It was “freezing” colder last night than it was Monday. 32 degrees (F) colder. Add to that a 20 mph breeze and it was a bike ride. Still, as these things go, it sure beat spending that time at the office, no? Of course it does, even if it was only 52 degrees and falling at the 6 pm start.
We had a small group, maybe fifteen guys, and start heading west with a NW to WNW wind, and I picked the left side. This can a source of contention among cyclists when we’re talking about slower cyclists (me) riding with faster groups… We only traveled west for a mile and a half before making a right hand turn which meant I was in the crosswind. Those in the right lane were vastly more protected. My reasoning behind this is that I’d rather work hard in the first eight miles than I would in the second eight when we head southwest… and that worked perfectly last night. I took all but one of my turns at the front, one of which was way too long, but once we hit that sharp left turn to head southwest, I was in the perfect position: Protected front and to the side from the wind.
I was the last of the B riders to fall off the back, when they took the pace up to 29 mph after a Cat 3 racer opened up a gap with a cross-tailwind so the pace got hectic to catch him. I hung on as long as I could, but I was pretty cooked. When I looked back to see who I’d be riding in with, there was nobody as far back as I could see so I concentrated on a guy who’d fallen off about a half-mile up the road… I set to reeling him in but even with the tailwind it was brutal tough work. It took at least 3-1/2 miles, at speeds ranging from 23 to 26 mph, for me to finally catch him but we made pretty good time trading spots up front every mile or so. We met up, shortly thereafter, with another whose partner had split off at an intersection just thirty seconds earlier that we’d been steady reeling in over the last four miles. “Great, reinforcements.” he said as Mike and I took the lead. Even with the tailwind, I was starting to wear pretty thin. My turns up front started to get shorter and I was losing focus. That’s when I realized that my buddy, Mike was somewhere “back there”… It’s a rare day that I can beat him, unless it’s up a hill or in a sprint and I had him on the ropes.
In one fell swoop, my attitude changed and I took a longer turn up front, trying to put some more distance between us. I used a small downhill to ramp the speed up to 28 mph and was feeling pretty fair, right up until I wasn’t. At the crest of a hill, I flicked and pulled to the side to latch back on and just didn’t have the legs or the will to keep it up. Mike and Chuck caught me shortly thereafter, followed by Phill. I wouldn’t say we took it easy, by any stretch. We still held it between 21 & 24, but with four guys to split the load, I was in much better shape.
We finished the evening with a 20.5 mph average which was about a mile an hour below normal, but considering the harsh wind, the cold and the fact that we hammered out a pretty good 80 just two days earlier, I was quite happy with how things turned out. I actually did a lot better than I thought I would when we started. The real test is going to be the rest of the week… I’ve got an easy 16 this evening, maybe 20 tomorrow, Friday off followed by 105 on Saturday and somewhere between 40 and 70 on Sunday. It’s going to be a big week.
“Hey, honey, it feels like I have a vibration when I use my front brake, can you take it for a spin and confirm I’m not crazy?”
And so it begins.
The number one rule for buying a bike: Don’t ride anything better than what you can afford to buy. Ever. Well, my little tale of woe came about a little differently, I wasn’t shopping for a bike, I was taking my wife’s Alias for a test spin to look into a pulsation in the brakes (almost always a wobble in the wheel as it was in this case)…
Folks, I’ve written more than a few posts in which I go into great detail about just how comfortable my Venge is. I’ve described it as the perfect blend of stiffness and comfort. I had a great bike to base my opinion on as well… My 5200 is way stiffer than my Venge.
Then I rode my wife’s Alias for the first time the other day. Same 10r carbon fiber, components, wheels, darn near the same bike, but the Alias is a ton more forgiving. My word, I was on a crappy chip-seal road and that bike made it feel like glass. My whole body was saying, “Dude, you need to be riding something like this.”
So here I am, trying feverishly to remove any thought of riding that bike from memory. Trying not to think about how plush that ride was… Dammit.
While I will not change my posts, especially my two reviews of my Venge, compared to my wife’s Alias, it’s pretty stiff. I’m going to try to get by on the fact that I always made sure to qualify the ride characteristics with “for a race bike”. “It’s not too stiff, for a race bike”, etc.
This is why I’ve always stuck by the rule: Never ride what you can’t afford. Cycling is far more enjoyable when I don’t know what I’m missing.