I love my new bike because it is very light, very comfy and very cool.
Logically I know that it is a lot cheaper for me to lose 6 pounds than for my bike to lose 6 pounds but we all know what tiny role logic plays in weight loss. What’s most amazing is that I can really feel the six-pound difference between my old bike and my new bike. I now soar up hills with or without bear motivation.
I quickly discovered when looking for a new bike that there is a hierarchy, just as there is a component hierarchy, in bike frame materials. The list below is from least to most expensive:
The cost of these frames materials has a lot to do with their weight.
Steel bikes are strong, cheap and heavy. I grew riding a red 10-speed steel Schwinn Varsity. This bike took a pounding.
In my neighborhood we had a bit of a 12-year-old bike posse and we would cruise the neighborhood on our blinged-out Schwinns. By bling I mean big red flags on the back and baseball cards in the front wheels. We slammed the bikes over curbs, through homemade dirt mounds, in and around back alley obstacle courses. When our folks called us home for dinner we dropped the bikes and headed home sometimes forgetting the bike outside overnight.
The Schwinn was very comfortable to ride as the steel frame soaked up the biggest bumps with a conformable ease. The bike was tough and took it all through the years.
My last bike was an Aluminum Trek 2100. Aluminum bikes are strong, a bit lighter than steel and very stiff. It was also red and I bought it because it was on sale. However I never really became friends with the bike like I did with my first Schwinn. The problem was that the bike was just too big and too long. I always felt like I was riding a massive bull trying to clinging to the horns as it bucked and bounced.
A very big and stiff aluminum bull. The disadvantage of aluminum is that it is incredibly stiff and tends to beat you up on long rides. I suppose that also depends on your definition of a long ride. I simply define a long ride as any ride that gives you baboon butt.
To try to relieve baboon butt on the Trek I moved the seat way up. I bought a split seat. I bought a shorter stem. I bought the thickest biking shorts I could find with what Pearl Izumi assured me was the latest in Astronaut inspired materials technology. Why astronauts would get get baboon butt is still a mystery to me. None of this worked. It just made the bike twitchy and scary in corners. In the end I got used to it but it never really felt right. I just really wanted to feel comfortable.
It was this simple realization on the long ride home from the Cervelo store that dawned on me like a ton of steel bricks.
Lesson # 4: Purchase a bike that fits well, is light and comfortable, and NOT because it ends with an “O”
I’ll be doing my first Ironman in three weeks. I realized that I would not be breaking any speed or time records on the bike, so what’s the real advantage of a race-ready tri bike? Not much if my goal is to simply finish strong.
This thought is incredibly freeing as it opened up the entire world of rode bikes for me. I was no longer craving the perfect tri bike. I just wanted the perfect bike fit.
It also meant that I could afford a better bike frame since I was no longer paying a premium for a tri bike. Carbon fiver was now on the menu.
Carbon fiber, one of the newest bike frame technologies, has the best advantages of steel (comfort) and aluminum (strength) without the downside of heavy weight (steel) and inflexible stiffness (aluminum). Plus my new black bike is sleek with a really cool organic shape that is only possible with carbon fiber.
It also has the added benefit of the new Ultegra 10 speed components. For the longest time I thought that the number of gears on a bike was just a pure marketing ploy by the manufacturer. In other words, the lowest and highest gears never real changed. Instead Shimano only increased the number of gear choices or intervals between the gears. I taught, do I really need thirty choices versus “just” 27.
It turns out I was wrong. My new bike actually has a higher high gear and a lower low gear. This means I can go faster before I run out of gears and climb steeper in a smaller granny gear.
Riding my new bike for the first time on a long ride (century) was an eye popping realization like the old drunk joke:
A drunk was proudly showing off his new apartment to a couple of his friends late one night.
When they made it to the bedroom, they saw a big brass gong next to the bed.
"What's a big brass gong doing in your bedroom?" one of the guests asked.
"It's not a gong. It's a talking clock," the drunk replied.
"A talking clock? Seriously?" asked his astonished friend.
"Yup," replied the drunk.
"How's it work?" the friend asked, squinting at it.
"Watch," the drunk replied. He picked up the mallet, gave it an ear-shattering pound, and stepped back. The three stood looking at one another for a moment.
Suddenly, someone on the other side of the wall screamed, "You idiot, it's three o'clock in the morning!"
It was kinda like that for me: You idiot, the new technology really is better!
Lesson #5 Buy the most technology you can afford since it is a lot harder for you to lose weight than your bike.