My Lemond Tete de Course

Why?

{moszoomimglink:tete.gif}One sunny July afternoon my Bianchi Veloce had decided it was time to quit. The first thing to give way had been the clamp on the 105-s, and replacing it had been a major problem. So I started looking at alternatives.

I knew what I needed: a sturdy, yet light bike; some better components than the 105-s, whose shifting shifting had annoyed me beyond means on uphill struggles; overall, something that could withstand both the perils of a daily commute and the pleasure of a century on a weekend (and the nut-case that would do both).

Where?

Two weeks later, I was casually browsing through Palo Alto Cycles, a store that always left me ambivalent because of the widely diverging skills of the staff. The last experience was with the guy that gave me the clamp for the Bianchi for free and even offered to install it.

I checked the single-racked (i.e. expensive) bikes, and this beautiful Titanium Lemond coyly looked back. It was beautiful, with the cool shimmer of titanium, the minimalist look of the Bontrager wheels and the mechanical accuracy of Dura Ace components.

It was on sale. Someone had ordered it, but had ultimately chosen to wait for the 10-speed 2003. It was my size. I turned the pedal arms once, twice, and they cooed in unison, the ball bearings clicking ever so softly.

When?

That's not when I bought it. I stopped four times. The guys at PAC gave me a hard time, and I started having the ultimate 'used car salesman' experience. But I liked the bike, and finally asked for a test ride. I rode for about an hour, to Page Mill road and back, and then to Sand Hill up and back. I was so giddy I even left my driver's license with them.

Next day it was time for buying. I went in, and got the ultimate U.C.S. His idea of 'fitting' was to sit me on the bike, look sharply at me and to decide that I needed a longer stem. Which he would give to me for free. As I downgraded the saddle because I really need a butterfly, he made it sound like he was doing me a favor. It took me months to get over that experience and go back to PAC.

Tete de Course

But the bike! I got it stock, with only the stem and the saddle changed. I regretted that, because I finally decided I like Campy shifting much better than Shimano. Even the high end Dura Ace that come with the bike are cumbersome to use, and with the degree of abuse that my Lemond has to go through, the shifters just lose their precision after a while.

I didn't ride it on that Saturday, or on that Sunday. I was so mad about having spent so much money on a bike that I just couldn't get over myself. One sunny August morning, though, it looked as if Skyline could be fog-free. The Bianchi had been nasty the night before and I had had to walk the second flat home.

I tried the Tete for a fit. The saddle was right, the stem was right, the geometry was right. I put on the pedals (Look), opened the garage door and flew out into the wild.

This first ride was a miracle. The titanium frame is pliable and yielding, and makes you ride into any descent. The wheel set is sturdy and accurate. The Dura Ace was, at the beginning of its career, perfectly in tune and of almost miraculous precision. One click, one gear shifted.

After a Year

Whoever came up with the saying, 'time heals all wounds' surely didn't own a bike. Still, I was disappointed that after a very successful year, my Lemond started showing signs of wear.

First, the shifter cable exploded on me. I was riding home one day, and the cable broke. I had to shift manually into a gear that would get me home, and then I had to buy a new cable and fix it. (I removed an interesting digression about my first cable changing experience 🙂

Then the second cable gave up a month later. This time, I couldn't fix it myself. The cable crimp had lodged itself into the shifter housing so badly that one gear was not reachable any more. I brought the bike back to PAC, and this time I got a really knowledgeable and genuinely nice person to help me out.

The shifter had to be changed, that was the short of it. He got it done within a day, and now the bike is fine again. It creaks, no matter what I do to the lubing and the tightness of the screws. I am told titanium just creaks, end of story. But it still sucks to have all the know-it-alls tell you at the intersection that, you know, I would love to mind my own business, but your bike creaks and if you don't fix it, it's gonna break. To all you know-it-alls: it isn't!

Ratings

Here you are:

Component Brand/Model Rating (1-10) Comments
Frame and fork Lemond Tete de Course 9 I just love this solid titanium frame. It doesn't look as cool as the newer mixed-material frames, but it sure feels as if the bike is going to survive a nuclear winter and an earthquake on the same day. Additionally, the geometry is just right for me, and the bending, twisting and shifting of titanium really suit me. The fork seems to be welded to the frame and the salesperson mentioned there was no way to replace it. You know my sales experience, so you make of it what you want.
Gruppo Shimano Dura Ace 6 I didn't believe one word of all the stuff the seasoned cyclists say about Campy vs. Shimano. I should have. If I could choose again, I would go Chorus for the same money. Shifts much better, is much easier to fix, and you don't have to cope with the stupid double function brake levers.
Wheel set Bontrager Race-X Lite 8 I have never had as sturdy and lightweight a wheel set ever. I had one fall at 28 mph that transformed me into a bloody mess, but the wheels were 'Just Fine, Thank You!'. After their share of road bumps and killer sinkholes, I had to make several spoke adjustments, but overall I am very pleased. The only drag are the flat spokes that make it hard to attach the bike computer's sensor. But then again, I'll soon have GPS, anyway…
Stem and hubs Bontrager 8 Sturdy. What more do you need? The ball bearings in the rear hub have started clicking unevenly, and I will need another round of inquiries.
Saddle Terry Men's Fly 9 Yes, it's that much of a difference on a long ride.

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