 8070 groupset with Roval SLX 24 wheels.  It took me a little while to get used to electronic shifting, but I love it now.

I was pretty apprehensive about the future shock at first, thinking it is a complete marketing gimmick, especially after disliking and eventually replacing the Cobble Gobbler seat post on my old Roubaix.  But after 1,500 miles and hundreds of thousands feet of climbing, I can attest that it works, it smoothes out the road significantly and has a very negligible impact when climbing.

What's interesting is that 2018 S-Works Roubaix feels completely different from 2018 Specialized Roubaix Expert with same components and 2017 Specialized Roubaix Comp with similar components.  I had both.  I kind of liked both.  But they felt heavier and less nimble.

2015 Specialized Roubaix SL4 Disc was a thing of a beauty, but definitely heavier, harder to climb with and harder to get going with.

2018 S-Works Roubaix feels very different.  It is an amazing all around bike for me, and XL rider.  I look forward to many years, mile, and feet of adventure with this bike!

Saturday, December 28, 2019

2019 - Cycling Year Wrap Up - new bikes, record climbs

Final days of 2019.  It was a pretty good cycling year.  I ended up with 3,673 miles, 218,000 feet of climbing, a couple of record climbing months, a couple of centuries, some really good family rides, and a completely new set of bikes.

The year started with a promise and a new mountain bike.  But things turned out to be much more hectic and busy than I expected in the beginning of the year.

There was not enough time for MTB, including riding, cleaning, maintaining, finding, exploring and really enjoying the sport.

So I ended up selling the bike.  It was a bummer, but I figured I will pick up MTB sometime in the future when I have more time.

I also struggled a little with indoor cycling.  I tried UpCycle and did not enjoy it at all.  It felt artificial and very much not like the feeling of freedom associated with outdoor cycling.  However, Zwift turned out to be a good friend.

My road bike stable has completely changed in 2019. I got my first and second Pinarello Dogmas at a fantastic bargain in 2019.  Ended up loving these bikes!  Sold my original Pinarello Gan K Disk.

I did the most amount of climbing I have ever done.  It was mostly weekend rides.  I climbed Hicks Rd many times.  I finally climbed Mt Umunhum, Mt. Hamilton, and Mt. Tamalpais, Mt. Eden several times, Los Gatos and Saratoga hills, and bunch of others.

I finally rode one Sunday to the ocean and back in a self-supported century ride.

I also found an awesome deal on a 2018 Specialized S-Works Roubaix frame and ended up building that bike, which turned out to be an amazing bike.  It was my first experience with Di2 electronic shifting.  It took a couple of months to get used to the shifting, but I ended up loving it.

In fact, S-Works Roubaix is now my go to bike.  What a huge difference between S-Works and regular Roubaix.

It was to the point where riding the black and orange Roubaix was no longer fun.  I ended up selling the old Roubaix to a guy that really wanted it.

I also tried to teach my youngest daughter how to ride without training wheels, but she resisted and hated it.  After thinking it over, I bought a cheap hybrid bike and a small tandem kids bike, which turned out to be a great little adventure machine for father and daughter time.

We did several rides between 10 and 15 miles and my daughter absolutely loved it.  We did road riding, gravel grinding, off-roading and even some simple single trails.

I did family riding, weekend neighborhood riding with tons of kids and a group of adults, some weekend Armenian Bikers group rides and coffee shop stops.

I joined a really cool cycling club in Boise called Lactic Acid Cycling with some very nice people.  I also explored more of Boise and surroundings.  I had some really nice rides and great experiences, especially late summer evenings when it was getting dark long after 10pm.

I also set up a smart trainer in Boise and one at home, where I can ride after work in the hotel using Zwift.  That worked out really well.  I kept my Bkool trainer and got a Wahoo Kickr Core.

All in all, it was a really good cycling year.  I ended up riding much more than I thought in the beginning of the year.

I rode in Cowiche and Naches, which was a lot of fun as well.

I lost some weight and kept lower weight consistently throughout the year.  It was lower to compare with the year before.

Even though there we no extraordinary cycling adventures due to very busy work schedule and kids soccer / music schedule during the weekends, 2019 brought great rides, experiences, places, and cycling journeys.

I am so proud of my son riding to school and back every day!  We worked together to maintain his bike, change tubes and tires, and sometimes ride together!

My daughter Sophie even got to visit Calfee's shop and meet the shop dog that had only 3 legs but an amazing level of energy and positivity!

I am not planning on getting any new bikes in 2020.  I may upgrade the Dogma K8 Disc to Ultegra Di2 group.

I hope to just keep on riding as time permits - alone, with kids, family and friends.  I hope to do a few new centuries and hard rides.  Here is to 2020!

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Campagnolo Zonda C17 vs Roval SLX 24 -- Rim Brake Wheelset Showdown

230 lbs puts a lot of stress on the bike and all of its parts, especially wheelsets.  Riding experience of a lighter cyclist, say 150 lbs, is going to be very different from a heavier one, so I always take reviews with a grain of salt.

Here is my review on two wheelsets -- 2019 Campagnolo Zonda C17 and 2019 Roval SLX24 with DT Swiss 350 hubs.  There is also a mention of Fulcrum Carbon Zero wheelset which my bike was originally equipped with.

Test Equipment:
Bike:              2015/16 Pinarello Dogma K8s
Group:           Shimano Ultegra 6800 11-speed
Saddle:           Specialized Romin Evo Pro 168mm
Handlebar:    Pinarello MOST Aluminum

Tire Set 1:     Continental 4 Seasons Grand Prix 28mm
Tire Set 2   Vittoria Corsa Control G+ 28mm

Miles logged:
Fulcum Carbon Zero - 200 miles
2019 Campagnolo Zonda C17 - 1,100 miles
2019 Roval SLX24 - 200 miles

Overall Experience

Campagnolo Zondas are fast and smooth. It is easy to accelerate on them.  They climb really well.  However, they are a little bouncy, where they amplify bigger bumps and dips, which adds up into a strange "bobbing" feeling.

As a result, the saddle keeps delivering amplified hits and the ride feels hard.  This is especially noticeable during longer rides, such as centuries.  You definitely feel sore after mile 70-80.

These weehls don't accelerate as fast as Roval SLX 24s on moderate climbs.   However, they feel  a tiny bit smoother and well-controlled at moderate to steep downhills. 

Roval SLX 24s are fast.  While they were originally not as smooth as Zondas, they got better within 100 miles.  I am not sure whether it was a process of breaking it in, but there is a definite difference.

Unlike Zondas, these wheels don't bob; they delivering a smoother and faster overall ride.  These wheels climb better to the point you barely notice the climbs.

Fulcrum Racing Zero Disc Road carbon wheels came originally with this bike.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Pinarello Dogma K8S - The Wait!

An opportunity presented itself over the weekend.  I was browsing my Instagram feed when I came across a deal from a bike shop on the East Coast selling what appears to be a demo Pinarello Dogma K8-S with Ultegra build and Fulcrum Quattro carbon wheels for a really good price.

I got super excited and started researching the bike.  It appears to be a race bike with a little bit of an added comfort in the form of an elastometer shock and an ability to accept tires up to 30mm.  The only thing it lacks are disc brakes, but my biggest attracting for them was the larger tire clearance, which this bile provides as well.

I have been riding a Pinarello Gan K Disc, which a lower-end derivative of Dogma F8.  My Gan K has been by far the most amazing bike I have ever had.  I have done centuries and double centuries on it.

After giving the idea of buying this bike a couple of hours worth of thought, I decided to pull the trigger.  I did a lot of research and it appears like size 54 is the right size for me.  I also called and visited 2 local bike shops that are Pinarello dealers and they recommended the same thing.

I know it is a little crazy to order such a bike over the Internet.  First, I have never ridden it.  But I have 1,500 on Gan K, which appears to be its "cousin".  Secondly, I have no experience with this bike shop. But they seem to be reputable, so it is a good sign.

From the first glance, it appeared to be a reputable shop.  I have bought three bikes online -- Pinarello Gan K Disc, Colnago CLX 2.0, and Bianchi Infinito CV.  All three turned out to be awesome bikes with Pinarello being the best.

 I hope this turns out to be a positive and great experience!  More to come!

2018 Santa Cruz Tallboy - Road Cyclist's First Take

2018 Santa Cruz Tallboy C S is a beautiful bike!  I got it in early December and was anxiously awaiting for it to arrive.

It arrived in late December.  A local bike shop in Boise put it together for me.  It looked really nice.  I took it for a couple rides on a Greenway and finally made it to a local trail in the beginning of January.

I loved the comfort of the bike.  I really enjoyed the scenery and the freedom to go and explore the mountains.  I loved the that I didn't have to share the road with cars.

However, after riding road bikes for almost 6 years, this bike felt a little unstable.  I felt like I don't have a lot of control with the handlebars.  It maybe the geometry or just the fact that I am used to road bikes.

I also didn't like the singletrack and rock gardens.  Climbing felt kind of weird, especially when I had to share a narrow trail with bunch of people, dogs and cyclists. 

I know a lot of people who are obsessed with mountain biking.  Maybe I will like a fire road much better.  But for now, I am thinking that MTB may not be my thing... at least for now.   I may give it another try at some point in life, when I have more time to explore mountains.

So, goodbye Santa Cruz Tallboy!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018 In Review - bikes, commutes, centuries, new places

2018 is almost over.  It has been a great year For cycling.  3,750 miles, longest ride so far (213 miles), new places, lots of personal records, and many new bikes.


Double century has been an elusive target for a few years.  I tried one a few years back to just DNF at mile 57.  That left my longest ride at 130 miles.

My cycling time went down in subsequent years.

Completing a double century became my main cycling goal this year.  So, I started training.  I kept increasing the distance of my weekend rides.  Then, I completed A metric century (64 miles).  Then, the Sea Otter Carmel Valley Gran Fondo (93 miles), then Strawberry Fields Forever Century (100 miles).

Sea Otter was the hardest one at that point.  It was on a new bike.  It had several hard and long climbs, but I was not in the shape I wanted to be in.

The next one Grand Tour Double Metric (130 miles), followed by STP (Seattle to Portland) Double Century.


The day before the Grand Tour I discovered that double metric was not an option anymore, so I decided to go with the 100-mile option and see how far I can push.

I started when it was still dark.  First 40-50 miles were nice and easy.  I met a guy from Central California and we rode together until the mile 60 or 70.  Then I was going solo.

At mile 100, I stopped at a convenience store and grabbed a bottle of Mexican Coca-Cola.  At that point, I knew I had it in me to go another 30-40 miles.  At mile 140, I met a really cool group from San Jose, called Pedal Addicts.

They invited me to join and we rode together until the finish line.  It got really hard past the mile 160 -- mostly mentally.  But having a group of amazing people made a huge difference.


3 weeks later, I rode from Seattle to Portland in one day.  That was 213 miles and was much easier since I was prepared much better mentally.  I broke the ride into 4 big chunks -- 50 miles each, except the last one.  It was a fantastic ride, except my mind was dealing with some issues at work until mile 70.  Then it was just awesome!  I finished strong.  And the best part was that my family was greeting me there, at the finish line!  

So two double century rides.  3,750 miles instead of the originally planned 2,000.  Got to ride in CA, OR, WA, and ID (at 25F) .


Idaho has been one of the highlights of this cycling year.  First ride came as the hotel I was staying in caught on fire.  I grabbed my bike and went for an hour ride at 11:30pm.

I rode the Green Belt, Dump Loop, and several other routes there.  Boise has a great cycling community and great places to ride.


2018 has been a crazy awesome year for bikes.  I started the year with:
- Colnago CLX 2.0
- Specialized Crux
- Bianchi Infinito CV
- Bianchi Vertigo

I got rid of the the first 3 on that list.  AL Crux was a little too heavy and was not being used.  Bianchi Infinito CV had a bit too much flex for my size of a rider.  Colnago was fantastic, but after starting to ride with 28mm tires and disc brakes on other bikes, it felt jarring.

I am finishing 2018 with 5 bikes:
- Pinarello Gan K Disc - my go to bike that I completed two double centuries with
- Specialized Roubaix Disc  - my commute and semi-long distance bike.  It lives in my Boise office
- Bianchi Vertigo - after 7,000 miles, I use it mostly for the trainer
- 1997 Bianchi Campione Italia - my semi-vintage bike
- Santa Cruz Tallboy C S - first mountain bike

Here is the gallery of my 2018 bikes.


But most of all, it has been a great year for cycling, exploring, achieving, making friends, thinking, and exercising.

I commuted, rode with kids, enjoyed weekend rides, did centuries, lunch rides, indoor cycling studios, and greenbelts.

I look forward to 2019!  MTB will be the new thing for me in the new year.  Probably no new bikes.  Just enjoy, exercise and discover!