After waffling between buying a light bike and buying an aero bike, I opted for the best of both worlds: the Fuji Transonic SL. It was supposed to be right at the UCI weight limit and supposed to be aero. Since getting it months ago, I've trained on it, raced a circuit and a road race on it, and even a Merckx style TT - with both the stock wheels and 60mm wheels.
My decision to go with aero over light was based on my needs as a bike racer. In races I can generally hang in on the climbs, and end up in the sprints at the end (though I'm not a particularly good sprinter). Because of that, I wanted any help I can get at the end of the race when the speed ramps up to 30+mph. Aero and stiff are what help there, so that made my decision ultimately simple.
Fuji Transonic SL SPECS
$5,199 MSRP / SRAM Red 22 / 15lbs / Fuji house brand Oval build throughout / Oval 950 Carbon Clincher Wheels
The photos on the Fuji website are a bit underwhelming, and I wasn't expecting too much when I went to pick up the bike. So when I walked up to the Transonic my reaction was "Daaaamn that bike looks hottt!" It looked fast, the paint job was nicely detailed in ways definitely not shown on the website, and the bike just looked like it was ready to GO.
I also tend to assume that manufacturers fudge the truth about the weights of bikes, so I again wasn't expecting it to be 15lbs. However, with pedals, bottle cages and computer mount, my XS 49cm bike weighed in at 15.2lbs, which I thought was quite reasonable.
IS IT FAST?
I was most curious to see how much faster it would be than a standard bike frame. I did this test which is the closest thing I could do to a test that proved to me that yes, it is faster. But I can also say that when I got on this bike it felt much faster. When riding in the pack I didn't have to pedal when others were, and when on routes that I'd ridden many times I was simply going a bit faster on the flats and downhills than I had previously. I can't quantify that, but I can tell you it was quite noticeable to me.
I understand that this could be due to many other factors, especially since I was coming from the CAAD10 with Mavic Kysrium SL wheels. Could be the wheels, smoother bearings, tires, etc. And that if I was going from a standard road bike that had deep dish aero wheels I may not have noticed as much of a difference. All that considered, from what I had it simply felt much faster.
HANDLING AND RIDE QUALITY
Again, there are many factors going into how a bike handles, but I felt like this bike/wheelset combo just cut through turns faster than I was able on my other bike. Interestingly, when I put 60mm deep wheels on the bike (from another brand) it did not corner nearly as well, so I think a lot of that is due to the wheels.
Overall, the bike feels very firm and very responsive to me. Like it's ready to go. It's a true race bike. When going hard uphill or in a sprint I don't notice any flexing, and it feels like the power is going into forward motion.
I don't really have much to say about comfort. It feels fine to me, but so do aluminum bikes. Personally, I kind of feel like if you ride a bunch you'll eventually get comfortable on the bike.
SRAM RED 22: I've always been a fan of SRAM. I like only using one paddle, I like the obvious mechanical click of its action. Shimano has always felt kinda spongy to me. I think the SRAM Red 22 works well overall, especially considering the weight savings for the price. The issue on this bike is that there's a tendency for the chain to get dropped when going from the 53 to the 39 ring. Fuji must have known about it because there's a built in chain catcher. Unfortunately I don't think it works very well. Another issue is the direct mount brakes. They were a little tough to get adjusted to work correctly. But that may have been addressed in the newer model that uses Dura Ace direct mount brakes.
HANDLEBARS/STEM: These Oval components are stiff and work fine for me.
SADDLE: The Oval saddle has a center cutout, which is important to me. On my TT bike I use a Specialized Toupe saddle, and on my CAAD10 a fizik Antares saddle - the Oval saddle is of the same quality and comfort to me.
SEATPOST: This seatpost was designed to fit into the aero frame. It has a sandpaper-like texture that ensures it doesn't slide down while riding. Adjusting and loosening the seatpost took a little wiggling, but it holds together well and while riding it all feels very connected to the bike.
OVAL 950 WHEELS 20/24H: I was probably most nervous about the wheels. A bad set of wheels can just ruin a bike. Also, for me, I like my wheels to have a loud, mechanical ratcheting sound when freewheeling. I really don't like it when my wheels are quiet or have more of a humm sound. I like it to sound like CLACK CLACK CLACK. I know some people love Chris King hubs because they sound like hornets, but I prefer a mechanical clacking sound.
I was very happy when rolling the Transonic out of the shop to hear a loud clacking sound. Check out the video below to listen to it.
Oh, right. How did these wheels ride? I was very impressed with these wheels. They feel fast, stiff, and I felt like I could go harder into corners than I'd been able to previously (I was running Mavic Ksyrium SLs on my CAAD10). The braking is great. I really like these wheels. Though I have heard of other racers having issues with them, which seemed to just be a bad set from the factory (Fuji sent a replacement set).
Bang for buck has always been important to me, and there's no doubt in my mind I've gotten that with this bike. This is a Tour de France level race bike available for almost half the price as many other bikes at that level. Considering the components alone, this bike is simply one of the best values you can get out there.
In the heat of a race I want my bike to feel light, strong and fast. I also basically want to not have to think about it. I want my bike to make me feel confident that I can push it as hard as I can and that it will respond. This bike has done all that for me in races. In staging waiting for the race to start I've gotten lots of questions and compliments about it too, which is a testament to how hottttt it looks.
I was nervous about a few things on this bike since I ordered it without riding it first, but I have been so happy with it so far. I love all the detailing, how the engineering looks, and how fast it looks. It also feels fast and handles great. I've been really surprised and pleased with the quality of the Fuji house brand Oval components. Overall I also think it's simply a great value.
PROS: Looks SO HOTTT. Great value. Fast and aero. Right at the UCI weight minimum.
CONS: SRAM Red drops chain sometimes. The brakes were a little tough to properly adjust. I'm a bit nervous about resale value since it's not exactly one of the big name racing brands.
RECOMMEND? For a racer looking for a fast and light aero bike, I would recommend this bike.