Sometimes when I am by myself on a long and winding ride I’ll pull my phone out to take a picture of the scenery which can be of a sunrise, an interesting feature of the landscape, or just a gratuitous picture of my bike. Lets be honest, it is usually just of my bike. Although, recently I’ve taken to keep those moments to myself by soaking them in and keeping my camera app sheathed in my pocket. The number of morning rides that have flooded my Instagram feed have been great and by now I think that everyone knows I like to wake up and ride with the early birds.
Since I am no authority on how people choose to internalize their personal experiences or even how they choose to share them I still recommend that every once in a while you keep the phone in your pocket and take a moment to yourself. In this moment you should take some time whether you are still riding or have stopped for a quick bite to see how you got to this point and all the work it took to get there. I find it inspiring to have these sorts of personal experiences. The world is a great big place and if you give it a chance it can make you feel like a part of it despite how small it can make you feel.
I got some feedback about this particular Cyclist Thing so I thought I would elaborate. Among the many classifications, sects, and disciplines of cycling there are two groups that can overlap them all: Those who race and those who don’t. There are benefits and disadvantages for each depending on your skill sets and level of fitness.
And up until a few years ago, those non-racing cyclists who were still competitive had to venture out of their own comfort zones and find group rides or organize their own to test their skills with the locals. During this time the cyclists who weren’t able to make the group ride because of work or scheduling were shit-out-of-luck. All they could do was ride in their own time, sparingly make time for group rides, and base their progress on how they felt that day.
Actually… now that I think about it that sounds kind of nice. In today’s data filled it seems like no one rides just to get out on the bike. Riddled and clouded with segments, wattage, KOMs, and training zones, cycling has become something akin to an outdoor statistics class. Clip in, record data, keep cadence at this number, don’t dip below a certain wattage, stay away from this HR zone, clip out. For those of us who don’t have the funds or desire to race this can be a good way to keep motivated.
Strava is a great tool for someone who likes the technological/data filled side of cycling. What it does for many cyclists is make the competitive nature available to those who do not get it from the weekend criterium or occasional stage race. Facilitating competition for the solo rider. The weekend racers and pros who are competing don’t really have a need to compare their segment times because they are already comparing their overall place, ITT, and GC times with the others in the race.
It could or should have been said as “Strava was designed for those who don’t race”. Constructed in order to build a sense of community in local cycling by supporting the healthy competitive nature in all of us. More importantly, it promotes appreciation of the time and effort that others put into the common interest of cycling.
Call it passion or a calling but I really think that something as simple as riding a bike allows us to take something complicated like our lives and organize it into something that we can understand and process. Maybe it has something to do with the sound of your own breath and heart pounding at your ribcage that can quiet the rest of life’s distractions. When we are on the road or on the trail it seems like such an easy thing to explain because sometimes it just makes sense. The use of cycling as a catalyst for our lives is prevalent but ambiguous. Prevalent in the fact that we can see the impact that it has made on our lives physically, mentally, and even spiritually. Ambiguous in that no one is going to have the same reasons for going through the routine
When you try explaining it to a fellow rider and you might get a completely different answer. You might like long and slow rides that allow you take in the sights and sounds of the community whereas they might like to drown out the rest of the world with the pounding of pedals and the dampened sounds of their labored breathing that rings in their ears. It isn’t because either one of you are wrong, it just means that it means something different to that rider. Though if you try explaining to someone who has never been active or has not been active in a very long time and it seems like all you get in response is, “You’re crazy” “Why would you want to ride a bike for that long?!” “Don’t you get bored when you’re riding?” For most of us I don’t think that those sorts of questions cross our minds. Mainly because we learned to love the challenge that is presented with every ride.
Though, of course, not everyone starts out this way. At first, the idea of climbing a cat 3 climb, let alone a HC climb, doesn’t sound all that great. Thinking about the mountain’s relentless grade that wants to pull you back down with every pedal stroke towards the top can be discouraging for most but after some time is put into the saddle something changes. Suddenly you find yourself adding that extra few miles to hit a climb or turning back downhill just to hit a section of the climb that you particularly enjoy. That moment shift in mentality marks the beginning. The beginning of a time when you actively want to go out and ride these taxing rides that most people wouldn’t dream of. Once you realize that the hill isn’t in the way of your destination but the way you want to go, then you might progress from an average rider to one that will make your cycling buddies groan because you’re taking them up ANOTHER climb.
To be a successful athlete at any level or any sport you have to have a plan. Whether this plan is very detailed or merely a guideline doesn’t necessarily determine the type of cyclist you are or may become. The fact that you are taking the time to plan out and follow a plan shows more dedication and discipline than the average weekend warrior. Despite the fact that having a training plan indicates dedication many people tend to take it a few steps beyond what is necessary. You know those riders. The ones who lay the hammer down every single ride, take a pull for 30 seconds and drop back onto your wheel, never take an easy day, and wonder why their training isn’t progressing.
It seems that much of the general population who take up cycling have never exercised this way or on this kind of level. If you’re an established rider you should know that you don’t have to ride hard all the time but if you’re “newly fast” or “newly fit” you think that you have to show off your skills every time you’re in the saddle. So when they hear phrases like “Pain is weakness leaving the body” they think that they should be pushing hard the entire time. Not the case. Proper rest is just as important as a hard workout and if you’re fast enough you should be confident enough to ride slow too. Every ride should have a purpose. I know it’s hard but you should stick to your own pace even when you get passed on the trail. Follow your plan.
New bike day is a big day for anyone who is upgrading from an entry level bike. It is a right of passage, if you will, into a world where all of the time and hard work you have put in eventually manifests itself into the one thing you have been dreaming about. Unadulterated SPEED. However, you have to wonder if it is you or the bike that is making all of these gains. If you’re on the roads enough you’ll find slow people on “fast” bikes, fast people on “slow” bikes, and everything in between. It brings on the big question of whether it is or is not ALL ABOUT THE BIKE.
So which is it? Lets look at the two extremes for slow people on slow bikes, fast people on slow bikes and the improvements that may be seen. In layman’s terms, it can be said for sure that a slow person on a slow bike will not be able to ride fast when compared to racing level cyclists. Though their efficiency and overall speed may certainly increase if they are given a better bike. Especially when the technology that they end up using is greatly advanced simple math will show that greater efficiency and power transfer will result in greater performance. Even though that performance may not quite be on the level of others. When a strong rider on a heavy, inefficient, “slow” bike works hard on that entry level bike and can keep up with the rest of the pack, I believe that shows potential for even greater gains with an upgrade.
Obviously this is not a scientific review. I think that, for the most part, when people make great leaps and bounds in equipment that it spurs on the potential for great improvement. However, when it gets to the point to trying to shave a few grams off of your overall weight to increase performance I think that the solution is not in the components but in the effectiveness of training. So in the end it is and is not about the bike. It just depends on where you are in your training… or if you have a really shitty bike…
Nathan O’Neill in the tunnel on a Tarmac SL2 with clip-ons and a road helmet
© Jeff Jones/BikeRadar.com
This is a really fantastic article from BikeRadar.com that was published late last month. If you like to see a break down of the affect of aerodynamic equipment on overall power output then it is something that you will enjoy. As a summary, they test and compare a standard road bike set up with clip-on bars and a road helmet to a full aero TT bike with an aero helmet. With these changes the rider, wheelset, and tires all stay the same. The end results of wattage saved is both astonishing but also expected.
For the full article, click here!
If you don’t already know what I ride I’ll tell you. Be warned that it isn’t the best looking rig but it is my baby. I ride a 2007 Specialized Allez that weighs in at 22.05; it’s a tank and is pretty much bomb proof. I put in a lot of miles on this rig while dragging it over great distances, grinding up long climbs, and hauling it up to speed. Needless to say I have definitely got the most out of this entry level bike so it is time to slowly upgrade to the next level. So far all I’ve got is new pedals and shoes which have already made a huge difference in feel.
The overall difference in weight was quite minimal but large considering the only thing changed out was the pedals. The bike weight before was 22.05lbs and 21.15lbs which comes out to a 14.4oz(408.2g) difference. On top of that, the weight difference in shoes was about 4oz/shoe(226g overall) and a stiffer sole. It was a small upgrade but I already feel the difference since I don’t have power leaking out of these stiff sole shoes.
Pedals: Look Keo Carbon
Shoes: Specialized Expert road shoes
One can only wait for the bike to come in. I’m upgrading to a 2012 Tarmac SL3 Expert which will be an absolute dream to ride in comparison to the Allez.