Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Equipment - Storck Review

Note: first written October 22, 2008, updated in the present. And no, I didn't buy one.

A whole bunch of Wednesdays ago I spent my day off from the hardware store to travel over the Interbike East. Day Two of IBE was a bit different from the very sunny and unseasonably warm Day One - my day ended up grey, grim, and eventually rainy.

This weather was "just like in Holland", to quote Lemond Lieutenant Johann Lamerts from "Hammer and Hell".

I wandered around a bit, checked out various bikes, hung out with a good friend of mine, and basically toured the booths for about 2 hours. One of our stops was at the Storck booth. In the dreary conditions not much impressed me, but when I spoke with this guy Paul my eyes must have lit up.

20/20 jobs - from 20 feet away or at 20 mph, they look, well, "normal".

Honestly the straight forward finishes of the bike strewn around him didn't impress, but when he said that the 51 cm frame had a 55 cm top tube... well, that made me perk up. I decided to turn off the "trade show filter" which, unfortunately, instinctively runs when I go to such things. You know, the filter that bleeps out such unfortunate phrases as "laterally rigid but vertically compliant", replacing them with the ever popular "blah-biddy-blah blah blah-biddy-blah".

I took another look at the bike. After a few low key phrases from the quietly confident Paul, I decided that I'd get my riding gear and come back. He confirmed he had a loaner helmet and loaner pedals (I forgot my respective helmet and pedals).

I came back as promised and he rolled out the good rig, their best one (at the time), the Fascenario 0.7. I protested a bit but it was too easy to relent.

I relented.

Yo check this bad boy out!

One of the cool things is the fork. With the bitingly cold weather, the Thule-provided hot coffee (Paul's pictured here) was a welcome bonus.

The fork has kevlar wrapped around the top so that it resists abrasions and stuff better.

It has a cap type thing too, so that it fills out the "non-aero" crown profile.

The cap also provides sitting room for the crown race.

A slew of the top line bikes ready to go. I think you could buy a nice M3 for what these bikes would bring in if sold at that moment.

There actually are a few distinguishing characteristics between their bikes and others'.

For example, check out these top tubes:

Different diameter top tubes...

The two frames pictured, one a 51, the other a 60 I think, have radically different width/diameter top tubes. The idea is that Storck wants to make sure each size frame rides appropriately. Many frames are built around a "standard" size frame, maybe a mid-50's cm frame, with the design optimized for that frame. The downtube gets a certain amount of rigidity, so do the stays, and you end up with a great 55 cm frame.

But if you use those same tubes in a 51, it feels too stiff. And if you use them in a 60, the frame ends up noodly.

Storck avoids this "generic bike feel" problem by adjusting the tubing for each size. It's not as cheap as cranking out the exact same top tube tube for every frame you make but it makes for a better ride.

I'd ride the frame on the left. My friend rides the frame on the right.

Storck also has some unusual pull with some of its suppliers. Okay, they have unusual pull with one supplier, but if you're going to have pull with one, this is a good one - Zipp.

See, Zipp sells a bunch of tall profile rims. One is the ubiquitous 404, at about 58 mm tall. Another is the 80 mm tall 808, made in response to the complaint that "hey, that Lance guy uses a Trispoke/HED3!". Finally Zipp made the sledgehammer of non-disk wheels, the 1010.

Okay, that's fine in TTs.

But in crits, road races, and the most important rides of all, the Sunday Group Rides, Zipp had a hole in their inventory.

(Okay, if you're Zipp, please ignore this, else every shop in the world will get mad at me if you add yet another rim/wheel to your already extensive catalog.)

The 404 is great but isn't aero enough for a lot of "extreme aero" folks.

The 808 is aero enough but, frankly, it's a handful whenever you get hit with a bit of a crosswind or that "between building gust" nails that rim.

What they really need is a "600" series rim.

Zipp marketed a pair of wheels called the 606, but it's just a 404 front with an 808 rear. There isn't a "600" wheel though.

Until now. Well, until Storck pointed this out to Zipp and had them make custom molds for a Storck "606".

Let me present:

Cute, right?

Storck asked for, and received, the only custom Zipp rim currently made. It's a true "606", although the decal is a bit more coy. Or less so, depending on how you look at it. And if you look at the dimples, you'll see that there are a bunch of dimples with a little "S" curve in them.

Yep, Storck had their logo made into the mold. How cool is that?

Okay, this is great and all, you say, but we're talking about a bike. How's it all work?


I mean, yeah, I hate to say it, but it felt fantastic. First let me point out some flaws in the set up (for me) and the environment.
1. Right pedal release tension was loose. Next time I'll carry a multi-tool so I can crank the tension.
2. Bars were ergo (I hate ergo type bars) and too narrow, even for me. I prefer a 41 or 42 and the bike had a 40-ish. The angle was weird too.
3. It was raining like crazy and the roads were slick. I didn't want to wreck the bike so I couldn't blast into turns, I didn't know where I could extend the bike's speed, and I didn't know where the little sprint hills were. This is my fault as I only rode the loop once.

Okay, now for the good bits.

1. The bike is light. That was immediately apparent to me since I have a sub-16-ish pound bike when bare bones, and it's usually more like 20 with the bags and such. This bike was light, I think it was in the 12 pound range.

2. The wheels were stiff. I mean, yeah, it was raining, but the wheels were stiff. They responded right away, they braked reasonably well, and I wished I had the bike for a season, not 20 minutes.

3. It was comfortable. No mountain bike mushiness but the bumps and stuff, they weren't crazy bad. In fact, the bike seemed to absorb the bumps better than my bike, and I'm not sure why. The bike moved but it did so so lightly that it was, well, okay. Yes it had tubulars, but so does my bike, so that was a wash. There was something about the Storck that muted the shock.

4. The bike is stiff. No wasted motion, other than me flailing around on too-narrow bars.

5. The bike fit me. 55 top tube, 11 cm stem, and it felt, well, normal. I could go another couple cm on the stem, to a 13, but it fit well enough. I didn't feel like I had the bars in my thighs like I normally do on a test ride.

What was curious was the selection of test riders I spoke with, all retailers. Specifically, I spoke with three different guys about the Storck. To get an idea of their "baseline bike", I asked them about their primary bike.

Curiously, like me, they all rode SystemSix frames!

Apparently the Storck must appeal to a certain type of cyclist.

So what about racing such a creature? Well, I know that one popular German rider in the area rides a 51 cm Storck Aero. At one of the Bethel races he kindly swapped the pedals on his bike, adjusted the saddle height, and let me take it for a spin. He even had the Storck 69 wheels on it. It was great, but again, with ergo bars, I couldn't rip out a proper effort. Under his powerful legs, the bike does just fine.

When I started hearing the specs on this bike, the first thing that came to mind was the McLaren F1 car, a street-going supercar made well over 10 years ago. Unfortunately the name "F1" was in it, so everyone thinks of those open wheel winged wonders, but it's not that at all. It's a diminutive three seater (like the Ceylon fighters in Battlestar Gallactica), uses a BMW engine, and apparently is a perfect balance between power, weight, and agility.

In fact, they decided to enter the Lemans 24 Hour race, the top endurance challenge for a race car. They ended up hammering the opposition, getting 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 13th place.

(I can't help but think of La Vie Claire in the 1986 Tour where the team placed guys at 1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th, 12th for the top five guys on the team).

The kicker was that they had to detune the car to enter it. They knocked down the power and still ran away with the race.

The Stork is kind of like that. Yeah, it's great. But I'd have to add a bunch of weight to it to make it UCI legal.

Bummer right?

Oh, wait. Last I checked, Bethel wasn't held under UCI auspices.



Zachy said...

Nice review, Aki. I've been curious about these rare exotic Euro bikes. 2 questions: what is the rim height of those custom Storck Zipps? 69mm (from the sticker in the photo)? How expensive are they? Super bling pricing or reasonable?

Thanks! Keep up the reviews - love the real world nature of them unlike the big mags' blandness.

Aki said...

The rims are 69mm (just between the 58mm 404 and the 81mm 808). They are blingy at $2500/pr retail. Not sure of relative cost. But I'm sure they're similar to Zipp prices.

I should have mentioned that the Aero bike has the same geometry as the road bikes, so my test ride of the bike at Bethel was with some purpose. I'm still convinced mass start road bikes will be aero-fied at some point.