As reviews are not my forte, there’s need for a backstory, too…
So there I was, minding my own business in the LBS the other day (Cycles Passieu in Nimes, France), chatting with the owner (ex-pro David Gautier), and I casually asked him about the Time Alpe d’Huez, since he had a big poster of it a while back at the entrance that caught my eye. It just so happened that it was my lucky day, and the model he had in the window over there was my size. The next thing I knew it had my wheels and pedals on it (I was there with the Colnago for some maintenance) in the back of my car. Like all good sales pitches, I didn’t know what hit me.
But I didn’t (or ‘haven’t’) buy the bike; David generously loaned it to me for the weekend. The first thing I did at home was to check this thing out and find out how much money I’d need to pay if I wiped out with it (there was no price tag on it at the shop). That was probably a mistake because it turns out that I had in my possession the top of the line Alpe d’Huez 01 (there is also a lower-model ’21’, each number corresponding to a hairpin of Alpe d’Huez, i.e. ‘top’ and ‘bottom’), with all the upgrade boxes ticked (Aktiv fork, Time’s proprietary stem and handlebar, Dura-ace Di2, etc.) I would easily be riding a €10,000 machine.
So, with great trepidation (till around the 3rd pedal stroke) I took off for a 100 km run up north to see how the bike lived up to its name.
The first thing I noticed was how perfectly it fit me. This was actually a little depressing because you’d think the bike I’ve been fiddling endlessly with for 5 years would be the benchmark for ‘comfort’. Well, it ain’t anymore I guess – whatever magic David worked up when doing his measurements the shop, it worked. The bike felt great.
The cockpit is a dream, too, with nice, wide bars that you can see are flat on top and bald carbon. I never once thought this was a problem, although I did find myself on the (very generous) hoods most of the time.
The next thing that hit me was on the climb out of Nimes when I stood on the pedals for a few strokes. The Alpe d’Huez is far more responsive than my Colnago, which I’m not sure what to chalk up to: it could be that it’s a stiffer bike, or it might be that it’s lighter, or both. It definitely feels like it wants to climb, anyway.
By now I was mentally counting how much dough I had in the bank and how I’d justify buying this bike to myself and my wife. Then I descended the backside of the Nimes hill and thankfully I noticed that it didn’t go down as nicely as the Colnago. It was a bitter-sweet descent, but as I made my way down those 2 km I realized that it felt a little like my Bianchi – ‘throwable’. I could maneuver the bike well on the descent, even if it didn’t feel quite as stable as my C59 (which sort of descends on its own – you just follow along). So overall, I decided it was an unfair comparison – the Alpe d’Huez is a good descender.
By the end of my 4+ hours I still felt good on the bike, so the Time artisans (this bike is still made by hand in France) have got something right, I believe, especially for such a stiff ‘climbing bike’. One thing that could be the reason for such a nice ride is the Activ fork, which is a pretty technical piece of equipment. Essentially, there is a metal doohicky on a stick inside there that vibrates when you go over rough road, damping up the badness so that your body doesn’t have to. From my nearly 7 hours (I’ve ridden again since writing the above) on the bike, I can say with growing confidence that it works.
Here’s my 2nd ride: https://www.strava.com/activities/2188691365
Not related to Time’s craftsmanship, but a novelty for me; my test bike came with Dura-ace Di2, which I’d purposely never tried out before. Obviously, now I have to have it. I’ll miss not being able to change gears with my pinky.
This is a serious bike and comes with an equally no-nonsense price-tag, but if you do have the bread for this French-made beauty you can order it completely custom (lead time – 5 weeks) from their online configurateur. As for me, I’m going to take my loaner back to Passieu on Tuesday and hope to hell I have the strength to resist telling David to order me one. Wish me luck.