A successful experiment with the Waterford bike

WaterfordA while back I wrote about the difficulty I’ve been having at the competitive level in duathlons and triathlons getting good results in the bike segment. No matter how hard I rode on my Felt 4C, or how I managed to stay in “the drops,” I was still losing two to three minutes to my competitors.

And that did not make me happy.

So a couple weeks back something happened that stoked a move to upgrade my cycling situation. My daughter was cleaning out the Toyota Matrix I once owned and found a conversion stem that I’d purchased three years ago to fix the configuration on the Waterford racing bike my brother-in-law had bequeathed to me because he does not ride or race anymore.

Classic bike

It was a wonderful gift, to be sure. But I was a bit frozen on how to use it with respect. Right away there were several offers made for the bike. Real cyclists know that the steel framed Waterford line is beyond classic in feel, control and even speed. My brother-in-law raced that bike to a Category 3 level and rode 40K in under an hour. That’s 24mph if you don’t want to do the math.

So the bike is fast. Heavier than some carbon bikes today, for sure. But this Waterford was the pinnacle of racing machines at one point. Bikes like that never really go out of style.

I’d purchased the conversion stem and it somehow got wedged down in the fold between the seats and back and disappeared. Then life intervened in many ways and I was riding the Felt happily enough.

Test runs

But I’d taken the Waterford up and down the street on many occasions and marvel at how smooth it rides. One of my best friends is a longtime cyclist who knows my brother-in-law and raced against him. My buddy is also a great bike mechanic. So I asked him if he’d be willing to work on the Waterford and turn it into an aero machine for my time trial efforts.

Waterford 2I meant this as a philosophical as well as mechanical question. One does not mess around with a Waterford without giving the issue some thought. But I’d had four years to think it through. What I want to do is race the bike in criteriums and also use it for time trials including those in the middle of triathlons and duathlons.

So for $130 I purchased a nice set of clamp-on triathlon bars that form a triangle off the front of the bike. Jack agreed this was a respectful (and respectable) way to use the Waterford for these purposes. The bars can always be taken off when I want to race in local criteriums. In fact that is a requirement. You can’t race crits with tri-bars on the bike.

I brought along a couple beers as Jack worked on my Felt a couple weeks back, which had a creak in the crank, so to speak, that needed attention. I paid him for that work and he smiled and said, “That’s enough to cover them both.” And I left the Waterford with him to install new bars, the aero setup and some new tape as well.

Returning a week later, it was a treat to see the bike setup.

Getting fit

With some experimentation on the fit I got comfortable in aero and took it out for a ride yesterday afternoon. The wind was blowing hard from the northwest, and I tucked down in aero and noticed right away a different sensation from riding on the hoods or drops on the Felt.

In fact I imagined myself competing in a time trial as they do in the Tour. Stay low. Push a decently big gear. Use the full pedal stroke.

And so it went. And then on the return trip there came a segment where last spring my companion Sue and I hit it hard to see how fast we could travel from Green Road to Bliss on Main Street in Batavia. We averaged a solid 25mph.

Yesterday I did nearly the same pace, missing my best time by only two seconds.

Waterford 3

Results

Aero works. I could feel the clean movement through the air. The classic spokes on the Waterford were whirring like a Ferris Wheel hopped up on coke. I was flying, in other words. I really felt like I was flying.

The bike fit was remarkably good. All that hurt was a spot on my shoulder after I got home and flopped on the couch to pet the dog. That was dumb, but I was so happy and satisfied it just felt good to stop and appreciate the moment. That was the first real thrill I’ve felt on the bike in a while.

So it feels like respect for the legacy of that bike. I’ve upgraded it to fit my needs while not whoring the thing up. The feel of those aero bars is cool as hell. And the fact that I averaged 19mph on a hilly course on a windy day is a good indicator that in race conditions I can average 22, 23 or 25 mph in a time trial. Maybe even faster depending on the course. I literally felt like there were no limits. That big ring delivers lots of power and the shifting is clean and crisp.

I am psyched.

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About Christopher Cudworth

Christopher Cudworth is a content producer, writer and blogger with more than 25 years’ experience in B2B and B2C marketing, journalism, public relations and social media. Connect with Christopher on Twitter: @gofast and blogs at werunandride.com, therightkindofpride.com and at 3CCreativemarketing.com. Online portfolio: http://www.behance.net/christophercudworth
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4 Responses to A successful experiment with the Waterford bike

  1. Dan In Iowa says:

    I’ve put over 30,000 miles on my Waterford. Its frame configuration is race geometry too. I bought it used so I’ve no idea if the original owner wanted that or not. He’d had it made for himself and hated it after only 500 miles. BIG misconception about steel not being competitive. Yes, it’s heavier than carbon, of course, but today’s steel tubing can make a bike about the same weight as aluminum. They extrude the tubing to be thinner walled in the center and thicker at the butting for strength. Most speed comes from the rider, not the material a bike is made from! 😉

  2. That’s really cool. The smoothness of this bike returns a lot of energy I’ve noticed. This bike was manufactured for pro level teams in the late 80s and early 90s.

  3. Dan In Iowa says:

    Mine was made in ’97 I think. It was quite an upgrade for me going from a 1978 Motobecane with Suntour stem shifters to Campagnolo Chorus!! You realize that you simple MUST change those water bottle cages to something other than blue!! Dude, they just don’t match!! 😀

  4. bgddyjim says:

    Yeah, I was dumb enough to buy my wife a bike with aero bars, a road/tri hybrid (Spec Alias)… She’s fast on that thing, let me tell you. I can understand why you like them.

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