Sunday, June 7, 2015

Review: 2015 Lynskey Sportive Disc Road Bike

Getting my hands on the Lynskey Sportive Disc was an exercise in patience (started the convo about a year ago), then forgetfulness (I got consumed with work and forgot) and then sheer surprise and delight when Sarah Johnson from Omaha Bicycle Co. emailed me to see if I was still interested in riding and reviewing the Sportive - and would the Disc version be okay? Um, yes?

  -- More about Lynskey Performance - cool American company located in Chattanooga, TN.

I’m still on my Madone and have owned a steel road bike (still regret selling it), and currently romp around on a steel Salsa La Cruz, which I’ve converted into my dirt path / gravel / whatever bike - so I know what both carbon and steel bikes ride like. The one frame material I had not yet experienced however, was titanium.

Picking up the Bike

Walking into the Benson, NE shop one evening, to say I was stoked would be an understatement. I didn't even let the smell of fresh espresso or the shine of some hammered aluminum Velo Orange fenders distract my focus (well, maybe a little).

There, leaning against the service counter was the Sportive - built up even better than I pictured. Sarah and Jim had grins on their faces - probably because my own was pretty obvious.

Kelly and the boys were in the car waiting for me and of course I took too long - so the first ride was put on hold in favor of vanilla ice cream cones. Yes, of course I spun around the neighborhood on those flat pedals, but that's not the same...

Minor Adjustments

The only things I adjusted before heading out for the test ride was the saddle - swapping out the stock version for my Bontrager Serrano RL. Saddle hight was spot on and the headtube spacers / stem were fairly neutral.

Bike Specs

The Sportive Disc falls into Lynsey's Endurance/Sportive Road lineup, and there is also another version that is non-disc (if you're into that sort of thing). Because you can really build up any of Lynskey's bikes to fit your personal taste - I was not quite sure how things would turn out, but as I said above I was not disappointed in the build kit in the least.

Shifters - Ultegra 6800
Front and Rear Derailleur - Ultegra 6800
Crankset - Ultegra 6800
Brakes - Avid BB7 (disc)
Wheelset - Stans NoTubes ZTR Grail (tubeless)
Tires - Kenda Tendril 28c (plus room for up to 35c if I had to guess)
Full Specs (here), but other fun things include fender and rack mounts (not to be overlooked)

Retail as shown - $5400

Besides getting to try out the Grail wheelset (which I have been pining over for my Salsa), the biggest surprise feature was the front/rear thru axle. Even though Jim showed me how they worked in the shop, I was still a bit timid at first. After a few times removing and readding the front wheel however, I had the mechanics down.

First Impressions

Jumping out for a quick lunch ride, the first thing that came to mind was the zip. The bike felt really agile - like it responded to what I wanted it to do with less effort and maneuvering than my Madone requires. The Madone feels "straight line faster," but the Sportive just felt like it had more life.

I rode the normal loop at my usual pace, trying my best to just take in the ride. I was happy with the overall fit / setup, so I didn't have to waste too much thought on that - just had to focus on going fast enough to get home with enough time to grab lunch before my next meeting. The bike joined me in my office for the afternoon - really just serving as a distraction / reminder of how nice it was outside.

The Real Test

One Saturday I was able to cash in enough chips with Kelly to score a morning away with my friend Steve. This would be the all-around test for the Sportive. We planned for around 50 miles, even though I didn't think the forecast would let that happen. Drizzle early made the disc brakes squeak a bit, but that was no bother. 

We headed north through the western-most part of downtown until we reached one of my favorite areas to ride, Ponca Hills. Little time was wasted putting the Sportive (and me) to the test on the long, punishing climbs around Hummel Park. We climbed and descended until we found South Lookout, then descended again only to go find the long and annoyingly-hard Calhoun Road climb.

The roads around Hummel on the way to South Lookout are the worst. They're always filled with potholes, are garnished with gravel, and on this particular day were slick with the aforementioned drizzle. The Sportive handled them all as well as I could have hoped. The 28c Kenda's performed swimmingly - always making me feel confident, but not slow, and the frame's stiffness, coupled with the additional benefit of the thru axels made the steep pitches a fun, but doable challenge. By doable, I mean I did not blow myself up and (in my mind) climbed pretty well. The stock Ultegra setup worked wonderfully here as well - I always felt like I had the gear I needed to make it happen.

Standing at South Lookout we could see the line of rain clouds headed our way, so we booked it back towards downtown. Just as we crossed over into the city a huge streak of lightning filled the sky and "forced" us into the closest coffee shop. I forced myself to eat that berry turnover too...

A photo posted by Paul Haskell (@phaskell) on

Knowing that the rain was not going to let up anytime soon, we asked the barista for a few extra zip-locs and walked out into the downpour. Riding in rain like that makes you feel alive... stupid, but alive nonetheless. As we mashed our way back towards Steve's house I wasn't thinking about much besides more coffee when I hit a rain-filled pothole. Not massive, but enough to jar me back into focus. I remember thinking to myself, "wow, that should have hurt worse," and it should have. Then I remembered I was not riding an all-carbon bike that shook the life out of me, I was riding a bike that was made for this - and that made me smile. 

Wishing for More + The Gallery

A few April work trips made more fun with the Lynskey Sportive Disc difficult, which makes me sad. I think there were more good times to be had with this one for sure. If I had more time (or this was actually my bike, the only real changes I would make would be to throw on the widest tubeless road tires I could find - probably some Hutchinson Sector 28s, or Schwable Ones. 

The Verdict

So I normally talk about The Good and The Bad before I get to this section, but I don't want to do that here. Instead I want to focus on how this bike made me feel when I rode it and the new perspective it gave me, because I think those are a better measure of this bike's value - especially for someone like me who just wants to go ride the hell out of it and have fun. 

When I rode the Lynskey Sportive Disc, I felt more connected to what I was doing. Maybe I was trying to feel this way - the mind is a powerful thing I know, but looking back I believe it was the sum of this bike's features and capabilities that did it. The bike handled everything I threw at it with grace and it just felt damn good doing it and I had a ton of fun.

This got me thinking about all of the other things I wish I could have done - long rides on the crushed-rock Wabash, or some mixed-surface / dirt adventures. These are rides I would lean on my La Cruz for, but would prefer the Madone if I could because of it's lighter frame and speed - though the smaller tire capabilities always gives me pause.

I can honestly say that I see the Sportive killing those two rides and more, plus keeping pace with the Madone on road rides. This leads me to the new perspective - I don't want to be limited by the bike I am riding, I just want to go ride where I want and have a blast doing it. If I had to describe the ethos of the Lynsey Sportive Disc, that would be it. 

Am I going to go sell my Madone next weekend? No. Do I have a Lynskey Sportive build kit in mind that I plan to work towards over the next few years? Yes, definitely.

Special Thanks

A very special thanks once again to Sarah Johnson from Omaha Bicycle Co., and to the Lynskey Performance team for making this review possible. 

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