Ed. Note: This detailed review was written by the youngest member of the Racing Reds’, Domenik Adamoski. As editor of our team’s blog, I’m always happy when other Reds contribute content, and Dom’s review is no exception. That said, it is important to note that Dom’s opinion regarding large bicycle frames in no way reflects the official stance of the Racing Reds’. Beside his love of over-sized frames with large head-tubes, and an irrational fear of Cannondales, Dom is quite the intelligent young-man and a strong cyclist. We are happy to have him as a member of the team! Enjoy the review.
Bicycle Specifications as Reviewed:
Frame and Fork: All-City Thunderdome 61 cm
Headset: Cane Creek 40 Threadless
Crankset: All-City 612 Track Crank 170mm
Stem: BBB UltraForce Stem 100mm
Handlebars: Dimension 31.8 Flat Top Shallow Road Bar
Hubs: All City Standard Track Hubs
Rims: Mavic Reflex 32h
Tires: Continental Tempo II 22mm
Seatpost: Zipp Service Course
Saddle: Fizik Arione
Chain: DID Eco Chain
Handlebar Tape: Serfs Echelon Two-Tone Stitched Bar Tape
Pedals: Dura Ace 9000, 4mm extended axle
I have been riding at Vancouver’s local velodrome for about a year and a half now, initially using a rental bike in the weekly club races that ran throughout the winter on Friday nights. I eventually decided that I needed to get my own track bike, and in late September/early October, I began the search. By late January after looking at a number of options, I began riding the All-City Thunderdome.
I chose this bike for many reasons, but key to my decision was the frame’s dimensions.
Being 6' 3.5", finding bikes is difficult since most fitting guides place me between a 58 and a 61 cm frame. In addition, the jump from 58 to 61 results in a severe reduction in the frames available. Determining the frame size would be the most important decision I had to make. With the rental fleet, I grew very accustomed to riding a 61 cm bike. Early on during my search, I determined that my current flexibility didn’t suit a 58 cm frame. I also appreciated the stability that the larger frame provided me, especially with the speeds and close quarters of the track. Finally, I learned that stiff wheels were a must. Many of the rental bikes I used had the tendency to feel like they were sliding out from underneath me. Some of the experienced riders I described this to believed that this was due to dead tires, some thought it was because a particular frame was too small for me and some believe it was due to flex in the wheels. I believe this sensation was often caused by riding too small a frame, amplified by lower-end wheel-sets.
Working with a bike fitter, I whittled down the personal shortlist for my new track bike. The All-City Thunderdome 61 cm was chosen primarily due to the the fact that it came close to matching my ideal top tube length and headset height.
The fact that the bike was well-built with high end aluminum and looked great certainly helped too! Thus, the process of choosing parts began.
Many of the parts I chose were the result of the advice I received from several experienced track cyclists. This is particularly evident with my wheel and tire choice. The wheelset I decided on were hand-built 32 hole Mavic Reflex rims laced to All City Standard Track hubs. While I would have liked to have the All-City New Sheriff hubs, since they are generally lighter, these hubs are similar in construction; with both hubs using the same bearings. The Mavic Reflex rims were chosen because I was looking for a stiff, reliable tubular rim with a slight retro-edge. Many people use clincher tires at our track, often preferring the advantages, like being able to quickly fix a flat if one were to occur. Several experienced track cyclists I consulted with, however, advised against clinchers since if the tire does puncture, they typically loose tire pressure quite rapidly, often resulting in a crash. With a tubular, you have the potential of being able to save yourself and come off the track as the tire slowly deflates. They may be hard to setup since they require many hours for the glue to cure, but the safety potential combined with the lighter weight made it an easy decision for me. The choice of Continental Tempo tires maximized performance to value.
When it came to the cranks, I was also trying to find the best value for my money. Undoubtedly, I would have loved to have a Rotor crank with Power2Max built in, or a Dura-Ace track crankset. The All-City 612 cranks, however, are plenty stiff and sell at a very reasonable price. The 170 mm length was recommended for me since I am mostly doing endurance/pursuit events as opposed to sprint events in which a shorter length would be better. The idea for getting the black version of the cranks versus the available chrome was taken directly from my teammate Adam’s build, since the black nicely accents the chrome of the frame.
Adam further influenced this bike, as I installed the Dura-Ace pedals he sold me. They were a massive upgrade from the SPD pedals I was using before, since they feel more efficient and offer a more secure hold which is important in track cycling.
For handle bars, I decided to go for the Dimension 31.8 flat top shallow road bar for two simple reasons. First, they were the 40 cm size my fitter recommended. Secondly, they felt very nice in the drops and the flattened out tops is great for recovery laps after a race or hard workout.
The 100 mm BBB UltraForce stem, was recommended by the fitter and finished off the cockpit well.
The Zipp Service Course seat-post was chosen due to its reputation for quality. mention. The red and white accents on the post also matched my team kit as well as the bar tape.
I finished the bike off with a Fizik Arione saddle. I find it to be reasonably comfortable and better yet, it was given to me for free by a generous rider at the velodrome.
Simply put, the bike feels amazing. Some riders of my height may consider the frame-size to be too big, but I feel that it is absolutely perfect for me. The tall headset makes both the drops and the tops feel very comfortable for long periods on the bike; I have no discomfort at all. Many believe that the setup isn’t as aggressive as it should be. I find that I am still able to make many aggressive maneuvers on the track with ease. My favourite aspect of the overall setup is in what I would classify as more of a pursuit or time-trial position, where I am seated at the very front of the saddle and doing an intense, steady-state effort. This position is great because on this bike; I can get into a low, powerful “tucked” position for pursuit efforts where comfort is the last priority. Accelerations and sprints on this bike during races are excellent, and as I spend more time with the bike, my standing start accelerations are getting better as well. This bike is more than stiff enough for hard track efforts.
I am also happy to report that the wheel-set I decided on are as stiff as expected. There is absolutely no flex in these wheels and the tires confidently grab the track.
I only have a couple of issues with this bike. One is with the tires, which do have a couple of quirks. When I first rode the bike at the track, I had the pressure set at about 150 PSI and the tires felt very slippery. In retrospect, this was probably somewhat high for our track which does have imperfections in its wooden surface. After letting some pressure out and allowing for about an hour of time on the track for the tires to remove any waxy coating, they were fine. What I recommend if you plan on using this set of tires is to take some high grit count sandpaper to the tires after gluing them before riding on the track, then no break-in will be needed for ultimate grip. As for ideal tire pressure, that will depend on your track surface, your weight and your general preference.
It is also worth noting that width of the tires is quite narrow at 22 mm. This is still a common size for track tubulars, but they do take some getting used to, especially after riding rental track bikes with 23 mm tires or my road bike at 26 mm. I often notice the narrow tire width when entering the track. With 23 mm tires, I was able to enter with a very shallow angle and not catch the slightly elevated edge of the track where it meets the flat concrete floor. With the 22 mm tires, they catch that edge very easily and have nearly caused what could potentially be the slowest crash in Burnaby velodrome history on a few occasions. The solution is to take a more aggressive angle to enter the track. Not necessarily the worst thing, but it does take some thinking after getting used to using tires that are wider.
The other concern I have is the potential for riding this bike on the road. The Thunderdome only comes with one brake hole drilled on the front fork. Many people believe that is enough, but there are many instances that two would be safer. Also, some places have laws that prohibit bikes from having less than two brakes. Furthermore, the bike is very flashy due to the chrome frame, making it attractive to potential thieves. Finally, the bike features zero fender mounts which is poor for places like Vancouver where rain is common. I don’t intend to ride this bike on the road, but if you are planning on buying this bike for the street, I would highly recommend the All-City Big Block, the other fixed-gear bike in All-City’s lineup, which is a bit more versatile with regard to road-riding and shares the same geometry as the Thunderdome.
Will it help you win?
One word: ABSOLUTELY! This bike has helped me move up a category in racing at the velodrome, one of my season goals. This bike has also assisted me in improving my times at the track for various distances. Also, the psychological edge you get from riding a bike that is designed exactly as you want does wonders for your overall performance.
Break Away: 8/10
Bunch Sprint: 7/10
To conclude, this is my favourite bike right now. It may have been four months in the making, gathering all the required components, but in the end I am extremely pleased with how this bike turned out. I take advantage of every opportunity I get to use the bike. This bike has also introduced me into the All-City brand, and other models are now on my n+1 list!
Most importantly, my takeaway from this is to take time and consider everything carefully when building a bike. Try out as many bikes as you have access to, consult with experts, and visit a fitter if you can afford it. When it comes to track bikes, you will talk to many people that will tell you to size down from your road bike as well as people who tell you to do the exact opposite. That makes it especially difficult since track bikes are harder to actually try in person when compared to demo-riding road or cross bikes. From the small experience I have gained from this, I learned that sizing down was not a good idea for me. It is better to have a bike that fits you comfortably, instead of trying to make yourself fit a bike. Don’t be ashamed for going against the small bike trend; being different makes us all unique.
Ed. Note: I feel like this last sentence is directed at me. Or maybe Jeff. Yeah, it’s probably meant for Jeff.