Today's post comes to us by way of the United Kingdom. Phil Buick is the racer/manager of the UK Salsa Factory Race Team. The team consists of four riders this season and though busy getting dirty at various 24-hour events, a couple of them slowed down for a few moments to record their thoughts on their new race steed: the Ala Carte Ti. -Kid
First from Phil:
I was very fond of my Moto Rapido. I still am. It rode very well, looked great and didn’t beat you up too much. It was a proper hardtail racer.
So a Ti frame based on the Ala Carte to replace it… hmm. Well, I’d never really subscribed to the Ti philosophy, certainly not as a material I’d hankered after other than for lightweight bits of kit. For a frame material it’s just another type of metal tube at the end of the day, isn’t it? I don’t think I am a sceptic, but I had heard the tales of the magical properties of Ti frames and thought “but we all love our bikes, we like exotic brand names and exotic materials, what’s not to like?” We certainly wouldn’t want to say they were average, okay, or not quite up to the hype. I was (I think you are getting the picture) prepared not to be wowed.
The team were waiting for delivery of four bikes, three for ‘the Buicks’, mine plus my daughters’ Anna and Imogen, and one for George Budd. George had been in France competing in the XC version of Le Tour and was very excited to come back and get his new bike. Pictures immediately popped up on Facebook, and while camera phones are not the best for capturing the best bike pics, it did look okay and George’s enthusiasm was beginning to rub off a bit too. A new bike is always exciting.
Excitement levels were up when it came to collection time ... out of the box … class - not a loud ‘WOW’ - but oooh that is nice, class.
Anyway next day was race day up and down the side of a precipitous mud mountain and I wasn’t about to do that on a bike straight out of the box. That evening however the necessary parts were fettled ready for a ride the next day at a nearby Welsh trail centre, Cwmcarn.
And I thought this could be the beginning of something…
Anyway this is what I wrote to the guys at Ison Distribution (Salsa's UK distributor and team sponsor. as an immediate impression and a thanks:
Pat et al,
Back in the office after the Bank Hol weekend and a trip to S. Wales for BMBS #3. Highlight of Fri was picking up the new bikes, v. nice and thanks’ to all for the hospitality. Most of the rest of the day was spent in traffic and road works, not so good. Sat was wet and horrible as was the course, grovel up, slip sideways along and slide down + run a lot. Imogen podiumed with a 3rd., I slipped from 4th to 8th somehow with a few drivetrain issues and a bit of an off. Did however have time to get the new bikes together enough to ride on the Sun at Cwm-Carn. Where the sun came out and the bike was fab. Difficult to put a finger on it but it felt light, lively and responsive without being harsh. A friend, who was riding with me on his Giant carbon hardtail racer, summed it up saying the Ti bike seemed to be in a calm and quiet bubble of its own compared with his more noisy and animated progress … mmmm nice. Im wasn’t quite up for riding hers after dinging the Moto Rapido on Sat but did do a few laps of the car park environs, it’s ‘lush’ apparently. Anna is back from Uni this weekend so we will finish building hers up then, she’s very excited, plus she’ll be back in training after her forced lay off.
So all’s good, bikes are lovely and were much admired, hopefully we’ll all get together when Paul gets back. Thanks’ to Lloyd, Andy, Maz too.
I’m in Ely on Fri so if the wheels are in I’ll collect but no rush, meanwhile we’ll look forward to Mountain Mayhem on the new bikes.
Mayhem (24 Hr.) has now happened. The course was a brute, baked hard and rutted with 1,300 ft. of climbing per lap. The team did 28 laps, 7 laps each, like clockwork. I did the final lap, hopped off the bike, slapped my teammates on the back a bit and went for a shower. My legs caned a bit but otherwise, no aches, no pains, no cramp, no lost fillings, no detached retinas………. The bike? It just did it, like another limb, no drama, no worries.
I think this is the beginning of something, something special perhaps. Anything to do with the frame material I wonder…..Phil Buick
And now from Phil's daughter and teammate, Anna:
On seeing pictures of my younger sister Imogen’s brand spanking new Ala Carte Ti on Facebook, I let out a squeal of excitement and ran out of my room, down the corridor of my university halls and into my friend’s room just so that I could tell someone, anyone, how awesome it looked! I know looks aren’t everything but if these bikes were going to be as good to ride as they were to look at I was in for quite a treat. I travelled home for the weekend to find out.
I wasn’t disappointed. Despite having just come out of the end of a 6-week enforced lay-off and thus trying to ease myself gently back into the saddle, I could not help but push on the pedals. The bike just wanted to go faster. It was egging me on!
Out of the saddle the frame felt very light and responsive, as though I was carrying little more than my bodyweight up the hills. It wasn’t harsh though - it felt grounded and smooth and didn’t bounce me around.
Of course, what you hang off the frame affects the riding experience too. The gears are sublime, the DT Swiss forks respond according to whatever you throw them at and the Genetic saddle and seatpost are lightweight yet forgiving.
Having only ridden the Ala Carte on the smooth and fast trails of Thetford Forest it was good to have the opportunity to ride at Dalby, Yorkshire. Here the trails were rocky and technical, traversing and undulating across the hillsides. Following my last outing in Dalby Forest at the UCI World Cup earlier in the year, where I ultimately ended my race with a fairly spectacular crash, I was a little nervous about the technical sections. However, the Ala Carte Ti instilled confidence – despite the relentless sections of rocky trail it didn’t skip around or feel flighty, and it took off from logs and lips and landed without ever feeling erratic or out of control.
For me, the best thing about my Ala Carte is the strange but perfect way is seems to change weight! When climbing and accelerating it feels light and responsive, yet in the corners and over the top of small inclines it seems to carry such momentum. You can really throw the bike into the corners and let it rail you round, and in the tighter twists and turns if you whip the bike left and right it deals with the obstacles and allows you to carry on virtually in a straight line and without loosing speed.
All in all, the Ala Carte Ti inspires and rewards speed. It’s beautiful to ride and beautiful to look at. I love it. -Anna Buick
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I love being outside. I prefer to ride on dirt. Or snow. If I was born a hundred years earlier I might have been a polar explorer. There's a great natural world out there to see, smell, taste, listen to, and experience. Life slows down out there and the distractions we've created will disappear if you let them. Give me a backpack and let me go.