My friend and cycling brother from another mother wrote a post about some of his desires as they relate to cycling. One was to get a little faster.
I can relate to that line of thought. I shared it for several years. After all, it doesn’t get easier, we just get faster, right?
It’s been my experience that the theory has its limits. While there is no question one can always learn to push a little harder on the pedals, I’ve found a happy balance between speed and fun is more important.
In my case, there are a lot of factors that go into “fast”, including whether or not I want to ride with my wife regularly, and I do – more than anything:
- If I’m too fast for my wife, neither of us is happy – I’m riding too fast and she feels like I’m trying to hammer her into the ground, and I feel like she’s riding too slow and dogging it. Nothing good comes from that scenario.
- If I’m too fast for the group I ride with, and I’m close enough already, I end up hammering them into the ground while we’re supposed to be out on a fun ride – and nobody likes that guy. I should know, I’ve been hammered into the ground by enough of them.
- I like the guys in the A Group, and riding with them is great but I’m happiest with my friends in the B Group.
- Finally, and most important, dude, how bad do I want to hurt whilst I’m supposed to be having fun?
That last one is really what all of this comes down to. I’m not getting any younger and there’s a level of discomfort to riding north of a 23-mph average that I’m not too excited to sign up for. I know I’d get used to it before long, but in the meantime, it’s just not all that appealing.
I love being one of the strong guys in our group. I like being a guy my friends and wife can rely on to take a long turn into the wind so the group can rest up, or the guy who, in a pace line, rides a little out in a crosswind so those behind me get more shelter than if I’d lined up properly in the echelon…
In the end, if I get much faster, I’ll have to jump groups and that would likely mean a change I’m not willing to accept. At least not right now.
Cycling, for the avid enthusiast, isn’t always about getting faster – or at least it doesn’t have to be. Nowadays, what’s most important is the smile on my face when it’s all done. I find more appeal in looking back and thinking about how much fun I had than how fast I rode. This wasn’t always so, but that’s how it is now.
There will always be someone who’s faster. How much as I enjoy the entire experience of cycling is just a little more important than how hard I can push on a couple of pedals.
I picked up my Ican 38mm clinchers at the beginning of September and rode them most of that month and a few times this month – when the weather gets cold and the toe covers/over-shoes come out, that bike takes its place in the bike room in the house. I’ve got 1,100 miles and change in September and 600 so far for October, so I’m pretty sure I passed 1,000 miles on them somewhere. The importance isn’t the exact mileage, though, as they’re the same today as the day I took them out of the box… Rock solid, fairly true, fast, and smooth. On the fairly true part, well, they came out of the box with a minor wobble in the rear wheel – less than a millimeter and it just wasn’t a big enough deal to mess with. Most people wouldn’t even notice it, I’m just that picky.
Shod with Michelin Pro 4 Service Course 25mm tires (which were an absolute bear to get on the rims – but that has more to do with the tires than the wheels – Specialized Turbo Pro tires are much easier to work with), the wheels are smooth as glass, and we’ve got some pretty rough roads we ride on. It used to be my Trek 5200 was a just a touch more comfortable than the stiff Venge with the rail for a saddle but that’s not the case anymore. With the Ican wheels on there, I have a hard time reaching for the Trek. The ride is exceptional.
With that, 1,000 miles in, I don’t have a bad thing to say about the Ican 38mm carbon fiber wheels. At $400 they’re a steal.
As a final note, I had a conversation with one of the mechanics at the local bike shop about the wheels, specifically the less expensive Chinese carbon fiber wheels. It was his opinion that if the company that makes them (Ican, Superteam, etc.) is willing to put their name on the wheels, they’re pretty solid. It’s when you get into the off-brand wheels that he sees trouble. As far as Ican goes, I feel like I got away with something every time I ride my bike. They’re that good.
Check them out here: Ican
My buddy, Chuck and I had a play date scheduled for last evening – I think that’s what the millenials call “hanging out together”, nowadays. It was a beautiful day, low 50’s, a little breezy, and impossibly sunny.
Simply a great autumn day.
Nine times in ten we’d be on the road bikes, but after riding the gravel rigs the day before, I had a hankerin’ for the peace and quiet of the back roads again. I texted Chuck and suggested we ride them again, instead of the road bikes. He replied that he was cool with either, as long as we took it slow. I was more than pleased to oblige.
I rode over to his place at about 5pm and we rolled out for the back roads. Three miles and we were on gravel, dodging potholes.
We saw three cars in 20 miles, rode side-by-side and talked most of the hour and change we were out. According to Strava we rolled at 15.5-mph, but it was closer to 16 by my computer. Either way, it was an easy conversational pace. I wasn’t ever at a point where I was struggling to talk. It was a great time.
I love my carbon fiber and speed all season long, from March through September. I live for the speed of paved road cycling… Can’t get enough. When October rolls around, though, it sure is nice to hit the gravel roads and quit worrying about traffic and pace for a while, and just ride.
I wrote a post yesterday about a new study that showed not only that a sedentary life is worse for the health than smoking, but that ultra-exercisers don’t face a higher risk of death. A comment came in from a blog friend of mine:
A cardiologist at work ascribes to a theory that we all have a predetermined number of heart beats over our life time. Ergo exercising will speed our demise! I think that I will speed mine up by enjoying exercising some more…
I’ve done the math on this before, so I jumped on that right away – see, the common misperception is that, because one exercises, one blows a lot of extra heart beats elevating the heart rate during exercise. While this is partially true, what it doesn’t account for is how many beats one saves by being fit. My resting heart rate, should I lead a sedentary life, would be around 70 beats per minute. However, because I’m fit as an ox, it’s 42 beats per minute… Here’s my response:
You figure an hour a day you’re riding, right? Then three a day on Saturday and Sunday. That’s 11 hours a week you’ve got an elevated heart rate, right?
There are 168 hours in a week. Because I’m ultra-fit, my resting heart rate is 42 bpm. Average for someone who isn’t is 70… a difference of 28 bpm. Each and every minute of each and every day.
Long story, short, you save something like ten million beats a year being fit.
Exercising, I’m at 26,000,000 beats a year…
Sedentary I’m at 36,800,000 beats a year…
There are other factors involved, of course. But that’s a fair ballpark right there.
Now, that was my response. I didn’t get into those “factors” because I was replying to a comment, no need to get into too lengthy in the response, but turning that into a post, we can define some of those factors.
Most important, I’m not always at my resting heart rate throughout the day. I’m walking, on the phone, in stressful situations, walking up stairs (because I don’t take the elevator), etc.. On the other hand, one would assume that a sedentary person would have the same day, or close to it, at least, so their heart rate would rise above their 70 bmp mark as well. The point is, without getting too deep into the woods, we could fairly assume apples to apples and just go with the resting heart rate as a baseline. In fact, if we really want to get into it, we could assume that the person with the sedentary life would be more adversely affected by stressors and their heart rate would rise higher than a fit person’s when taking the stairs or dealing with stress. At least this makes sense to me.
To get into the numbers I used for the math, I figured I average almost 19-mph a mile throughout the week. My fast days are a lot faster than that, but my slow days are a lot slower, so I figured an average of 160 bpm for my elevated heart rate. I think I figured high. So that’s 11 hours a week at that 160 bpm, then another 157 hours at 42. Multiply by 52 weeks.
For the sedentary fella, just figure a straight 70 bpm across the board for 365 days.
So, is it fair to say a fit person will save roughly 10,000,000 beats a year? As I said in my response, I think it’s a fair benchmark – but even if it’s only half that, I’d rather be fit if we’re living on a set number of heartbeats in a lifetime. I don’t think there’s any question, I get more years out of less beats as a fit fella.
Time recently featured an article about an enormous new study that shows currently smoking isn’t as bad for the health as leading a sedentary lifestyle. That surprised even me.
That’s not the good part, though. It gets better. Here’s my favorite part:
The study also took a look at the risk of being overactive and found that “ultra” exercisers do not face higher risk of death: the research consistently found that the more a person exercises the lower their mortality rates.
Somebody pick my jaw up off the floor. Somebody smack my ass and call me… well, maybe we needn’t go that far, here. The point is, how many times have we been told over the last couple of decades that too much of a good thing is bad?
As I go, I’m not one who must be fretted about cycling “too much”. I ride a lot, but I need balance. Too much cycling and my conscience will eventually catch up. Better to keep the good balance I have than have to cut back or worse, quit, later on. For those with a family, an exercise addiction is almost as tough to forgive as drug or alcohol addiction – the only thing missing is the legal trouble. Please, just keep that in mind. Coming to the conclusion that you are or have been a f*** up is a rather bitter pill to swallow.
So, back to the fun stuff! This is good news, indeed!
Ride hard, my friends… because we can (and let’s face it, we were always going to anyway).
The temp was a balmy 43° (6 C) as I was readying the Venge for a wonderful, sunny, Saturday morning ride. It had rained the night before, but the weather report was for sunshine and happy times.
I was going to ride the Trek, but I figured one more ride on the Venge – just in case I don’t get another opportunity this year. 43 isn’t too cold for the good bike…
I walked out the door with a couple of minutes to spare to damp pavement. The sun was already out, though, so I figured it’d be a matter if minutes before it dried up, so rather than head back in and air up the Trek, I decided to roll with the chick that brung me (that’s a riff on an old Arnold Palmer quote).
The first five miles were spent dodging the rare rooster tail that popped up when someone rolled through a wetter chunk of the lane. Same with the next five. And the five after that. Hey, guess what the next five were like?
Nope, not the next five. For those, we had to dodge mud clumps left by farm tractors hopping from field to field… as well as rooster tails. Woohoo!
The ride in the sun sure was nice, though. The last sixteen were almost all tailwind and fun. It was too bad about my gnarly race bike, but whatever… it was already a mess. Nothing could be done about it, so I just rolled on with a smile on my face.
I’d failed to miss a lot of that aforementioned mud, though. The down tube and bottom bracket area were coated. It wasn’t all that big a deal in the end. Cleaning the bike up simply took some time.
A bit muddy, yes, but it was a wonderful morning on the bike. Today will hold a different story. The real cold hit last night – a month early.
The initial question that must be answered when considering whether or not to modernize a classic road bike is, “Do I want to alter the bike from what was originally intended?” With my Trek, I struggled with that question mightily… for about five minutes. For others, especially when it comes to older bikes, that Q & A might not be so easy.
I bought the 5200 used in January of 2012 because that was about all I could afford and the first road bike I bought was entirely wrong. Too small, down tube shifters, and old-timer heavy wheels. Over time I took the Trek from a nine speed triple (27 gears) to a ten speed compact double (20 gears) that I’m absolutely pleased with. I like the bike a lot more now than I did when it was a triple, and the reason for this is a little geeky.
So, the 5200 has been my “rain” bike since late in the 2013 season when I bought my brand spankin’ new Specialized Venge. The Specialized became my “A” bike the day I brought it home. Over the years, though, I came to appreciate the simplicity of the Trek and how it’s built. External cables, exceptional components… As parts wore out, it became increasingly clear that I wanted to use the Trek on multi-day tours rather than the Venge. The Specialized was great, but if anything went wrong with the Trek, I knew I could fix it blindfolded. The Venge is a little more labor intensive that way. Going back to geeky, I knew, from the voluminous articles I’ve read about road bikes over the years, that triples have a lot of overlap gears – doubles, therefore, are more efficient. Let’s look at the new gearing versus the old:
The top speed is a little misleading – I can get 40-mph out of the 50/34 (I’ve done it). The 52 tooth big ring is closer to 43-mph. That said, the granny gear is what’s important to me – I travel to a lot of places with hills, so I want to be able to climb anything that comes at me. You can see, the new gearing and the old are almost identical at the low-end.
Getting back to the overlap, look at the triple chart. 52/15 is almost identical to 42/12. 52/19 & 42/15. 52/21 and 42/17 match up exactly… and you can do the same thing for the baby ring and the middle ring. You’ve got another five overlap gears between those two. You’ve got 27 gears with the triple, but you only need 19 or fewer because of all of the overlapping gears. In other words, the triple is inefficient. Using the compact double, there is some overlap (50/24 & 34/17 for instance), but I use a double different than a triple on the road. The overlap isn’t quite as wasteful. The transformation was slow, though. It took some time.
As purchased in 2012 (with the addition of a modern saddle – the original was too wide):
The first thing to give out on the Trek was the wheelset. The Rolf wheels were bombproof as wheels go, but one too many rides in the rain and the brake track thinned and blew out – the aluminum brake surface wore too thin. The wheels were simple enough to rectify because, even being a ’99, the rear dropout width was the modern 130mm. I had a spare set of wheels that went on the bike. The headset was next to give out. The original headset was a mess after decades of abuse, so when I got the bike painted the stock headset was upgraded to a new Chris King. Shortly after the paintjob, the right shifter broke – again, after almost two decades of hard use, they were simply beat. Rather than change the drivetrain, I decided to go with MicroSHIFT 9sp. shifters to save money. They were only $75 shipped to my doorstep and I installed them myself. They worked flawlessly.
Painted, new headset, saddle, carbon fiber seat post, stem, handlebar and 9sp MicroSHIFT shifters 2016:
Eventually, a friend was selling an Ultegra 10sp. component group that I put on the Venge and I took the 105 drivetrain off that and put it on the Trek. A used Shimano crank for ($20), some new chainrings ($60), a new Ultegra bottom bracket ($40 installed) and I was ready to roll.
Today – 2018: New compact crank, new Ultegra bottom bracket and bearings, 17° stem (flipped), 10sp Shimano 105 drivetrain:
Whether good or lucky, my ’99 Trek was easy to upgrade – at least the parts I installed myself were easy (everything except the bottom bracket and headset). The headset was a little tricky because, if memory serves, there was only one available on the market that would fit the bike. The bottom bracket was a happier story; ultra-easy. I did agonize over the stem for a bit, though. I was stuck between going with a 17° and a full-on-crazy drop with a 25° stem. I’m glad I went with the 17 in the end. The 25 would have been too much drop for me to reach comfortably.
Other than that little bit of consternation, everything fit and worked perfectly.
I think, eventually I’m going to change the brake calipers to something a little more black but that’s way, way on the back burner.
So, from a 21-pound 52/42/30, 9sp. triple to a 18-1/2-pound 50/34, 10sp. double… Having to do it all over again, would I alter the original again (obviously, the worn-out parts had to go anyway)?
In a heartbeat. I was never much for nostalgia anyway. The bike is faster, lighter by 2-1/2 pounds, and more enjoyable to ride… not to mention, it looks a lot better. In the end, it all comes down to personal preference. 1999 was the only year the triple got it’s own designation as the 5200T. In reality, what I did was upgrade a rare bike – doing what I did in the automotive world would be a pure travesty. Thankfully, as bike geeks go, it’s less about altering a classic and more about making an old bike into something that’s more fun to ride. I’ve taken that bike on every tour I’ve done for the last two years, and I couldn’t be happier.
I took a fine classic and perfected it.
Would the whirling dervish purists get their undies in a bunch over what I’ve done? Without question – but they’re not riding the bike, so let them whirl.