A Versus B

It hit me from the first pedal stroke. It was further confirmed in the first corner. The first surge sealed the deal. One trip around the block and I was sold.
 
The new-to-me 2009 Trek Madone 6.9 Pro is a better race-day ride than my 2008 Trek Madone 5.2 Pro.
 
It isn't the carbon lay-up. The two frames ride almost identically (by design), with the 6.9 being a whopping 210g lighter. My farts weigh more than that. Alberto Contador won his first Tour and Giro on the 5.2 Pro, so there's nothing wrong with that frame/fork combo.
 
It isn't the geometry. Both are Pro/H1 models, set up as close as I could get them. Same cockpit and saddle.
 
It isn't the groupset. The 5.2 is built up with SRAM Force and the 6.9 is built up with SRAM Red, and I'm not a good enough rider to notice a performance difference. The 6.9 has a Quarq RIKEN and the 5.2 has a Quarq S975, and again, I can't tell a difference.
 
It isn't the wheelset, as I swapped the wheels from the 5.2 over to get a proper comparison.
 
As far as I'm concerned, on those points they're essentially the same bike, and I couldn't be happier about that- especially since I didn't pay retail for either one. If I spent the $4000 extra for the 6.9 (over the 5.2) that Trek originally charged, I might have been a little more disappointed. As it stands, I can fit both completely-built bikes in that $4000 range and still have money left over for spare parts. There's something to be said for not having the latest and greatest, especially when real, practical advances in frame technology have slowed to a trickle over the last eight years. If anything, I prefer the older models that don't route everything through the frame and thus require extra time and effort to build up/maintain. An exposed derailleur cable is not going to be the difference in winning and losing for me.
 
So why would the 6.9 make a better race-day bike, based on my extensive and exhaustive lap around the block?
 
It's cleaner.
 
It doesn't creak or rattle as much. The parts, a mixed bag of new and old, aren't coated with dirt and grime. The derailleurs are adjusted properly- or as close as I can manage with my sub-standard wrenching skills.
 
Cleaner is better.
 
While I have washed the 5.2 (on rare, special occasions) and generally tried to keep up with the maintenance, I haven't torn it down in a while. This was intentional, done out of fear and superstition. It worked from the first day I rolled it out of the garage, glistening in the sun like the 6.9 does now. Messing with it too much might kill the magic. I think the magic has faded to the point I might want to freshen it up a tad. Now that I have a bike that should work on race day, I can take that chance. I just have to find a few hours of free time.
 
Cleaner is better.

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