Thursday, January 26, 2012

2008 Lemond Poprad review

My 2008 Lemond Poprad with cross tires on Nantucket Island

After my move across the pond I had no bike at all for several weeks. Then, an ancient Walmart mountain bike was given to me for free. I accepted it, since I wanted to move around Boston and learn the city and there is no better way of doing it than by bike. That bike was The-Worst-Bike-Ever. In terrible condition, with a single piece squeeky crankset, gears that barely worked, steel rims and caliper brakes (i.e. no brakes when wet). And that color: some crazy, reflective neon green. I dumped it as soon as I could and then I started thinking about a new one.

It was pretty clear to me that the next bike will be a cyclocross bike. Not that I am much into cyclocross or racing. I am not. But these bikes always seemed to be extremely versatile. They can handle paved roads, dirt, mud, snow, rain, whatever. Such bike can be a fast leopard, a mountain goat and a strong mule (with racks added). Since a mountain bike is completely pointless in the city and a road bike is somewhat limited, I knew that a cyclocross bike would be a win-win solution.

It was back in 2008 when I found Lemond Poprad in a local store. I liked it and bought it. Here is my review.
And here with road slicks on.

First impressions
Poprad is really sharp looking. White frame, carbon fork, white bar tape and saddle. Nice group set and pretty cool wheels. I like that almost all components are black. That makes the white parts stand out more.

Poprad feels pretty light (10.3kg) so it is easy to carry. It is stable and handles well but I noticed that with thicker cyclocross tires there is some very small toe overlap. It doesn't bother me much and it is completely gone with road slicks on. The toe overlap may be there for two reasons: first, the frame I have is a bit undersized for my height (I don't like to be stretched on bike too much). Second, it may be due to the short wheelbase, "square" frame geometry (seat tube length is nearly the same as top tube length), and long 175mm cranks. The overlap is so small that it doesn't really bother me much.

Frame and fork
The frame is U.S. made from "True Temper OX Platinum" steel. Whatever it means, it feels light. Some sources say it is essentially the American quivalent of Reynolds 853 tubing. I found some reports claiming around 1870g for frame only. No bad for a steel frame. It has some aggressive race geometry with 72.5 deg head tube angle and short 430mm chainstays. The wheelbase is only about 1020mm so this bike feels compact and agile. It also looks really sleek thanks to the small diameter steel tubing.
The frame has a Lemond emblem on the head tube, some decals on the top tube, and a bunch of braze-ons, although, not necessairly as many as I would like. There are two bottle cage mounts, sufficient number of cable housing mounts, rear brake bosses (Of course!), and even rear rack or fender mount holes in the dropouts. It does have a road brake mount bridge, which could be used for installing a fender or a rack, but there is no bridge at the bottom bracket so that end of the fender would be loose. Not much an issue for me since I don't use fenders on this bike anyway.
The rear derailleur hook is not replaceable (Bad!) and what I would also really like is a top-pull front derailleur. In bottom-pull derailleurs the cable has to go around the bottom bracket and usually gets really messy after a ride in rain or mud. Well, I don't really ride in mud and I don't enjoy rain, but a real cyclocross bike should be designed that way, I think.
The fork is made of carbon by Bontrager. Not much to say here except that it comes with cantilever brake bosses (Obviously!), fender mounts and a caliper brake mount hole. It is one of those aero-shaped forks, which means that I had to use a black electrical tape in order to secure the sensor from my old Sigma cyclocomputer. The standard mount was not designed for non-round fork tubing. Both frame and fork are secured by Cane Creek threadless headset.

I really like how these Bontrager wheels look like. I must admit I felt a bit uneasy thinking about wheel stiffness since they have only 24 spokes. But so far so good, wheels stay true, even after many kilometers. Wheels are built from Bontrager Race rims and Bontrager Race hubs. They use flat spokes, which look cool but are another PITA when mounting my Sigma cyclocomputer magnet. The old type I have does not fit non-round spokes out of the box. The rear hub fits a 10 speed cassette. Stock tires are Bontrager Jones CX 700cx34, which I personally like a lot for off-road use. They are not too heavy and, when taken off the rim, can be folded for storage. Some people say those are not good tires for racing but I don't race so I don't care that much.
The 175mm long cranks are branded by Bontrager and come with two chain rings (46T/38T). Bottom bracket has a hollow axle, opened from the chain ring side. Poprad also comes with a 10-speed cassette in the 11T-27T range. I really like the overall gear ratio. As you can tell this is not a road setup since cranks lack a large 53T chainring. I like it since this way the bike is easier to ride on hills, still pretty fast on road and simply more versatile. Derailleurs are by Shimano, 105 in the front and Ultegra in the rear. Overall, really nice. No issues here. Those are decent components I think and they work very well so far. Gear changing is buttery-smooth.

Brakes and shifters
Poprad came with Avid Shorty 4 cantilevers. I am not happy with these and they will be replaced with something else soon. They are just simply not powerful enough (And yes, they are properly adjusted). Shifter/brake combo levers are Shimano 105 STI. These work really well. The bike has also a second set of brake levers, Cane Creek Crosstop, mounted on the top of handlebars. This definitely makes riding more comfortable. Overall, good shifters, poor cantilevers. I will be replacing Avids with either other cantilevers or regular v-brakes with Travel Agents (To compensate for short pull with STI levers).

Handlebars, stem, seatpost, saddle
Poprad's stem is by Bontrager, with a 10deg rise, which makes the whole bike much easier to ride since unlike road bikes it does not require a fully horizontal body position. I feel however that it is a bit too long (100mm) for me so I may change it with a shorter, 80mm stem. Drop bars are also by Bontrager, 440mm wide. The bike comes also with a Bontrager carbon seat post and a Bontrager Race saddle. Overall, very nice, except the saddle. I just have hard time tuning into it. I guess the saddle should tune into my butt not the other way around. As I mentioned earlier, a white Selle An-Atomica will replace the stock saddle.

Other components
Poprad comes without pedals. I decided to go simply with Shimano PD-M540 as they are relatively versatile and inexpensive. No complains here.

The good:
+ great frame (U.S made), good fork
+ handles nicely, feels sporty,
+ lightweight,
+ good components (except brakes and saddle),
+ very versatile,
+ good transmission ratio.

The bad:
- brakes suck big time and need to be replaced with something that would actually stop this bike,
- uncomfortable saddle,
- frame is great but could have a couple more features (top-pull derailleur, bottom bracket fender bridge, etc.),
- a bit tricky to install a cyclocomputer due to non-round fork tubing and flat spokes,
- slight toe overlap with cross tires.

The ugly (The verdict):
Very nice bike, very versatile, can handle a lot. Great steel frame, nice fork and a really nice drivetrain (gear ratio). Brakes could be much better. The bike was $1500. Not cheap, but pretty good for what I got, I think.


  1. Hey I know this is an old post. Just wondering what your thoughts are now on your Poprad as a city bike. I'm thinking of bringing my 2005 poprad from my parent's house to my own (in Toronto). I'm a bit concerned, however, about having it stolen in the city. I'd imagine the risk of theft is similar with you being in Boston. Have you had any issues? Thanks.

  2. I think it may work. I would suggest adding at least:
    - full-length fenders
    - Pitlock locking skewers to both wheels and seatpost clamp
    - a solid u-lock to lock your bike anywhere in the city

    With Pitlock you would minimize the risk of having wheels or saddle stolen off your bike. Long fenders (I use SKS Longboards) are a must for city riding.

    However, there is one "but". The reason why I generally avoid using my Poprad too much in winter is the amount of salt we have on our roads in this season. I see how my $400 steel Schwinn looks like after 3 Boston winters (corrosion everywhere) and I wouldn't want to do the same to my $1500 steel Poprad.

  3. Cool, thanks so much for this. I live right downtown and will walk up to 3 miles to get somewhere (i.e. not take the subway). I think the bike would almost be more for getting out and exploring with the possibility of taking it to a coffee shop at the end of exploration or the grocery store to stop in and grab some stuff rather than for all my commuting needs. I also live where I work and can put my bike in my room or in my office so that will minimize theft issues. Given all this I doubt I'd ride in the winter once we get salt and maybe some rain, but not too much. But fenders and pitlock sound like a great idea for some rain riding and even for those little coffee shop stops. We also have these city bikes you can pay for called 'bixi bikes' so if I'm doing some winter riding, those might be the best option. Thanks again for some great advice!

  4. This comment is a bit late but these do have a brake bridge capable of accepting a fender. It is recessed on the inside of the brake mount for a clean look. Pretty Nifty and another reason why these are great all around bikes. My only nitpick is the rear tire clearance. Cheers.