My name is Alvin. This is my bike, a TIME VXRS Ulteam Bettini Edition road bike. I’ll get on to how it rides, but first, a story.
Like any late-stage millennial, I grew up on the internet. My drug of choice was product reviews, and I was on the Weight Weenies bicycle forum pretty frequently. Though my teenage self could never afford anything of the sort of that time, I felt like I could tell just about anyone the minute differences in ride quality between a Continental GP4000S II clincher tire and a Tufo Elite S3 tubular. I was an impressionable young mechanic at a bike shop that specialized in older steel bikes. Being around that mindset led me to believe that nothing rode better than a good steel bike. That is until a certain carbon road bike fell into my stand.
The first thing I noticed was it looks. Lugs! Tubing that looked smaller than a 90’s Univega steel bike! An integrated seat post! It was a very different look compared to the Specialized Tarmac SL3 I had just sold off due to how stiff it rode. The bike rode like the steel Serotta Atlanta CS I had over cobblestone roads, but it felt as firm out of the saddle as anything I’ve ridden. I returned to my work stand, placed the bike in the stand, and saw the name: TIME VXRS Ulteam. Outside of the Weight Weenies forums, I had never seen one in the flesh. And from that point, impressionable me realized that there was life after steel.
Fast forward to 2018. I’m longer a mechanic, but I find myself at Contender Bicycles, surrounded by the best TIME has to offer. Late last year, a trade-in VXRS Ulteam comes to the shop, not dissimilar to what I rode nearly a decade before. Not only that, but it’s in my size, and even better, a colorway I’d never before seen. Ryan, Alison, and I looked at each other with similar enthusiasm, and a shared desire to own that bike. Long story short, today I find myself the owner of a grail bike, a bike that truly left an impression upon me like few other bikes ever have.
This VXRS Ulteam Bettini Edition was released in late 2006 to celebrate Paolo Bettini’s victories in the 2004 World Championship road race, and Athens Olympic Road race, of which he rode the VXRS Ulteam to victory. The Bettini Edition shares the same geometry, Translink seatpost, and lugged carbon frame that sets it apart from the pack. It was a classics bike that could be ridden all day, up and down the many canyons we have in Salt Lake City and Park City. The VXRS Ulteam is a bike so good that TIME did a reissue in 2014, years after they discontinued the bike.
I’m fortunate enough to have had some saddle time with a wide range of road bikes. I’ve come to learn that after a certain level, all road bikes start to feel good. That said, there’s something intangible that the best road bikes have. Be it dialed handling, outright comfort, or aesthetics, there’s a certain ‘special sauce’ that holds a select few bikes above the competition. This bike has it. I’ve thought about what that ‘special sauce’ is, and the word I continue to come to is ‘balance’.
The VXRS Ulteam, which shares its geometry with the current Alpe d’Huez and Scylon, feels planted cornering at speed, regardless of how choppy the road underneath can be. It’s fun to have a bike that feels agile and can corner quickly, but I prefer this: something that strikes a balance between straight-line cruiser and razor-sharp handler over a long ride.
The other part of the bike’s inherent smoothness comes from the RTM carbon layup, shared with all current TIME road bikes. In contrast to the many elastomers and technologies on the market, RTM makes for a bike that is firm but will never beat you up. It is exceptionally smooth over rough roads in a way that few other road bikes can match, even with stiff Mavic wheels. Some bikes are too stiff, others are dull and rubbery, but again, this strikes a balance that leaves me wanting to ride more and more.
We might be similarly-sized adults who speak Italian, but Paolo Bettini and I are nothing alike. I can only dream of being able to sprint like him, much less ride with the level of verve and panache he showed year after year. But on this bike, the mini Bettini in me comes out. The VXRS Ulteam Bettini Edition might celebrate road race wins at the highest level, but it’s just as comfortable on a Monday night recovery ride is it is midway through an all-day hammerfest. It’s a bike for dreamers and realists alike, and it’s the perfect one for me.
Have any questions about TIME road bikes? Give us a call during business hours, or send us an email any time to firstname.lastname@example.org.