Prototype Diary: Kathryn Cumming's Impression of the Von Hof Women's Road Bike
Can a carbon-loving, forward-looking Elite racer be converted to steel? Kathryn Cumming, a UCI athlete who rides our bikes in the cyclocross season, typically rides and races on a full carbon road bike in the spring. We had her put our new women-specific steel prototype bike through the paces over the last few months. Below are her impressions of making the switch from carbon to our Columbus Spirit frames.
by Kathryn Cumming
When I entered the cycling world, carbon was all the rage. If you bought something new, it had to be carbon. It seemed like the only reason you would not have carbon everything was because of the price. I always assumed carbon was the way to go.
My views shifted in August 2015 when I got my hands on my new aluminum cyclocross bike. The bike was more responsive than anything I had ridden and I was blown away by the weight. It wasn't carbon, why wasn't it heavy?
When I heard about the Von Hof prototype bike, I really did not know what to expect from steel. I had never ridden a steel frame before and while I was opening my mind up to non-carbon materials, steel still seemed outdated. Regardless, I was excited to get my hands on a new bike and put it through the paces.
My first surprise came before I even went for a ride. I grabbed the bike off the stand in the Von Hof studio and, similarly to my cross bike experience, I could not believe the weight, or lack thereof. I made the Von Hof team pull out the scale and I was shocked to see that the full build is lighter than my current full carbon road setup. As someone who loves to climb, this was a big plus.
Over the last month, I took the Von Hof along on all of my adventures, from the straight, flat roads of Florida to the punch dirt climbs of North Jersey to the tight, competitive crits of NYC.
The geometry is the highlight of the design to me. In the past I have struggled with proper bike fit for racing. My torso always feels way too compact on a women's specific bike and my stance does not feel aggressive (I don't ride in a very aggressive stance in general, so this piece always surprised/bothered me). On the other hand, I always had to put a small stem on a men's frame and move the saddle way forward, leading to twitchy steering and responsiveness.
The Von Hof prototype eliminated these two problems. I was able to transition from flat centuries to crits. My shoulders finished every ride without discomfort and the tapered head tube allowed me to fly around corners at speeds I have to now get accustomed to.
The smooth quality of the ride was definitely the next noticeable factor. On my first ride, I left my house and braced myself for a few heavy bumps as I rode the freeway overpass. Much to my surprise, I never even felt the bumps. This sensation became more obvious from a performance perspective as I continued up to the dirt road climbs. Uphill the bike seemed to stay in place underneath, allowing all of my energy to go to pedaling rather than steering and adjustments. I was also able to spend more time seated (I tend to climb stronger seated) because I did not feel jostling from the rough road.
The benefits were equally obvious on the descents. Descending tends to be a weakness for me, but the steel frame had me feeling like I was floating on top of the road. Combine this with quality handling and I was shocked when my husband only had to wait about ten seconds for me at the bottom of one of our weekly hills.
With all this talk of smoothness, the final test for me was going to be responsiveness in sprints and accelerations. While I wasn't able to land myself near a podium position at the Grant's Tomb Crit in NYC, attacking and sprinting were never a concern. The bike gave me all of the necessary pop to follow surges and breaks, with my legs being the only limiting factor of top speed.
I love all types of bike riding, from fast paced races to long, gravel adventures, and this is the first road bike I've been on that can do it all. Unfortunately I don't have the space or money for a road bike to suit all occasions, but my Von Hof offers a solution. For crits I drop my handlebars and install some fast tires, and for a long day in the saddle, I turn my hoods up and throw some 25s on the rims.