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I started working with a new sponsor the other day. Let’s just say he’s not gentle. I’m starting a new fourth step and I’ve got a month and some change to get it done while he and his wife head down to Florida to get away from the worst of the winter. We’re right on the edge of the worst the winter will have to offer, so they’re heading down just at the right time… and that gives me time to work on a big fourth.
At first, I thought to myself, “a fourth step? Really? The more I thought about it, though, the more appealing the idea was. I’ve got a few things that I really want to unload.
So, humorously, as these things tend to work out, I’ve got two guys I’m sponsoring plus me working on the fourth and fifth. It’s going to be a busy February.
So, the question for today is how free do I want to be?
My answer is, free enough I want to do another fourth step.
I believe I’ve seen all of the videos GCN has put out on flat/platform pedals vs. clipless. For the uninitiated, “clipless” refers to a lack of toe clips and straps… you still, ironically, clip into clipless pedals.
What they rarely cover in the whole discussion is foot position, though they did for a second or two in the imbedded clip.
First, clipping into clipless pedals, to spoil the clip and add my two cents, is only slightly more efficient than using platform pedals with little screw-in flat spikes and mountain specific shoes without cleats, until you get out of the saddle and sprint. At that point, a person who has used clipless pedals will feel vastly safer to hit the gas harder because their feet are connected and secured to the pedals.
Having ridden a 30-mile loop with the Elite A-Group on Tuesday night on a set of platform pedals (though, admittedly, the pedals I used were the cheap, stock plastic platforms without spikes). At a decent pace and cadence, it’s simply too hard to keep your feet in what I approximated was the proper position.
And that word, “approximated”, was the important part of that sentence, folks. You have to guess… and at 90-rpm, guessing where your feet should be gets old in a hurry. Especially bad is when you’re a little off and you can’t move your foot in little increments while moving at that rate of speed. What I ended up experiencing was a lot of pain from having my feet in the wrong place on the pedals to work the crank efficiently for my ankle, knee and hip joints. For that reason, I’ve never bothered with trying platforms again. Perhaps cycling at a less aggressive pace wouldn’t prove so difficult.
Next is the mountain bike issue (and this applies to potholes on the road as well – especially bunny-hopping an unexpected pothole). When descending, you can experience everything from roots to rocks making the descent tricky. If your feet are clipped in, you don’t have to worry about your feet bouncing off the pedals. The spiked platforms wouldn’t be as bad as straight up plastic, but I’ve always felt better being connected to the bike in clipless pedals.
In the end, the choice to go clipless or platform will come down to choice. This commentary is included to help those new to the choice to make a reasoned choice. It’s always an interesting topic.
UPDATE: Be sure to check out the comments. What a great topic for well-reasoned discussion based on experience. Great stuff.
We have team kit speed suits. They’re expensive, fast, well-made… and if you don’t have an exceptional physique, you will resemble a sausage wearing one.
Here’s the bitch, though; they are that much faster compared to a normal high-end kit – and not just at hyper-fast paces… they’re a lot faster at the pace my wattage allows for on a Tuesday night (I average around 350 watts for just under an hour-twenty on a decently fast night). If I was a little lighter… erm… okay, a lot lighter, I probably wouldn’t have to worry about that kind of output, but I’m content with myself. Even if I have started eating a lot more salad of late. And fish. Oh, and cut out most of the troublesome stuff… dammit, I’m on a diet. A real one, too, for Pete’s sake.
I won’t be switching any time soon, though. A standard kit offers a little more… erm… modesty, and that’s worth more to me than saving a minute. I don’t spend that much time up front unless I’m on the tandem with Jess, anyway.
And if you think you’re getting your wife into one of those get-ups so you can twin on the tandem, without giving up something else vitally more important to happiness, your level of ignorance is colossal.
How much like a sausage are you willing to look? Now, that’s the proper question!
I’m finally beginning to see why people soften as they age. I can see why we don’t take to violent movies the same now that I’m into my fifties. I can finally understand why they don’t send old people like us to war. I’m on the back nine, in a golfer’s parlance, and it’s beautiful back here…
The glorious thing about a human liver is that, if you choose to beat the ever-loving shit out of it in your youth, if you stop abusing it soon enough, it’ll repair itself. I had less than a decade left when I quit alcohol and drugs. Estimates were seven years. I would have been dust twenty years ago had I not turned it around.
As a kid, I tended to think I was on the immortal side. I thought the doctor was just trying to scare me. I’ve seen family, on my wife’s side, die. A week after, “The doctor says if I just quit for a year my liver will get better and I can go back to drinking”, she was dead.
I couldn’t see life without alcohol and drugs a week before I quit. I couldn’t see how it could be any fun to live without an escape from the fear, from the nagging down, from the misery I caused myself and others with bad choices and thinking. How can you have fun if you can’t escape, was the line of thinking.
I know the answer today; you build a life you don’t have to escape from.
There’s a downside to that, though, even if it’s technically an upside: Life is so sweet I’ve actually come to cherish it.
My life isn’t perfect. I don’t have caviar dreams and, the irony is sweet, the champagne wishes were flushed long ago. Every morning I wake up, though, I’m grateful for being on the right side of the grass. I lead a happy life today, and I care enough about it that it’s changed my attitude and outlook.
I went from hoping my days were numbered to hoping that number was huge.
Folks, recovery from addiction, especially early in life, is better than cheating death. I wasn’t even all that good at the work as is evidenced by the what I’ve had to correct in the last year… and things turned out so much better than I could have hoped, I’m thankful I’m not the architect of my fate. If I’d have tried to sit down and map my life out as a recovering 24-year-old kid, I’d have shorted myself.
If you’re struggling, don’t quit five minutes before the miracle happens. Remember perspective. If you can’t think of a reason to be happy, or to even keep breathing, try looking at it differently; why not repair the damage so you can help others in your same spot recover from their pain, too? The key is in helping others, folks. If you’re struggling, try it. If feel you have nothing to give, the answer is to work at it till you do.
Recover hard, my friends. It’s beautiful out here.
I watched an interesting video on YouTube yesterday where a very British announcer posed the very question in the Title. The announcer stated there was a
40% 14% tariff* on any bike made outside of the UK – apparently the UK went all Donald Trump on evening up China’s trade imbalance… so if you add 40% on top of a normal bike price I don’t know if that would make them unattainable, but it’d piss me off covering a 40% tariff, though. And, should that have been the case in the US, I’d have thanked God both our old and new tandem are manufactured, made, built, painted, partially assembled, shipped and will arrive at my door step after the final assembly, entirely in the United States (it’s made in Oregon, Eugene, I believe). If you think a single bike expensive, get into the world of top-end tandems! WOW!
Anyway, it’s hard to believe, but now that I think of it, between my wife and I the three main bikes in our stable will all be hand-built in the USA. My Trek 5200, Jess’s Assenmacher, and our tandem.
The question is, though, at what point does a road bike become unattainable? How much is too much?
I don’t think we’re quite there yet. Bikes have gotten a little heavier, so if you want a 16-pound bike, it’ll cost you. They prices haven’t outlandishly for what we get, though. At least, in my personal opinion. I looked at a nice Trek Emonda the other day that was fantastically well appointed for $5,000 with the new Shimano 105 Di2 drivetrain and decent carbon wheels. At 18-pounds, it’s heavier than I’d expect but the price looked quite fair to me… and with the worldwide economic downturn (caused by the way in which Covid was handled by politicians, not just Covid), manufacturers are going to have to start cutting prices to move bikes sooner or later.
One thing is for sure, I’m sure glad I have a full stable. This is a great time for a gravel bike that’ll pull double duty as a road rig with a different set of wheels and tires.
UPDATE: The OMIL pointed out in the comments that he thought the duty on foreign-born bikes was 14%, not 40%. I had to go back to the video and sure enough, the announcer had a bit of a lazy tongue and I misheard 40%… it’s only 14%. Still, that’s an extra $140 per thousand that goes right out the window. That’s a lot better than $400, though!
Six months ago, I’d have answered “not a chance” if you’d asked “can a steel bike frame compete with a carbon fiber frame?” That abruptly ended when we bought my wife a 2004 54 cm steel Assenmacher with a 10-speed Campagnolo record drivetrain and I set the thing up with a new stem and handlebar to suit her.
Her reports of how the thing launches when she puts the power to the pedals, when contrasted against her carbon fiber Specialized Alias, had me perplexed. The smile on her face had me convinced I’d been fed some bad information.
My wife’s 18-pound steel Assenmacher next to my 18-1/2-pound carbon fiber Trek 5200 (my Trek is five years older):
Now, there’s no amount of money (that I’m aware of) you can spend that wouldn’t end up with a carbon fiber a pound or more lighter than the steel option in terms of modern bicycles. In fact, I have no doubt my Trek would be a touch lighter than my wife’s Assenmacher if we had the same wheels and components on the different frames. However, I now believe the notion that the steel bike wouldn’t be as responsive has to be tempered for we weekend warriors… and a steel bike can obviously be made exceedingly light with the right groupset.
There’s no question my wife’s bike is lighter than my carbon fiber Trek 5200.
I’m sitting here at the dining room table, trying to figure out what I want to write about and I’m looking over at my Trek sitting in the trainer. I’ve been daydreaming about taking it outside for days… just not in the amount of winter gear it would take to legitimately ride the thing without getting hypothermia. In my daydream, I’m in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey, bombing down the road with my wife and friends. The sun is shining and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, even if you could catch me.
Yep. A lot like that.
That’s not all, though! In fact, the vast majority of my rare daydream time is spent daydreaming about rocketing down the road with my wife on our new tandem… the silver paint job, the special factory applied decals on the top tube with our names and anniversary date… all light and sassy (the new tandem is going to be sixteen pounds lighter that the one we just sold). I actually dreamt about it last night.
Just two months to go and we’ll be outside again. I’m ready.
I did some research yesterday morning for a friend looking at picking up a new tandem and I thought it would be fun to go over our choice and why we made it. The coolest part, and I mean this down to my baby toes, is that my wife took such a big role in the choice. I expected she’d just sit back and let me roll, but she was right in there with me as we kicked around the choices for different tandems. She made two excellent points that led to us getting the exact bike we wanted.
She also just got upset that I’m typing too loud and fast… so, it’s not all palm trees and paradise. She says it is palm trees and paradise… paradise doesn’t have the staccato notes being drummed out on a keyboard. I’ve softened my tapping. And I’m laughing out loud.
Anyway, I knew we wanted to go with a Co-Motion tandem. Our first tandem was a Co-Motion Periscope and we absolutely loved it. Our experience with our first tandem made the choice of manufacturer easy… all we had to do was figure out which model we wanted. Now, I had lightweight horse blinders on, so when I figured out how to pay for this (cash, no financing), I was stuck on the Macchiato – Co-Motion’s top of the line race tandem. They use the highest grade aluminum tubing you can get, with carbon fiber everything and a Gates belt drive instead of a sync chain. It is, without question, the best of the best (unless you shell out $20,000+ for a Calfee).
When I got all googly-eyed explaining the Macchiato, my wife let me finish and said, “Well, if we’re truly going to ride this bike everywhere, why don’t we get the gravel bike version like Chuck & Libby”. I checked the specs on it… the only difference was alloy bars, seat posts and crank and we could fit 45mm tires on the bike instead of a 28mm max on the Macchiato. Oh, and internally routed cables. I don’t know how much I like that, by the way… that’s a long rear derailleur cable! Anyway, our friends’ Kalapuya (it’s pronounced Calapooia) is quite light, in the upper 20-pound range. My wife’s second fantastic idea is going to knock ours out of the park. She said, “Oh, and I want a second set of road wheels so we don’t have to mess around with changing tires to ride on the dirt.”
We had to pick my jaw up off the floor with a spatula. I love my wife! So I ordered a set of Rolf Prima tandem wheels with the bike, so now we have one tandem that can do anything we want.
Now, cycling is an exceedingly expensive hobby when you want all of the bells and whistles. Co-Motion tandems are that, times two. This is the place where one bike with two sets of wheels for road or dirt makes sense because buying a road and gravel tandem is simply a monetary and logistical nightmare. For us, because our plans involve traveling by car with our camper, we chose the lighter alloy gravel bike. They make a fantastic steel version that can have couplers added to it so the bike breaks down into sections for travel overseas. A friend chose the steel version of that bike for exactly that reason.
So, the choice can be broken down into a few sections.
Who will be using the bike? Is this for a tandem couple or the couple and kids? If you’ve got kids who might want to ride on a tandem, the only option I know of is the Co-Motion Periscope (Scout or Torpedo – flat or drop bar). The stoker (or rear admiral) position can be adjusted to suit a rider any height between 4’2″ & 6’2″. The flat bar version is a mountain bike while the drop bar can handle pavement or, in a limited sense, gravel. You would definitely need a Thudbuster seat post for gravel and the tire width would be limited to 32 mm, but it’s a great family tandem.
For my wife and I, we had a Scout that was turned into a Torpedo for six or seven years and it was awesome. We’d high hopes of involving our kids in cycling and that worked to an extent, but not quite as well as we hoped. Still, we made tremendous use of our tandem but with the kids getting older, it was time for us to look into something that fit us as a tandem couple better. As I wrote above, the Kalapuya was the natural choice for what we needed the bike to handle. The flip side to the alloy Kalapuya, but with a steel frame, is the Steelhead. Same components, just on a steel frame so the couplers can be added.
For those who have eyes on racing, or flat-out speed, the Macchiato or Robusta (alloy) or Supremo or Carrera (steel) are the four racers. Again, for travel you get the steel frame with the available coupler option (it isn’t cheap but beats renting/hiring a bike abroad).
There are a few more models out there, but that generally covers everything… except learning how to ride a tandem with your partner. It takes a lot of want to, but my God is it worth the effort!
Jess and I spoke with the owner of our local shop yesterday and he gave us the report he’d spoken with Co-Motion just the other day and found out our tandem is coming along right on time; it looks like the very end of February or beginning of March at this point – perfect for the start of the 2023 season.
Jess and I were getting excited yesterday, talking about new adventures for next year after having been through our total marriage makeover which is proving to be better than either of us hoped for.
My biggest problem is I haven’t made enough to retire at 53-years old. Had I, it’d be all over but the shouting. Sadly, I’ve got another decade and some change before that’s a possibility, but I can be patient on that front. We still have a lot of excellent adventures on the horizon.
Now, on another note, I have had to change my understanding a little bit on new bikes; they’re not terribly over-priced… at least, not as much as I once thought. The Trek Emonda, at 18 pounds and costing $5,000, comes out the door with Shimano’s Di2 105 groupset and legit 35mm carbon wheels. Folks, for what I have into my bikes and considering what the world has been through, that’s a fair deal.
Even Specialized has a fairly legit equipped Aethos that comes with DT Swiss wheels and SRAM Rival eTap 12-speed for $5,200.
I’d go with the Emonda any day of the week and twice on Sunday for $200 less than the Specialized, by the way.
If Specialized were to quote Ken Miles (or, technically Christian Bale) in Ford vs. Ferrari, “If that was the beauty pageant, we just lost”. Even with the eTap drivetrain.
All of that said, I’m liking Trek a lot more these days. I’ll have more on why at the start of the season. I’m glad I own a Trek that I love to ride.
I won’t lie, I had a serious laugh watching that clip. Never mind that he wore the shorts inside-out and the shorts were two sizes too small (oh, my was that funny) and that they ordered a jersey four or five sizes too big. Even if they’d gotten the sizing right on the battery operated heated vest, the jersey and shorts, he still would have looked a little goofy… because that cheap stuff, next to the good stuff, does look a little crappy. It’s not horrible, mind you, and maybe that’s why they played with the sizes as they did, but I own some of that cheap stuff and I can unquestionably tell the difference between a $150 Specialized pair of bibs and the $40 Coconut jersey and bib kit that I paid $56 for.
Hell, my wife asked me to refrain from wearing the bibs out in public.
So, the real deal is just as GCN presented it; you can tell the difference between that cheap stuff and the good stuff. The materials feel better, the bibs stay where they should better… and the good stuff looks infinitely better. As for the helmets, I really don’t know. You’ve really gotta watch out for the knock-offs because I’ve seen some pretty scary stuff centered around knock-offs and Specialized helmets. I don’t know if I’d want to trust my melon to just anyone, if you know what I’m sayin’.
With that said, look, if you can’t afford the expensive stuff, and believe me, I know how hard it can be to shell out the big bucks for that stuff, maybe buy a couple of the cheap kits and start saving for the good stuff. You don’t have to go all “top-of-the-line”, either. The midgrade stuff is vastly superior to the cheap stuff… and I have the hot spot experience to know what I’m talking about.
Or writing about.