Prior to my Miele twice I have owned a road bike and both were purchased from a big box department store. The first belonged to a house brand of a major Canadian retailer; I left it to rust at one of my university’s bike racks. The second one was bought at Walmart for a 4 month internship and it was so unimpressive I don’t remember anything about it. This left a sour taste in my mouth and for many years I continued to use my Frankenstein mountain bike for all kinds of commuting duties. However in 2017 my circumstances changed and I found myself faced with a 15 km one-way commute to work through the city. Initially I assigned my mountain bike to the task but quickly found myself getting passed by other cyclists on road bikes. Try as hard as I might, I was not able to keep up and that did not sit well with me. As the saying goes: when you can’t beat ’em, join ’em; and so I did by purchasing the Svelto RRD. It took me a while to adjust to the road bike but when I finally felt comfortable on it I was left wondering why I didn’t get it sooner.
Miele Svelto RRD Specifications
Let’s get this out of the way first. From Miele’s website here are the important specs:
|Frame||Miele 6061 Alloy, Internal Cable Routing|
|Fork||Miele Carbon Disc, Alloy Steerer|
|Brakes||TRP Spyre 160mm Rotors|
|Brake Levers & Shifters||Shimano 105|
|Hubs||Alloy Super Sealed Disc QR 32H|
|Rims||Miele Race Lite Profiled|
|Tires (RR/FR)||Kenda Kriterium 700x25c|
|Seat Post||Miele Micro Adjust Alloy 27.2|
|Derailleurs (F/R)||Shimano 105|
|Crank set||FSA OMEGA 50/34T|
MSRP for the bike is $1649 CAD and the purchase price for my end of year 2016 model was $1000 before taxes. For the price point it’s important to note the aluminum-alloy frame (cheaper than the carbon fibre alternative) yet the inclusion of a carbon composite fork alongside the upscale Shimano 105 components and TRP mechanical disc brakes. Interestingly Miele offers a ‘CR’ version of the Svelto that features a full carbon frame yet downgrades the drivetrain components to Shimano Tiagra and loses the disc brakes. This commands a $330 premium over the RRD’s MSRP and seems to cater to the endurance crowd. For my purposes the RRD was the more appropriate version since I would not have felt the benefits of the carbon fibre frame on my relatively short commute but would have lamented the loss of the disc brakes in place of the more traditional rim mounted pads.
Although weight is not listed on Miele’s website I believe the Svelto falls in line with many of the other similarly-priced road bikes on the market, coming in at around 20 – 22 lbs.
I experienced the cockpit of several Jamis road bikes in detail thanks to a great distributor with relaxed rules for test rides, so I was a bit apprehensive when the local bike store (LBS) with the Mieles only allowed me to go up and down a short alleyway. I tried two frame sizes – Medium and Large – and was not sure which one fit my 5′ 10″ frame better. The bike tech assured me that ‘M’ was my size and I took his word for it. Coming from the world of mountain bikes the medium size made me feel cramped but the large bike was ever so slightly more difficult to control. If you find yourself in this scenario listen to the more knowledgeable person involved in the transaction – if they get it wrong, hopefully the LBS is kind enough to swap out your bike.
I somewhat reluctantly accepted the advice I was given and paid for the medium size to be picked up a day later.
I was genuinely nervous when I showed up to collect my shiny new road bike. After all, this signified a stark departure from the bikes I was used to riding and I knew I had to take surface streets to get home, meaning I’d be riding alongside cars and other traffic. The adjustment period was favourably short and I quickly found myself experimenting with different upshift techniques to quickly get going from a standing start (most road bike cyclists take forever to get moving from a stopped position which doesn’t align with the typically explosive acceleration I achieved on a mountain bike).
When I rode to work the following day I couldn’t help but notice the way the Svelto got up to and maintained its speed. The skinny tires made steady-speed pedalling an almost effortless exercise even though they did not make riding particularly comfortable. A rigid fork paired with thin sidewalls meant that bumps in the road were not just registered, but also quickly communicated to the rest of the bike and body of the rider. This is something that takes getting used to, but to illustrate just how real the impacts are the screws holding down my water bottle cage rattled loose after one week of riding. I used Loctite to secure them afterwards.
Day to Day
On my first day of riding to work I completed the route 2 minutes faster than what I typically needed on my mountain bike. By the end of the week I was consistently saving 4 minutes in each direction which doesn’t sound too impressive but equates to a 10% decrease in travel time over 15 km. Aside from shaving off time the Svelto RRD was significantly easier to ride. For instance once when I was heading home I encountered a nasty wind that was hitting me head on. On my mountain bike a force like this would slow me down to a crawl yet the road bike kept pushing through. Don’t get me wrong, it was still tough but a much more pleasant experience.
To be honest I did not hold the looks of any bike I tested in high regard; in fact I wanted something fairly inconspicuous to better fly under the radar of potential thieves. To that note many road bikes are uninspiring and it’s easy to get lost in a sea of bland colours, but I cannot deny that some bikes I saw from Specialized, Cannondale, and Bianchi – to name a few – really stood out. The Svelto RRD… does not join that list and instead is presented in a doesn’t-stay-clean-white colour with some black and red lettering. Considering its price the internal cable routing is a nice touch and cleans up the look of the bike. I eventually added white pedals to compliment the frame and can picture a nice red set being used to accentuate the text.
The Svelto has a 2 x 11 Shimano 105 gear system and it’s more than fine to leave the larger cog selected in the front and just make use of the 11 gears in the rear. However I choose to flaunt the front derailleur and shift down into 1st when I come to a stop. This allows me to quickly build up some speed with just a few pedal strokes once the light turns green before I click the levers several times to enter my preferred ratio. A 1 x 12 setup would have been perfect for the bike but those components are still priced out of the RRD’s range.
Why would anyone favour a 1 x 12 drivetrain over a 2 x 11? Although the second setup has 10 more gears in practice you won’t actually be able to use all of them and there will be overlap anyways. The 1 x 12 variant does not have a shifting mechanism in the front, which means you can lose the combined weight of a derailleur, shifter, and its associated cables, as well as have a lighter chainring. There are also fewer parts to maintain.
On a flat surface I typically have the rear derailleur in the 8th position which affords me a cruising speed of approximately 30 km/hr. I like pedalling at a faster rate and my cadence hovers around 80 rpm. According to my Fitbit app I once even managed to hit 58 km/hr on a significant downhill portion of my commute. When you’re travelling at a good pace it’s easy, albeit very physically demanding, to enter into a sprint – just push harder down on the pedals and the bike will go!
As a mountain biker one of the first things I did with the Miele was attempt to pedal while leaned over in a corner. That proved to be a mistake as I heard a scraping noise and was quickly tossed into an upright position – the result of my pedal touching the pavement. The bottom bracket on the road bike is so low that the pedals are just 11 cm/4.5″ off the ground at the bottom of the rotation.
Thin 25 mm tires make manoeuvrability a breeze and the rake (the amount by which the front wheel hub is offset from the steering axis) allows for quick steering inputs to avoid sewer grates, potholes, and the occasional car. However it’s important to be cautious with your body at high speeds because the front wheel does not take too kindly to a heavy grip – for instance standing up on the pedals and leaning a bit forward for a stretch can cause the handlebars to feel skittish and dance around a bit.
The aluminum frame is stiff. Unfortunately that’s about as scientific as I can be when discussing this topic because every road bike I tried out felt nearly identical in this category. Although exact specs from bike to bike will vary the important takeaway is that everything shakes. With no dampening aside from the carbon fork which is said to absorb vibrations a bit better than traditional steel or alloy you can definitely feel the road. I run the tires at 120 psi – they are rated for a maximum of 125 – which definitely doesn’t help make the Svelto feel like a Cadillac Fleetwood but I got accustomed to the pressure. At 100 psi the ride is noticeably more plush but that dulls the precision and response of the bike. A new rider may appreciate starting at 100 psi while getting acclimated to the experience. The tires also seem to have an insatiable appetite for air. I fill them up to the aforementioned 120 psi on an almost daily basis because they lose a significant amount of pressure by the next day.
Like any other road bike worth its money the Svelto RRD is light. Even without suspension it’s incredibly fun to take this featherweight on a quick trip through the air! No, I’m not talking about anything remotely close to what you’d find on a trail but beat-up and worn-down city streets are full of their own adventures. Larger cracks in the pavement and even smaller curbs present a perfect opportunity to augment the bike’s forward momentum with a little, effortless hop. When timed perfectly a two-wheeled landing isn’t as jarring as one would think if you use your knees to soak up some of the impact.
Several LBSs that I visited kept trying to inform me that rim mounted brakes on a road bike are sufficient for the task but after going on some test rides I simply don’t believe that to be the case. Perhaps I’m just incredulous yet I will admit that the performance offered by traditional rim brakes can be enough to slow you down rather quickly; in the city, surrounded by errant cars and pedestrians, I want to be able to stop on a dime which is where discs have a massive advantage.
The Svelto RRD sheds its speed with TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes. On my mountain bikes I have hydraulic brakes and distinctly remember the difference in initial bite when I upgraded the mechanical disc setup on my Specialized Rockhopper to hydraulics, but the Spyre has a trick up its sleeve: a dual piston design that moves both the inside and outside pads onto the rotor at the same time. This provides plenty of stopping power but doesn’t attack the brake rotor all at once and on a road bike I think that’s a good thing.
A component equally important as brakes in stopping are the tires themselves. The contact patch (amount of rubber in physical contact with the ground at any point in time) with narrow, high-pressure tires is tiny! Not to mention the lack of any tread in the centre of the rubber, locking up a wheel due to squeezing the brake levers too tightly is very easy to do. Therefore I’m quite happy with the factory setup provided by Miele and have had no issues so far.
One Month In
Included in my bike’s purchase price was a tune-up after a month of ownership to compensate for the cables stretching and other bits and pieces settling into place, as well as a fitting. The latter was a new concept to me and it’s interesting because it further underlines how attentive riders tend to be with road bikes as they are designed to rack up serious mileage.
The fitting is an evaluation process of both rider and bike with the ultimate goal of adjusting components to achieve the most comfortable and efficient riding position: seat and handlebar heights, stem lengths, saddle selection, foot-pedal location, and other variables. At this point in one’s road bike career you are expected to graduate from the world of ‘casual rider’ and enroll in the school of ‘clipless pedal cyclist’. You may have seen, or more likely heard, clipless pedals on a bike before – the odd-looking, often small things that get paired with cycling shoes and force the rider to ‘clip in’ which creates a clicking noise; they keep your feet in the same position therefore ensuring that all the adjustments that occur during the fitting will hold true.
After doing some research online I purchased a set of Shimano M530 SPD mountain bike clipless pedals. These were budget friendly and the mountain bike style pedals work with shoes that actually allow you to walk in them once you park your bike (whereas road bike cycling shoes just have a cleat that protrudes which saves weight but are hard to move in).
After practising clipping/unclipping while my bike was hooked up to the stationary trainer at the LBS I set off towards home and instantly felt the difference. Being attached to the pedals was an odd sensation at first and I was intrigued when I detected new leg muscles being worked on every pedal stroke. Clipless pedals are more efficient because they allow your leg to engage both higher and lower (earlier and later) during a cycle which, over the course of a long ride, really adds up. I highly recommend them.
After a week I became proficient with the new pedals and hit my stride with the bike. Clipping in became an effortless task completed in a single motion when taking off, and being clipped in is a nice place to be. It adds to the ‘connectedness’ you experience with the bike which already forces the rider to mould their body around the frame. I liken it to being on a supersport motorcycle: you’re leaned into the machine’s controls, creating an aerodynamic shape with the intent of going fast.
Down the Road
On occasion I take the long way home from work which extends my journey by 10 km but is still a very short trip by road bike standards. I fully intend to work my way up to a 100 km ride… one day, but in the near future I will gear up for another winter of two-wheeled commuting and my first on a road bike. Regular maintenance and beefier tires should be all I need to make this a reality.
If I haven’t articulated it well enough yet here it is again for good measure: I adore this bike! I do not feel bad whatsoever for setting aside my Specialized Rockhopper as the Svelto RRD made my commute enjoyable again. It’s not the most advanced road bike by any means but for its intended purpose, and at its price point, it hits the nail on the head. I have logged between 2500 and 3000 km in 5 months’ of ownership and here are my takeaways from this purchase:
- If I drove to work everyday instead of cycling I would have already spent $530+ on gas. I also would have added a combined 30 minutes to my commute and probably lost my mind in the traffic.
- If I rode my motorcycle to work everyday I would have paid a more reasonable $225 at the pumps by now. My time spent commuting would have increased between 5 and 10 minutes per day.
- If I kept riding my Rockhopper I would have continued going at my old pace, adding 8 minutes to my new trip time. I would’ve purchased city-appropriate semi-slick mountain bike tires at an approximate cost of $100 but cannot say if that change would have been enough to encourage me to bike the full 5 days of the work week. Therefore there would be a nominal expense for gas in this scenario.
- I strongly believe in the phrase “use the right tool for the job”. The Svelto is definitely the more correct bike to use for this purpose than any mountain bike. The experience of riding a road bike is very different from something with suspension but, after an initial adjustment period, it just makes sense.
- Disc brakes continue to outperform their rim mounted counterparts and are the better choice for city riding.
- I initially wanted to purchase an adventure/gravel bike but that would have been a mistake. These machines are similar to road bikes but have some changes to their frame geometry to be more stable on trails and can run wider tires. My inner mountain biker just couldn’t come to terms with owning a pure road bike but there really isn’t any good reason for such a notion when riding on pavement. Owing to the newness of the category, adventure bikes are generally a few hundred dollars more expensive than similarly spec’d road bikes.
- The value proposition of the Miele is undeniable. Almost all other bikes I looked at in the price range had lesser Shimano Claris, Sora, or Tiagra components (8, 9, and 10 speed drivetrains respectively). Few came with disc brakes and had internal cable routing. Miele designs their bikes in Canada but I’m not sure where the frames are manufactured. Whether the quality is any poorer than the other slightly more expensive brands sold alongside the Svelto RRD at my LBS remains to be seen.
- Clipless pedals are a game changer.
- A 1 x 12 drivetrain would have been ideal.
- Checking tire pressures every morning is the best way to ensure a smooth ride and prevent pinch flats.