Pros: Weight, balance, handling, smooth ride
Cons: Stickers and decals come off
I bought my 2002 Vortex last year from Colorado Cyclist. It is the Team Lotto edition.
I've been a cyclist for about 15 years and come from a triathlon background. I've done 3 Ironman triathlons, including Hawaii. I mention this so the reader understands that my experience in cycling is beyond riding bike rallies on the weekend. After riding my Kestrel KM40 for 11 years, I finally decided to ride a standard geometry road bike (non-forward shifted seat tube and long top tube).
Having owned the carbon fiber Kestrel for so long, I was interested in having a frame that was very durable. The Kestrel held up very well, but I did worry about, if only because it just 'feels' like plastic. Some people love to baby their bikes and wipe every spot of grease off after a ride. Not me. I like to ride as hard and fast as I can, come home and forget about it.
I was also interested in a frame with an agressive racing geometry, even though I don't race any longer. My style of riding is very agressive and I wanted a frame to match.
The Vortex is simply the best bike I've ever ridden. It is very light, very responsive and very nimble. This is not in comparison to a triathlon bike, because those bikes aren't meant to handle well. This is in comparison to all bikes. There might be a few specifically designed for hill climbing, but since I don't ride with a support vehicle tagging along, that's not a realistic option.
I now live in Dallas, and do most of my riding to a nearby lake which offers a 10 mile loop, so it's lap after lap... I also do many of the area bike rallies on weekends. The reason I mention this is because the roads in Dallas and the surrounding communities tend to be horrible for cycling. Dallas is a big city, so it's to be expected. The rural areas are moving to a coarse gravel chip seal mixture for new road surfaces. I'm sure this is great for cars, but it's murder on a cyclist. I've been in countless rallies where there's a noticable shriek from nearby riders when a chip seal section is begun. While my Vortex doesn't totally shield the harsh ride, it abasorbs it to the point where I'm not necessarily thinking about it. I can concentrate on riding hard; I'm not getting frustrated like everyone else. I usually drop most nearby riders when this happens. The main result is that I'm riding a little slower overall because of the rough surface, but I'm much more comfortable and faster than others. But, a soft ride can be achieved by my Grandma's three speed. The nirvana of cycling is the bike where road shock is severely dampened and the bike still reacts lightning quick from the pedal strokes. This bike is the best example I've experienced in that search for nirvana.
I got a 'good-deal' on this for $4000. That's a hefty price for a bike of any sort. But, I'll also mention that price wasn't necessarily a deciding factor. There are many bikes costing much more that I could have chosen. My point is that this bike was the best I could find, so I bought it. I know that not everyone can drop 4 grand on a bike, but for the amount of time I spend riding it, I feel like it's money well spent. In my opinion, it would be silly to spend 1500 less and get a ride that always irritated me. If I lived in an area with high quality roads, perhaps I would get a steel frame and save some dough. But I'd miss the indestructable feel of titanium.