By Tom Demerly
Quintana Roo has done one thing successfully since they began: Innovate. That isn’t to say it’s always been smooth sailing for the brand that invented the triathlon bike. It hasn’t. But with their latest offerings Quintana Roo has found calm waters and true innovation. The QR Dura Ace CD 0.1 is the flagship of the fleet sailing smoothly at the cutting edge of triathlon technology. And like all true beauties, its appeal is more than just what meets the eye.
QR and its founder, Dan Empfield, are credited with the invention of the triathlon wetsuit, the advanced seat tube angle triathlon bike, the first aerodynamic triathlon bike and a host of more subtle technologies that have been widely adopted across triathlon brands. I’ve owned and raced each of the technology benchmarks from Quintana Roo: The Superform, the RedStone. Each was a valid step forward in triathlon bike technology that influences tri bikes to this day across every brand. When Empfield sold Quintana Roo in 1995 pundits feared it may have been a “brain drain” that could end the legacy of innovation. For a while they were right.
Founder Dan Empfield stayed with Quintana Roo in a seemingly emeritus role under Saucony ownership for four years. The year after Empfield left Saucony spun off the QR brand to new owners Merlin/Litespeed/JHK Investment. Quintana Roo found a home on more solid bike footing. It took the Tennessee-based Litespeed consortium some time to understand the definition of QR and where the brand fit in. They also needed another maven, another champion of innovation. The New Quintana Roo found that in engineer Brad DeVaney.
DeVaney is just one of the people at Quintana Roo responsible for some literally “sideways thinking” that differentiates the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 from other aerodynamic triathlon frames.
The CD 0.1 is named for its low drag coefficient as reported by Quintana Roo from their own wind tunnel design of the complete bike. The Quintana Roo CD 0.1 uses the company’s so-named “Shift” configuration that offsets the down tube of the frame 18mm toward the drive side of the bike. This is said to act as a fairing for the drivetrain and redirect the boundary layer to the non-drive side to reduce drag. In addition to making the frame more aerodynamic the asymmetrical configuration is also claimed to enhance stability at high speeds.
Bottom line: Does it work? Most honest answer: Tough to tell without an independent wind tunnel comparison of brands. In the words of former President Reagan, “Trust, but verify.”
Key words: Trust and Independent. No such independent wind tunnel test exists yet, so for the time being we are all subject to the data provided by various manufacturers about their claimed wind tunnel superiority, and everyone claims “best aerodynamics” while simultaneously de-bunking the competitions’ testing and development protocol. Every brand does it, so this rhetoric essentially cancels each other out in a mathematical sense. Here is Quintana Roo’s wind tunnel argument for the CD 0.1:
As for trust, one would have to wonder why a company would go to such great lengths to have molds made for such an unconventional design without some empirical justification. If it were just a gimmick for market differentiation, wouldn’t there be a simpler gimmick?
Quintana Roo may very well own “lowest drag coefficient” with the CD 0.1, but aerodynamics are a difficult metric to quantify across the entire performance envelope of the bike and across the marketing agendas of brands. Since it is as tough for us to argue on behalf of (or against) Quintana Roo’s wind tunnel development as it is for any brand, I’ll pull this factor out of our review equation. I’m not qualified or equipped to assess the frame aerodynamics relative to other designs. As a consumer, you either believe in the technology and testing or you don’t.
I will offer this one notion though: Based on race results in the rank n’ file world of non-sponsored athletes it certainly does appear to be a race worthy design alongside the other “most aero” bikes.
Solid Basic Design.
Here is what we do know: while aerodynamics are important they have become a bit of a “golden BB” metric in bicycle marketing- the one thing people try to hang a buying decision on. That is short sighted. An optimal bike needs to have strong attributes across the entire performance envelope, from flat out on level ground at 28 M.P.H. in the aero posture during calm conditions to grinding up a steep climb at 8 M.P.H. Aerodynamics are not the only metric that dictate optimal performance. It is a complex amalgam of features and benefits that make a bike great. I’ll argue fit and position are at the top of the list. Even if you take the aerodynamic argument off the table for the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 this bike is still a technology leader.
“Even if you take the aerodynamic argument off the table for the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 this bike is still a technology leader.”
The ability to put the rider in the optimal place relative to the bottom bracket is the single most important metric on a triathlon specific bike. The seatpost design on the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 is the best in the triathlon industry. That is critically important in making a triathlon bike fast. It has the widest range of effective seat angle adjustment and is easiest to work on and adjust. It also does some “thinking” for ham-fisted bike fitters by automatically correcting for saddle height as the effective seat tube angle is adjusted. The benefit to you is the bike is highly fit-able.
The one area every cyclist has a complaint is saddle comfort. Whether you use a 30 cm long Profile TriStryke or a 24 cm long ISM Adamo “noseless” saddle the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 can be adapted to your ideal saddle fore/aft position and angle, and it does so with relative ease. You will be impressed with how important a micro-adjustable seat angle is to saddle comfort and, ultimately, performance. It doesn’t matter how low your bike’s drag coefficient is if you can’t stay solidly planted in the aero position. The head on the Quintana Roo seatpost allows the small adjustments that make the difference between tolerability and numbness and a wider range of adjustment done more easily than any other tri bike.
“The seatpost design on the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 is the best in the triathlon industry.”
Additionally, the variable geometry seatpost enables the rider to get a more functional, open angle between the femur and the torso for a more relaxed position while staying aero. The variable geometry seatpost makes it easier for the rider to find a long distance aero position. Your fitter can position the saddle for a very open angle between femur and torso while maintaining an aerodynamic posture. This even makes eating and drinking on the bike easier.
I’m not as concerned with whose wind tunnel data is most believable as I am with how long I can stay in the aero position and whether I can use my bottles from the aero posture. Over an Ironman distance bike leg this amounts to minutes off your bike leg. At the sprint distance it could be the handful of seconds that gets you that first ever age category placing.
The Quintana Roo CD 0.1 has such a wide fit band that there is a better chance you’ll find a truly comfortable, functional aero posture on this bike than almost any other. Most of this is due to the unique variable geometry seatpost. It is a key feature on the CD 0.1, perhaps more so than the (claimed) aerodynamic benefits.
Speaking of the saddle area the seatpost clamp on the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 is dependable and robust as well as presenting a smooth profile to the wind. The entire collar is alloy, adding to its durability. It is also modular, if it ever were damaged a new one is easily installed. This is a key feature if you travel a lot or on a bike that is frequently flight cased. The saddle height is secured with 6nm of torque using a 4mm allen wrench.
The CD 0.1 uses inventive design cues from front to back to manage air flow. The fork is bowed outward and away from the wheel 2.6 cm on each side at its widest separation. This is claimed to reduce drag as air passes between wheel and fork at speed. Viewed from the front you’ll see the fork blades are much farther away from the wheel than a conventional fork configuration and bow outward.
Front brake arrangement on the CD 0.1 is behind the fork, faired from the boundary layer by the aerodynamic fork crown. The fork crown manages air flow away from the parasite drag that would be created by the brake if it didn’t ride in the lee of the fork. This is a design concept we’ve seen on other aerobikes.
There is a nose cone style bump on the front of the head tube and this transitions into the head tube where the cables enter the top tube. Cable routing is fully guided internal and impeccably easy to set up, as good as Felt’s industry leading cable routing. The entry holes aren’t labeled so routing the cables the first time will take a trial to see what goes where. A valid, real-world feature are two bottle mounts on the frame. True- carrying two large bottles and especially the empty cages could influence aerodynamics on race day but when you need to do a five hour training ride this is a functional convenience. The shape of the top tube on the CD 0.1 is probably one of the most unsung features on the bike. It is roughly wide and flat, and I’ll discuss the significance of that in a few paragraphs when we clip in and go for a ride on CD 0.1.
The bottom bracket and seat tube areas on the CD 0.1 are curvaceous and complex, a beautiful set of contours to look at and elegantly subtle. This amalgam of alluring shapes melds together to manage airflow onto the rear wheel. Even the bottom bracket is encased inside the frame, with no exposed bearings. The front derailleur mount bolts on and the rear brake is located under the bottom bracket.
Early versions of the rear brake on the CD 0.1 were difficult to adjust for some mechanics unaccustomed to high end aero bikes. It is fair to note that nearly every high end aerodynamic bike uses some type of proprietary brake design, and if a conventional brake is considered straightforward, none of the proprietary designs are conventional- or straightforward- in the strictest sense. A recent improvement in the CD 0.1 design is a new “dog bone” that is slightly longer than previous versions. Technician Jack Johnson of TriSports.com characterized the new retrofit as “A big improvement”. All the CD 0.1’s we’re building are receiving the new, longer brake components. We’re getting absolutely adequate rear brake performance even for descending off the second largest paved climb in the U.S. here in Tucson- Mt. Lemmon.
Another of many unique frame features on the CD 0.1 is the chainstays. Chainstays have a lot to say about how a bike rides, shifts and accelerates. The chainstays on the CD 0.1 are a massive 63 mm deep as they leave the bottom bracket. They stay deep all the way to the rear wheel dropout. There is a replaceable derailleur hanger as you would expect and the rear dropouts are vertical and rear-facing as with most aerobikes. There are a nice set of dropout adjustment screws inside the rear wheel dropout, a successful design we’ve seen on other aerobikes.
The Quintana Roo CD 0.1 is sold in several configurations including a frameset only in black, the white bike with a Dura-Ace ensemble and a racy lime green machine with an Ultegra kit. We tested the white Dura-Ace equipped bike, my pick of the litter. I love this component kit for a number of reasons. Mostly, this is how I’ve spec’ed my own personal bike on several different framesets: Aerodynamic FSA carbon fiber crankset, Dura-Ace drivetrain and carbon fiber VisionTech cockpit. The cockpit includes FSA/VisionTech aerodynamic brake levers which I like and have used across several framesets on courses all over the world including Thailand and St. Croix.
The carbon fiber FSA VisionTech TriMax crankset is unerringly stiff and surefooted with excellent upshift from small ring to big. Up front the stem is a VisionTech two bolt design. I still argue this is the best stem/cockpit combination in the triathlon industry, although I prefer the upward bend as opposed to the straight.
The wheelset on the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 is neither bad nor good- they are just wheels. A-Class original equipment wheels, 20 straight gauge radial spokes in front rotating on sealed bearing hubs and 24 cross two spokes on the rear wheel. It is an unremarkable but sturdy wheelset for your everyday rides. It is shod in a fantastic pair of sturdy, firm Continental Ultra Race tires, 700 X 23c. These wheels are intended for everyday training. This bike is worthy of very nice race wheels.
One of the best component decisions on the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 is what they left off- There is no saddle included with the bike. Every retailer is saying thank you to Quintana Roo for this. The saddle is left off for the same reason the pedals are: Everyone has their own opinion about what saddle is best. Putting an inexpensive original equipment saddle on the bike is probably just a step on the way to you retrofitting the saddle of your liking to the bike. Better to just start with the saddle that is right for you. Having no saddle spec on the bike saves the retailer from having to swap a saddle and spares you the anguish of having to try to come to grips with an original saddle. It’s simply a better idea just to leave it off and let the customer decide.
Now, the best part: How it rides. I want one thing out of a tri bike- speed. The road to speed is paved with comfort. If you aren’t comfortable, you can’t stay aero and you can’t go fast. The QR is an exceptionally comfortable bike that devours road shock in its massive carbon shapes. On rotten roads you simply plough through. You can stay aero and fast. The handling is not good on this bike, it’s absolutely great. Remember that wide top tube? That makes the center of the bike stiff enough so the back listens to the front. Turn it, descend it, brake it hard, climb it out of the saddle in a big gear- it’s a race car. I loved it. Great handling, precise steering, insulated ride. Yes, I think my bike split will be faster on this. I think I can go harder, longer on this. This is truly one of the very best riding tri bikes I’ve ever been on- and I’ve been on a lot of tri bikes racing all over the world since the tri bike was invented. It is a worthy development in Quintana Roo’s legacy of innovation.
Drawbacks? It’s heavy-ish. Aerobikes usually are. It isn’t a climb specific bike. Once you get it rolling and even before I didn’t perceive it as sluggish because it is so… solid and stable. If you punch it, it goes. When you get it up to speed, it stays, on the rough pavement, it doesn’t kick back. Race wheels will reduce the weight significantly but out of the box I had no issue with any aspect of the bike’s real world performance. I’d gladly race it and consider it an advantage.
The Quintana Roo CD 0.1 has won several design awards including a tough to win Eurobike Gold award from the traditionally hard to please European market. They don’t give out awards for gimmicks, only solid designs across the spectrum of bike performance. While the wind tunnel rhetoric and “Shift” design theme are central to the buzz about the Quintana Roo CD 0.1 they are only the surface of a strong collection of valid and well executed design themes. This is a truly excellent frame from the inventor of the triathlon bike with many valid performance enhancing features. It’s good to see the inventor of the original triathlon bike back at the very top of the category. I owned one of the first Quintana Roo Superforms back in 1988 so there is a bit of history in returning to this brand and I do so gladly acknowledging that the CD 0.1 is truly well designed – I genuinely love this bike. It is triathlon history, technology and valid performance.