Leopard DC-1 … a curmudgeon convinced
So, I’ll admit it up front ~ I’m an old-school, steel is real, kind of bike racer. I like the Merckx time trial, super spoked box rims, and the only radios at a race being used by roadside picnic’ers as they follow the race and pass the wine, arguing who has displayed the most “bon courage.”
When the folks at Leopard Cycles asked me to review their DC-1 … I was a little hesitant. For me, the only way I can truly say I’ve got a good bearing on a bike is by racing it. And racing it hard. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if Leopard would be all that in to letting me pound around the pocked, windswept, gutterfest central valley racing circuit on one of their super-fancy carbonium rigs.
But they were fine with it … showing either a tremendous amount of confidence in their bikes, or really really deep pockets.
Either way – the Leopard DC-1 was tested hard and heavy during a couple of California’s early season March classics, the MERCO and Madera stage races. As you’ll see below, I had to mix in a bit of extracurricular activity to fully test the DC-1, but I can say that after the last few weeks of riding this thing full-throttle, I’m pretty confident in my thoughts about the bike. Thanks for reading.
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Hernando’s Criteria for bike awesomeness: Handling, Traffic, & Dirt
The Leopard DC-1 is nimble and can handle the pound
OK … I might as well start out with the weight issue. I hate admitting it ~ really hate admitting it ~ but, weight does make a difference on a bike. The Leopard DC-1 tested was decked out with SRAM Red components and a SRAM S30AL-Race wheelset.
The bike weighed in the 15-pound range. That’s just ridiculous.
Of course, accelerating on climbs was pretty sublime with such a paper-light machine. But the power transfer of the rear triangle was also quite, quite good. You stomp on those pedals and the DC-1 jumps up a hill like somebody shot a quick cattle-prod shock to the nether regions. It really does jump. The DC-1 is efficient, it’s stiff, it moves.
But I will never sacrifice bike handling for weight. For me, whether racing or riding … the way a bike handles is of paramount concern for me. I want to feel confident and safe in a bike’s ability to carve a corner, take a beating from rough pavement … and not crack under pressure.
Strength & Agility
The DC-1 is a surprisingly stout frame. I mean, this is a bike that has withstood the linebacker legs of Tim Farnham crushing it all over the NRC circuit.
Farnham rode the DC-1 for the old Adageo pro outfit, and is still hammering away on the frame. If that featherweight carbonium bike can withstand Farnham’s massive watt’onage and outputs of beef’ocity … it can handle anything.
Both the MERCO and Madera races had stages with bumpy, technical, and butt-busting aspects to them. The MERCO criterium had a 180-degree hairpin that sent you diving and dodging as riders entered the turn, and then kickied an almost standing start up to 35mph in a short few hundred meters. That was a good test of the DC-1’s handling abilities.
I did the 35+ and p1/2 crits at MERCO, which ended up shooting me about 90 times through that stupid hairpin. And, I have to admit … the DC-1 took to it like a shark. The bike is designed to distribute a rider’s weight very well. I felt a solid connection with the bike – in control and able to throw the bike in any direction I needed to dodge wheels or boys sliding out.
Both the Madera and MERCO road races had sections of road that were bumpified with cragly central valley pavement and splayed open with potholes galore. Madera was probably the most butt-busting road race I tested the DC-1 on ~ as the backside of their course was a cow-country ghetto version of a Paris-Roubaix. There weren’t any cobbles … just a whole lot of empty-budget road disrepair.
The DC-1 really did absorb the barrage of bumps and potholes with efficiency and comfort. Honestly, I was kind of shocked. I’ve ridden that Madera course on steel, carbon, and even an aluminum frame once. But I’ve got to say – the DC-1 was the strongest I’ve hit through that stupid road. The power transfer was constant and I was able to float over the Roubaix-light roads with an evil grin on my face.
Light, durable and nimble? I hate technology.
The real test … TRAFFIC and Off-Road
After all the years of racing and riding ~ I rarely do any group rides nowadays. It’s not that I’m anti-social … it’s just that I like my training to be specific and targeted. But there are benefits of doing group rides … you get to work on your speed and handling skills. So for me ~ I replace group rides with … traffic and dirt.
I live in Oakland. And I’ll admit that racing cars around O-town is about as stupid and dangerous a thing as one could do outside of enlisting for Afghanistan. But I love it. I’m a street junkie. I love the hard accelerations of merging into traffic, the adrenaline surges of keeping pace and changing speeds, the overloads to the legs of matching velocity, and the constant need for awareness and decision making.
That’s why I’m always smiling in crits … they’re so much less stressful than training.
I’m sure the folks at Leopard Cycles don’t want to know that I took their uber-ka-ching bike out to fight amongst the gangsteryuppies of Oakland and Berzerkely … but, the reason I’m writing about it is to confirm that the DC-1 did what it should have … it responded under me like an unconscious extension of my body, it freed up my mind to play safely and fiercely in traffic. Is it geometry? Is it carbon modulusness?
I don’t know. All I know is, the bike worked. The bike worked very, very well.
My other true-blood testing ground is pushing a road bike through the rigors and mayhem of dirt. Now I KNOW the Leopard folks won’t like hearing this, but after the Madera Criterium – I rode over to the afternoon TT course in Chowchilla and ‘accidentally’ got lost out in the dirt roads and cow pastures of rural’opia.
It was awwweeeesome.
I pushed the DC-1 through some seriously rutted and rain rampaged third-world jeep tracks. I pounded that bike like it was a hate-crime over a bunch of pocked, chunky fallow fields ~ spraying a rooster-tail of clods and weedwackery behind me like a gap-toothed hick doing donuts in his F250.
Oh man … I know writing about this has probably just scratched me off Leopard Cycles test riding list forever … but it was just soooo much fun.
In Conclusion …
I’m sold on the Leopard DC-1. I might as well not beat around the bush – I think they have a superior product on their hands. It’s been tested by both men and women’s professional teams and did nothing but purr underneath me for the weeks that I tortured it.
It’s super light, has proven durability, and is intelligently designed to allow for quick handling, efficient power transfer, and vicious accelerations. It’s not rocket science … it just works.
Check out the Leopards they’ve got in stock at Cycle Path in San Mateo.
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