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Monthly Archives: April 2020

COVIDcation-2020: Helping A Friend

One of my best cycling buddies bought a 2012 Venge last year and hopped it up with a SRAM Red eTap drivetrain.  It is bad@$$.

Well, yesterday he decided he wanted to clean the headset bearings and ran into some trouble and I’m going to go to his house and help him out at some point when his schedule allows today.  Let’s just say I’m not exactly busy and between my wife’s Alias and my Venge, I’ve taken the assembly apart and put it back together enough I can almost do it blindfolded (I’m not quite bored enough to try).

So today it’ll be a bike ride around noon, when it will finally warm up enough to be enjoyable (and with almost no wind[!] only 6-mph from the west), and I’ll follow that up with heading over to my friend’s house to help him get his Venge sorted.

Today is cold, but manageable, tomorrow we’ve got rain for the entire day, so a day off the bike tomorrow.  Friday seems like it might be reasonable but Saturday and Sunday are sketchy.  The good news is that temperatures finally look good two weeks out – no more freezing temps or snow in the forecast.  I can’t tell you how tired I am of the snow.  I ended up riding inside yesterday, for an hour and a half, because it was snowing.

Sorry for the short post today, I’ve had a lot on my angst that kept me from inspiration yesterday.  Things turned out as they should, though, so my mood is better today.  It was going to get a little tight around here without it.  I’m hoping we’ll be going back to work after the 1st of May… fingers crossed (and I still have three weeks of vacation left!).

Road Cycling: Why Do Pedals and Cleats Creak, And Vastly More Important; How to Fix A Squeaky Pedal and/or Cleat

There is nothing worse in cycling than rocketing down the road on a $5,000 road bike, virtually silent in every way… except for a “wreeet, wreeet, wreeet, wreeet” every other pedal stroke for 65 miles.  It’ll make you want to take a shotgun to your offending foot.  I’ve been there.  Before we jump into the phantom creak (for which there are two fixes, by the way), I want to get into some of the initial causes for creaks that’ll drive you bonkers if you can’t pinpoint what’s going on.

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The Dead Pedal

The simplest, your pedal is shot.  I get between five and seven seasons out of a set of pedals before having to replace them.  I want to be very clear here, too; by shot, I mean shot.  The pedal on the right was so worn so bad I couldn’t clip out of the pedal by moving my heel away from the bike, I had to un-clip to the inside, toward the bike.  Those pedals are done, cooked, kaput.  Unless your pedals are truly at the end of their life, we’ve got options, so don’t fret.

Replace the Cleats!

A pair of cleats, depending upon how much you walk on them, should last a season – maybe two if you use cleat covers (I do).  When the front lip that rests underneath the pedal loop wears thin, it’ll cause creaking.  If the lip is worn too thin, replace the cleats. Clean the underside of the shoe.  Take a construction pencil and outline the cleat.  Get any dirt or rocks out of the bolt holes so the 3-mm Allen key fits in as it should (otherwise you can strip the bolt hole and have to resort to a flat-head screw driver).  Loosen and remove the bolts and old cleat.  Lube the threads of the new bolts and set the new cleat exactly where the old one was.  Bolt the cleat down.  Do the other cleat.

The Dirty Cleat and or Pedal

The next offender for a squeaky cleat/pedal interface is dirt.  If you walk around in the grass or dirt, chances are your pedals are going to creak at some point.  The easiest solution is to clean your cleats and pedals – especially where the pedals touch or lock into the cleats.  Also, avoid walking in wet grass if you can.

Cleat Out of Alignment

Next, and this gets a little tricky, is a huge offender.  When you replace your cleat, you mistakenly fail to correctly align the new cleat.  The new cleat will work against the pedal when you clip in and pedal.  The more watts you put to the pedal, the worse the pedal/cleat will creak.  Now, the fix here isn’t as simple as move the cleat so your heel is closer to or further from the bike.  You have to figure out how your foot wants to align so you can properly move the cleat.  The most time consuming and expensive way to handle this is take the bike and shoes to your local shop and they’ll do the hard part for you.  If you want to tackle this yourself, while riding, we want to figure out where we are in the float.  Recently, I misaligned a cleat and the creaking was minor, but it was there and slightly annoying.  When I pushed my heel out away from the bike, the squeaking stopped.  So you’re thinking, adjust the cleat so your heel naturally goes outward a little, right?  Wrong.  That’s the opposite of what you want.  When pedaling and not thinking about it, my heel wanted to go toward the bike.  Pedaling naturally, I was all the way at the edge of the float with my heel in.  I wanted to move the cleat so my heel could move in, toward the chainstay.  Conversely, if you’re pedaling and your heel is pushing out against the float, you move the cleat so your heel will pushes out from the bike to stop the creaking.

I had to move my knees out of the way to get the shot, that’s not how one’s knees should look when everything is properly aligned.

Now, I can’t stress this enough; you don’t want big adjustments here.  You want little adjustments, then check your work by tightening the cleat bolts down and take your bike for a test-spin.  Go too far and you’ll blow right through your 4 or 7° float.  A little move in the cleat will go a long way.  And if you mess it up, set up an appointment at your local shop so you can breeze in, get your cleat aligned and get out.

Once you’ve done all of the above, if you still can’t figure out what the hell is going on with your creaking-ass pedals, fear not, there is a solution!

  1.  Lube the pedal and cleat where they interface – a lightweight oil will do (think Boeshield T-9).  This will work for a time, but as soon as the lube wears off, the squeak will come back.  I don’t mess with lubing the cleat anymore.  There’s a better solution.
  2. Better is candle wax.  For the creak you just can’t fix, take a birthday candle and rub it over all of the parts of the cleat that touch the pedal.  Then do the pedal surfaces that touch the cleat.  You’ll be amazed at how well this works… and it’s going to last a lot longer than rubbing some lube on the cleats.

Missing My Friends, But Happily Cycling Nonetheless.

My wife and I headed out yesterday morning after the “almost all clear” from the Weather Channel – “almost” is about as good as we get in Michigan in April. Unfortunately, the wind hammered us yet again. We decided on the same route we rode Saturday but changed up six miles in to stairstep the headwind a little.

Those long slogs into a headwind make me long for days past where ten of my closest friends and I take turns up front for the group.  Not for COVIDcation.  I took all of the headwind again but I was feeling the effects from my 100k the day before.  My wife asked, about two miles in, if we could take it easy in the headwind, and I was more than happy to oblige her.

18 miles in and we made it to the tailwind. We stopped at a normal bridge for a cycling selfie:

Mrs. Bgddy took the lead from there and I held on. Her problems from the day before were left in the dust. She was moving!  Our average shot up from 15-mph to more than 16 in less than five miles.  We flirted with 28-mph a few times but mainly kept it between 22 & 25 and smoked it!  I didn’t know how fast we were through that section until I looked this morning, we took a 4th all time with an average of 25.2-mph for four of those miles.

We hit a jog north seven miles and things slowed down a little bit with the crosswind, but we were already pushing a 17-mph average and I wanted to keep it so I tried pushing the pace a little bit.  Just a mile to the home stretch and my wife asked what my mileage goal for the day was.  I told her I wanted 50 but with the wind, I was pretty sure the 36 would do…  I just didn’t want to mess around with anymore headwind.  I’d had enough.  She asked if I wanted to add four more miles by looping north a couple of miles before heading home.  I jumped at it, stoked that she was willing to do a little extra.

I started scheming to get her a QOM on a segment I hold the KOM on… I went over the strategy with her as we headed east again with a nice push.  We were going to take it easy until just before the segment start, three miles up the road.  I’d take a half-mile pull leading into the segment to ramp the speed up, then we’d hit it full gas and see how long we could hold it.  I’d need to beat 31-mph to beat my old KOM but I wasn’t expecting to get close to that.  I just wanted to get my wife in the top ten.

Well, it kinda went to plan… right up till she dropped my wheel shortly after I topped 28-mph.  I finished the mile (.97 of a mile) at 2:12 and I’d put Mrs. Bgddy about ten seconds behind me which would have put her 5th or 6th overall and QOM by about 17 seconds.  I forgot she’s not on Strava, though.  DOH!

We pulled into the driveway with just shy of 40 miles and I wore a smile on my face the rest of the day.

It’ll be another day of cycling and happiness during COVIDcation as the weather is going to be nice.  Sunshine and average temps with a little wind.  Good times and noodle salad, folks.  It’s as good as it gets.

Actually, we didn’t have noodle salad last night.  No, it was barbecue bacon burgers with onion rings and two styles of Famous Dave’s BBQ sauce.  Sorry, but that trumps noodle salad any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

… Because I Had To Race an Audi…

My ride started at 11:30 with my lovely wife. I’d made up my mind early that I was going to pull the entire first half into the wind. Every last mile. And so it was. Eighteen straight miles into an 18-mph headwind or cross-headwind.

The sun made a brilliant appearance and the temperature finally normalized a bit. It was almost 50° (10 C) so I didn’t mind the wind one bit. I put it in the baby ring and held a pace my wife could handle and into the wind we went. The whole thing was a slog, but I’ve resigned myself to it and once I made my peace, I was just happy to be out in the sunshine after four days of wet, cold, windy crap weather.

We hit the tailwind section and, to my chagrin, Mrs. Bgddy was in no mood to push it. I tried to contain my disappointment but I don’t think I did a very good job. Then I started thinking that she’s probably struggling a lot with her breathing, so I just set in behind her and let her control the pace (she’s faster by 1-3-mph when she’s up front and can control the pace). I didn’t have near the trouble she is experiencing with the bug and it was awesome to not be riding alone, so I just relaxed and let the ride happen.

We got home after 36 miles and I tinkered with a pedal issue (more on that in a later post) and had to choose between the Trek or Venge… Let’s see, 18-mph headwind and crosswind… and I wanted to get another 27 miles to make it a 100 k… no help with the headwind… Yeah, that’s a no brainer. I put the Trek back inside and rolled out.

I started off with a cross-tailwind for a mile before getting smacked in the face with the headwind. After a ten-mile easy ride with the tailwind, it’s a little tough to adjust to eating wind again. Still, sunshine and 50+° was feeling quite awesome.

I did four two-mile bonus laps in a subdivision that was surprisingly fun… I’d have a half-mile of broken up headwind with a mile of cross and a half-mile of tailwind each lap. It was easy to break it down into bite-size pieces of headwind suck. And I needed the extra two miles per lap if I was going to hit 62.4 miles. On the third lap I started to feel the rumblings of an empty tank. I almost went for my emergency gel, but kept it in my pocket. I’d have a lot of tailwind and a little bit of cross on the way home – and supper. Better to earn the dinner and enjoy it, I figured.

So coming into town, there’s a sweeping downhill with a light at the bottom. With a tailwind, like the one I had, you can really get moving and hold that speed on the flat for most of a mile. Sadly, it changed to yellow, forcing me to grab a handful of brake to stop. Up rolled an Audi to my left. When the light turned, I decided to take the acceleration slow but noticed the Audi stayed with me. He should have been gone, so I naturally assumed he wanted to see how fast I’d go, and I showed him. I started hammering the crank arms and took it from an easy 22 to 31. I noticed the passenger had rolled down his window and he yelled out, “Twenty-six miles an hour!” I looked down at my Garmin and responded, “Thirty-one” just as I heard the driver say, “No, he’s over thirty, man”. Where’s a cop with a speeding ticket when you want one! And that’s about the time I dialed it back because that’s stinkin’ fast on the flat 55 miles into a ride – even with a tailwind.

I finished off the ride having misjudged the mileage home (cycling brain got me) so I had to add on a mile-and-a-half just before rolling home. I did, though, and pulled into my driveway with 62.47 miles. A little more than just enough.

Dinner was extra good last night. We had to cook up the last of our Easter ham, so we made “Hambrosias”; fried ham, sauteed onions, and pineapple in a brioche bun with a little mayo and Big John’s steak sauce.

I’m feeling it this morning, though. Those 100k rides are a hell of a lot easier when we’ve got a twelve-person train to draft behind! We’ll have to see what today holds. It’ll be another windy one, but at least it’ll be warm(ish) again. I don’t think I’ll have another 100k in me… but 50 might be doable.

One thing is unquestionable through this COVID-19 mess; I miss my friends. Riding with my wife has been awesome and we don’t spend enough time riding together under normal circumstances. There’s just something about riding with a big group that puts a smile on my face, though.

Ah well. Soon enough. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read.

COVIDcation Cycling Humor…

He was so bored with cycling alone on Zombieland quiet roads, he decided to change things up a bit to put a little excitement back in life…

Hint: This is a trick photo.

Look at the Garmin devices…

Celebrating FINALLY Feeling Like Me Again…

I first felt symptoms that matched with reports of what happens with COVID-19 somewhere around March 19th, just shy of a month ago. Those symptoms were surprisingly mild – just enough to make you wonder. Tight lungs and chest, I couldn’t say shortness of breath, it just felt as if someone was squeezing the tops of my lungs so I couldn’t get full use of them. I thought I was just being hyper-sensitive until the annoying dry cough started. My buddy’s son and wife had it, though this was before tests were abundant (due to a bureaucratic SNAFU, thanks to the FDA). She was tested for everything but COVID and all of that was negative. They didn’t send her test in for COVID because she didn’t fit the profile for someone who could become terribly ill. Chuck started experiencing symptoms shortly thereafter. It was the damned fist bumps at the end of a ride (snotty glove to snotty glove, wiped my nose the next day… we stopped with the fist bumping just after the initial panic and his wife became sick). I texted my boss that morning and called him a little later. He paid me to stay work from home for the rest of the week. My symptoms eased over that weekend but according to guidelines I had till Thursday the next week before I could go back to work (72 hours after symptoms and minimum seven days after symptoms first showed up). My wife complained of symptoms that matched mine the day after I started feeling better.

Just before I was supposed to go back to work, our governor shut our industry down. I’ve been home since.

That wasn’t the end, though. I’ve had good days and not as good days, since. I believe continuing with my cycling was vitally important to as well as I’ve done through this. In fact, when this is all done, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that those who locked themselves in suffered worse than those who managed to get as much fresh air as possible fared better… but that’s nothing more than a personal hypothesis.

Long after the dry cough was gone, and long after the tightness in my chest eased considerably, I felt like something had been taken out of me – that I was a little short. Not short of breath, I just wasn’t all the way back. Some days, not all, it still felt like the top quarter of my lungs were useless. In terms of cycling, I stopped sprinting and I was usually okay with puttering along with my wife (for the most part). While I wanted to shake the funk, I didn’t want to overdo it and land myself in dire straights. Still, I wanted me back again, at the same time. It was frustrating, and I internalized the whole struggle.

I always had the thought in the back of my head, “what if it gets worse… a lot worse“.

I finally shook that yesterday. I don’t know how or why the switch flipped, but it did. I gained a lot of me back. Going by percentages, during symptoms I was 67%. After, I was 80-85%. Yesterday I hit 90-95%. I can still feel something, but my breathing is loose and free again.

And just in time, too. We went through a cold snap for the last four days – it snowed three of them even if it didn’t stick. Today, while it’s going to be windy later, we’ll have a decent temperatures along with a steady breeze and sunshine to start the day. I’ve got big miles planned, too. 10-11-mph winds heading into the wind, and it should pick up to 18-mph to push me home. If I time it right. We shall see.

Anyway, Mrs. Bgddy is still where I was – not quite right, but she’s getting back to normal. Unlike me, she had the intense headache a few days ago. If she follows my pattern, it’ll be another four or five days before she feels like herself again.

As for my daughters, they experienced nothing. Completely asymptomatic.

So, you may wonder why we never got tested… Well, when I started with my symptoms, we were still in the “you’re not old enough or sick enough for us to send this test in” phase of testing. Getting tested would have been useless. I will be getting tested for antibodies when that test comes out – a doctor friend of mine has my back on that… this way, at least I can give blood to help others who aren’t as fortunate as I am.

More on that another day.

Why Do All Modern Aero Race Road Bikes Look Alike? One Cyclist’s Hypothesis

The “good old days” of the aero road bike, just three to eight years ago, when you could get an aero road bike and your make/model looked unique:

After many, many upgrades 2020 (left) Day 1, 2013 (right)

I had an interesting chat with a friend about my post yesterday. After reading my post, he commented that he liked my Venge but…

UIM: I like the look of your Venge but beyond that, most of the top-end modern bikes look plug-ugly!

Me: They did get a little blah, didn’t they? I don’t know what happened but many of the top-end bikes ended up looking alike, and it isn’t a good thing.

UIM: Designed, possibly, by people who never ride bikes, perhaps…

He really brings up an interesting idea, but one of my examples was the 2020 Specialized S-Works Venge. If I know anything about Specialized’s employees, I know they ride bikes. A lot.  Their corporate lunch rides are famous.

That said, I offered a different hypothesis, but before I get to that, have a look at what I’m talking about:

You’ve gotta hand it to Trek, in my humble opinion.  Their model looks just like everyone else’s, but at least it looks a little racier.  That said, there isn’t a lot of room between any of them.  Represented are Canyon, Giant, Cervelo, Specialized, Trek, BMC, Cannondale, and Scott – in that order, left to right, top to bottom.

So here’s the hypothesis I presented to my friend:  This is what happens when you build your aero bike for a wind tunnel, not a cyclist.

When you’re designing a bicycle around a desired result in a wind tunnel, there are only so many ways you can go to hide from wind before all of the models start looking like one another… because everyone is chasing the exact same result and a bicycle is still a bicycle.

I think it’ll take some kind of interesting discovery or changing of the UCI rules in order for bikes to start getting a personality again.  I won’t be holding my breath, though.  Riding in the wind on a normal bike sucks… on a modern aero bike it still sucks, it just sucks less.  Don’t believe me?  Take one for a test ride on a windy day and let me know what you think.  I’ll save the “I know, right?” for then.

In the meantime, as a note to manufacturers, you’re going to have to do away with the “ghost” or “stealth” paint jobs and start splashing those frames with a little color so we can tell the difference between them.  Let’s just stay away from the 2015-2017 paint schemes and colors.  They were mostly hideous.  Bright, loud, normal reds, blues, greens… maybe an orange or an electric purple.  No more baby $#!+ colors.  Please.  For the love of God.

One Thing I’ve Learned During COVIDcation-2020

I used to tell people I was meant to be a man of leisure – that I should somehow stumble upon enough money that I could simply fund a life of watching movies and riding my bicycles and I’d be happy.

That all sounded tremendous.  Maybe win the lottery (even though I don’t play), and settle down for a happy life.

I’ve been out of work for all of 18 or 19 days and it occurred to me the other day that I actually miss working.  Not only the structure and busy-ness of it, always having something to occupy me, but I miss the production.  I am very good at what I do – I should be, I’ve got decades of experience – and I enjoy doing it.

Sure, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed lounging around in my p.j.’s for the last two-plus weeks, but I’m itching to go back to building stuff.

I spoke with my boss today, only for ten minutes, about a new job we’ve got coming up shortly down in Ohio – and thankfully, their governor wasn’t as ham-handed as ours and construction is still moving down there.  For ten minutes I enjoyed the adrenaline of digging through a set of plans to get ready to roll.  It was wonderful.

The best thing I’ve learned so far is that I’m not meant to be a man of leisure.  I am a man who enjoys his leisure time.

There’s a big difference between the two and I’ll remember that when I go back.

Just Like That, iSSi Pedals Restored My Venge to Its Former Glory… Err, Only Better.

Three weeks ago, I couldn’t handle the squeaking of my Look Keo Classic pedals any longer. The cleat bed was so worn I could only un-clip by pushing my heel in, towards the bike. They did last six years, so I definitely got my money’s worth, but they were unquestionably shot.

My three weeks ago Specialized Venge

Sadly, Look did away with their red pedals years ago so I was prepared to settle for a less than splashy black. I also wanted an upgrade, at least, to the Keo Max 2 Carbon. The Max 2 doesn’t have a plastic cleat bed like the Classic, it’s got a stainless plate so the bed won’t wear as the Classic did.

I contacted the shop owner and talked to him about options. He said he had either the Max 2 Carbon or the Cabon Blade but suggested I give the iSSi brand a look so I didn’t have to settle for black. He recently started stocking them.

They were fairly light (10 grams heavier than the Keo Max 2), but they were 1/3 less than the Keo Max 2’s price. The iSSi’s also came in red.

I could live with 10 grams to save $50… especially, because I didn’t know what was going to happen with COVID-19 at the time. I placed the order and paid for them just before the lock down hit.

First, they’re surprisingly light next to my Keo Classic pedals. The construction is solid and as you can see, the “Especially Red” is especially red. Also, the iSSi Carbon Road pedals are compatible with Keo cleats, so I didn’t have to change out my almost new cleats. Another plus is the size of the cleat bed. For this vast improvement, a photo is worth a bunch of words (maybe not a full 1,000, but a fair bunch):

That’s some square inches right there, baby… and at a considerable weight savings, no less. And they have a stainless steel plate for the cleat interface I wanted…

The installation was a little snug, but snug is never a bad thing with pedals. It seemed like the coating on the threads was just a little thick, even greased up. It was simple as the model it replaced with an 8 mm Allen key.

I clipped my shoes in and unclipped them by hand as a test and they worked as one would expect them to (if you can clip them in by hand, with your weaker hands/arms, they’ll be a snap with your feet/legs).

And there she is, in all her red-pedaled glory.

Now all that’s left is a road test, but that will have to wait for the weekend. We’re in the middle of a cold spell. It snowed yesterday. The Venge doesn’t see weather like that… except looking out the window.

Incidentally, the mount on my seat post is for my Garmin Varia. During our COVIDcation-2020 lock down, we now cannot group together with anyone other than those in our household… that means if my wife doesn’t want to ride, I’m riding solo. If I ride solo, I don’t leave the house without my Garmin radar.

UPDATE:  After getting the pedals installed on my bike, I ran into a problem; the spindle is short, meaning the inside of my shoes rubbed the crank arms whilst pedaling, especially with toe covers on.  This is not acceptable with a $550 crankset.  Fortunately, there is a solution.  First, I don’t ride the Venge in the cold, gnarly weather.  That’s what the Trek is for, so I’m not worried about the toe covers.  I slid my cleats, maintaining the alignment, of course, to the inside of the shoe, maybe three millimeters.  This gave me the room I needed so my shoes don’t rub the crank arms.  It also will give me additional room for foot covers on the Trek, so bonus.

If you have wide feet and don’t have any play in your cleats to the inside of the shoe, consider getting the black pedals with the +5 mm spindles.

What Kind of Road Bike Does One Need to Fit Their Skills and Needs? More Important, How Much is Too Much Bike?!

As one might imagine, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. I’m going to enjoy writing this series.

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The amazing, fantastic, fast, sexy-in-a-Ferrari-kind-of-way, road bike. For those who want to get down the road as fast as is scientifically possible on their own power, the road bike is the most efficient machine on the planet to do that. Now, to be fair to the time trialists, a claim could very well be made that the time trial bike is indeed more efficient – and that is correct… until one adds a friend. When riding any more than solo, the TT bike is a death trap in all but the soberest, pro-est, of hands. For that reason, and the fact I’m a social cyclist and a little selfish (it’s my blog, baby!), I’m going to stick with the road bike.

Depending on what you want to do with your road bike, where you want to ride, and with whom you want to ride, your needs will change. With this post I hope to help new cyclists enter into an exceedingly expensive sport with a little knowledge that might help save some headache and money.

The Gravel Bike

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For an in-depth look at what you might want in a gravel bike, click (here). For the larger overview, if you can only have one road bike, the gravel bike is the way to go. With the right gravel bike and two sets of wheels (and tires – one for dirt, one for pavement), you can do anything. With the right setup and the proper level of gravel bike (and the fitness to move it), you’ll be able to keep up with any group you want – as long as you’re willing to put the work in.

The Used, Alloy or Steel Classic – Downtube Shifters, etc.

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Please forgive the log prop… I was a noob back then and didn’t know any better (as one would be able to tell from the saddle).

If you’re going to be rolling with the 10-mph to 16-mph crowd, a good old-fashioned classic will do just fine. You’ll have to work a little harder than everyone riding modern rigs on hills because shifting is awkward by comparison, but you’ll make up for any disadvantages with want to. If you’re “noob” enough to think this will be okay (obviously I was/did), accept that you’re probably wrong and you’ll be buying another bike shortly after you purchase this one. The real question will be, are you stubborn enough to stick with your choice? Because those old classics require a lot more fitness to keep up with others. I was not willing. I picked up a better bike less than six months later (see “The 10-20-year-old Classic with Modern Components” below). Five months to be exact. I know what you’re thinking; I’ll be able to make it on a classic. You’ll be right if you’re riding with the slower crowd. If you want to ride with the C, B, or A groups, you’re going to need a better bike… and even if you don’t need one, you’ll want one.

The Modern, Entry-level Alloy Road Bike with Modern Shifting Systems and Components

Spec.Allez

Many of us start out on a $1,000 road bike like the Specialized Allez (pronounced Ah-lay – it’s French, they shout it at the Tour de France, it means “come on”) because a $4,000 price tag on a bicycle seems outrageous. The Allez is a decent place to start, of course. Decent for the money. This will be good for the 12 to 20-mph average pace crowd. Any faster than that and a heavy entry-level bike will be too much work. From the terrible wheels, to the poor gearing choices, to the heavy overall weight of the bike, for the F through C groups, an entry-level bike will do. I’ve only seen one guy ride an Allez in a B Group setting. One. He’s since upgraded to a Specialized Venge. If you’re going to settle for entry-level, you’ll have to ask yourself, are you that person? If not, grade up.

The 10 to 20-year-old Carbon Fiber Classic, Modern Components

If you know how to look, you’ll find fantastic deals on used classic bikes. I picked the gem above up for a cool $750 from the local bike shop. Then I dropped $450 to have it painted, about $500 for some decent wheels and another $350 on other parts. I can ride that bike with anyone up to the 23-mph average crowd. The wheels do make it tough work, though – I could use a set of 38-50 mm carbon wheels on that bike because they allow you to keep the bike up to speed a little easier. On a bike like the one shown, with the right fitness and a decent set of deep dish wheels, you’ll be able to keep up with any group your fitness will allow you to. Doing the math, I have between $2,100 and $2,700 give or take, into a race-quality bike (I don’t even the remember the right amount the bike’s been through so many changes). On a budget, that’s as good as you’re going to get. Throw in another $700 for an upgraded set of wheels and your fitness will be your only limitation. With this bike, with the right transmission to suit your needs and decent wheels, you’ll be able to show up and ride with anyone your fitness will allow – A through F groups.

The Modern Race Bike – Mid-Range

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The mid-range race bike will run you between $3,000 & $7,000 and once you get to this quality in a bike, you have no more excuses as to why you can’t keep up. At this point, if you can’t keep up with the group you want to ride with, it’s most definitely you. Spending $3,000 on a bicycle isn’t easy – spending double that is harder… but it’s oh so worth it once you throw a leg over the top tube and clip in. This is where you can start to bump your head on too much bike for a group. While I don’t know many people who would ever deny another the enjoyment of riding a top-level race bike out of jealousy, a steed like this isn’t meant to be ridden on a nice little weekender with granny. If your idea of riding a bike is a nice 15-mile ride over the course of an hour and a half, you don’t need anywhere near this level of bike. Groups D through A; your only limitation will be how hard you can push on the pedals.

The Top-of-the-Line Race Bike

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The top of the line in road bikes will set you back between $8,000 and, for either of the two high-end racers above, $12,500. You can spend more on a top-of-the-line bike (the Bianchi-Scuderia Ferrari with Campagnolo components will run you a cool $18,600), but at that point you’re paying for the nameplate. You’ll be riding what the pros ride. You’ll have the lightweightiest, fastest, carbon fiber’est, ceramic bearing’est steed on the market. If you can’t keep up with a group on this bike, saunter up to a mirror and look in it. That’s your problem.

If you can afford a steed like that, ride that rig with a smile on your face because that’s as good as it gets.

If you show up for anything but the A, B or maybe the C ride with a top-end steed, you will unquestionably get a quizzical look or fifteen. Knowing what I know today, if I had the money laying around to blow on his and hers Ferrari’s, I’d do it. Owning one would be spectacular, but mostly unnecessary. I wouldn’t be any faster on that than I would the Specialized Venge I have $6,000 into.  High-end bikes don’t make a cyclist faster.  They make fast easier.