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Road Cycling: What Matters, What Doesn’t and What is just plain Sexy

July 2017

What is important in cycling, and what isn’t, to your average road cyclist….

This game is pretty simple and easy, as it pertains to your average (even above average, technicslly) road cyclist. For example, skin suits don’t matter. You’re not fast enough to need a skin suit if you have to pay for your cycling clothing. Not only that, if you don’t have the physique of a pro cyclist, chances are you’ll look a little gnarly in one. A lot can be overlooked in cycling clothing.  It’s tight-fitting, it is what it is.  Not so with skin suits.  Sorry.

See? Simple.

Shaved legs matter. Shaving the guns saves a lot of time – they’re big-time aerodynamic when shaved down (No, seriously, science says so). They look better too. You won’t realize how off a Yeti looks in a pace line till you see one. Then you’ll be like, “Ohhhhhhh-h”.  Shave the guns.  Treat them well.

Shiny, baby!

The bike…. doesn’t matter. At least to an extent. Steel frame, aluminum, titanium, bamboo, wood, graphene, or good old-fashioned carbon fiber. If you like it and it feels good to you, you’ll probably be able to make it go fast.

Doesn’t matter, I’m just as fast on either bike, though speed is more comfortable on the fourteen years newer Specialized.  Oh, and there’s a four pound difference between the two.  Four pounds.  And I’m just as fast in a group.  I just can’t pull as long up front…. and yes, I can feel the four extra pounds on the bike.

Components matter.  Seriously, especially if you’re trying to keep up with a group.  Modern integrated shifters are a must, Shimano 105, Campy Record (maybe Chorus), or SRAM Rival at a minimum.  9, 10 or 11 speed.  Etcetera.  You will not be just as fast with old down tube shifters.  Don’t kid yourself.

The helmet doesn’t matter… as much as one’s diet.  A $300 aero helmet won’t fix a decidedly un-aero body.  Push yourself away from the table, eat less and pedal harder.  After that, the helmet really does matter.  Also, don’t bother with a ventless aero helmet unless you’re competing in a time trial.  In a group, they’re silly.  Go for something a little less suffer-inducing.

Wheels matter.  Wheels don’t have to be carbon fiber to be good.  It helps, but isn’t required.  A good set of aluminum wheels will go a long way to helping you be fast.  Those carbon fiber aero wheels only start to shine above 25 mph.  You don’t have to push quite as hard to maintain your speed.  Look for good hubs and good bearings first, then worry about carbon fiber if you still have money to burn.

Your ego doesn’t matter.  Check it at the start line and enjoy being a part of the group.  Or don’t, and wonder why you never get invited to unpublished group rides.  Also, just as a side note, don’t blow the group up to show everyone how fast you are.  If you find yourself off the front, go to the back and get a handle on the pace.  Once you know the place you can pull again.

The saddle matters.  Fizik has an app for that.  Seriously.  I’m between a snake and a chameleon, though I ride a bull saddle on the Venge.  Go figure.  Specialized has a special fitting process, it’s very nice, if obtrusive….  You’re going to spend an @$$-ton of time on your saddle so make sure you have one that agrees with your heinie for each bike.  ALL SADDLES ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL.

The shoes don’t matter.  Comfort over carbon fiber.  Comfort matters.  Carbon and real leather are a bonus.  Don’t sweat it if you can’t afford $400 for cycling shoes.  Want to trumps carbon fiber soles.

The number one thing that matters….  The number one thing that matters is want to.  Peter Sagan is the best cyclist since Lance Armstrong (and arguably A LOT better because Sagan is clean) because he has the most “want to”.  I am as fast as I am because I push to the edge of my “want to”.  I could be faster, but I don’t want to.  Embrace, then wrestle to the ground, your want to.

Be a friendly, good representative of the sport…  That’s sexy.  We are quite often the object of scorn on the road.  Represent the sport well.  Being a good ambassador now could save someone else’s life later.  If you’re confronted with an ugly motorist, be a Penguin of Madagascar:  “Smile and wave, boys.  Smile and wave.”

Look good, feel good, ride good.  That’s sexy too.  Not proper grammar, but it works.  You don’t have to be a supermodel to look good on a bike.  It helps, but definitely is not a requirement.  Dressing the part will go a long way, no matter your body style/type.  Remember, don’t feel self-conscious if you’re not perfect yet.  You’re out there doing what needs to be done to get that body in shape.  That’s what really matters.  Always.  If you don’t look, feel, or ride good, fake it till you make it.  

Ride hard my friends.


  1. Dan says:

    Not shaving my legs, no matter how much faster I “may” be. Of course that indicates that I’m fast to begin with!😂. The only part of your deal here I struggle with is the smile and wave approach. Working on it be because it is better ambassadorship.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Dan, everyone gets a pass at the leg shaving, especially senior citizens…. 😆 As far as getting angry, it took a few incidents where the motorist was trying to be nice and I flew off the handle for me to change my attitude. I once even flipped off an old lady… That was the one that tipped the scale. Keep working at it, and look at it this way: A motorist is being ugly to get a reaction from a cyclist. What he wants to see is an angry or scared guy on a bike. Don’t give him what he wants. Smile and wave. He thinks you thought he was being NICE. Kick that around a second, that’ll fry his bacon.

  2. Love this post! 🙂

    I was once taking to a guy in the bike shop who was “trying to get his Cervelo to below the UCI weight limit” before he flew out to France later that year. It’s a fine thing to aim for of course even if it is just an arbitrary number, but I couldn’t help but notice the extra UCI weight limit (or two) around his midsection…

  3. getwifed says:

    I love, love LOVE this!!! I’ve recently stared to dabble in road cycling after doing my first triathlon on a mountain bike two years ago. I’ve always been a mountain biker but super serious roadies have kept me from finding a tribe to ride my road bike with. I find real roadies very intimidating and I agree with every point you make here. Mostly though I agree with your overall tone. Its refreshing to read and makes me wish a little I had you to show me the ropes. I still don’t quite get why having fun isn’t reason enough for most roadies. Thank you!

    • bgddyjim says:

      First, I guarantee you, I am a real, too legit to quit roadie – there are plenty of us out there. Don’t worry, I know you didn’t mean it that way.

      The ultra-serious roadie isn’t too hard to explain either. They act aloof, but it’s often mostly just an act. It’s self-preservation. We ride, most of us, very fast. We travel 40 feet in one second and with less than a foot between our wheels (to get a draft). This environment isn’t conducive to noobs. One little mistake can put a few people in the hospital.

      I ride in the B group, a 21-22 mph average on club ride night. We rarely have crashes. The A guys average 24-25 and have had four or five crashes so far this year.

      The trick is finding the right group to get into. Check with local clubs and bike shops. Tell them you want to get into road cycling but want the step under the racers, you want the good time weekend road trippers.

      They’ll likely be able to put you with the right people.

      • getwifed says:

        I want to do a girls ride every once and a while with my yoga teacher’s group (she owns an international cycling holiday company too) but it’s hard to find the time. I’ll look into it at the shop that caters to roadies here, but I might ask for the C- team but I just converted it out I am doing about 22mph, my bike isn’t very sweet though.

      • bgddyjim says:

        22 is awesome! If you can hold that the C group might be a little boring. Give it a try though! It can’t hurt!

      • getwifed says:

        You roadies laugh at us but… forcing those heavy hunks of metal through the woods gives you wicked powerful legs.

      • bgddyjim says:

        Oh, I have one of those too…. I don’t fit the stereotype either.

    • bgddyjim says:

      Oh, and THANK YOU! I’m glad you liked my post. 😎

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