Monday, March 2, 2009

Lighter, faster, better?

Buycycling magazine is telling me I need a new bike this year. Preferably something in carbon, super light, hence super fast.

"Why You Need a New Bike This Year" the cover proclaims, below a carbon fiber wunderbike on the cover. Why indeed? "Bikes sure are expensive these days", grumps Mr. Crankypants with his 1988 Kestrel 4000 with white Shimano Sante components and quarter-zip Shaversport jersey. "Bikes are even better, Mr Curmudgeon Crankypants!" Buycycling rebuts. (p. 115, April 2009) Why, for a mere $5000 you could buy the new Tarmac Pro SL SRAM, featuring a lighter, stiffer sub 1000 gram FACT 10r full carbon frame with oversize BB30 bottom bracket and tapered steering tube with oversize headset bearing, a 20 speed SRAM Red/Force group and superlight Mavic Kysrium SL wheels, 150 grams lighter than seven years ago. And, Buycycling asserts that you can resort to ridicule while you drop Mr. Crankypants on your sub 15-lb rig "Hey, Kevin Costner called and he wants his jersey back!"

In other words, if you don't run out and buy the latest and greatest carbon fiber wunderbike you're an old fogey, a dinosaur, a loser. So if you don't podium, you're a pussy? Throw that nasty old heavy-metal Panasonic in the recycling bin, whip out your plastic and join the 21st century, for chrissake!

I have a little tale to tell.

I'm not a fantastic bike racer. Hell, I'm not a racer by any stretch of the imagination. I'm a fat- assed middle-aged touring/commuter cyclist. But when the gauntlet is thrown, you just have to crank it up a notch or two. It's in our DNA. You know, you're sitting at the red light in an old Chevelle and the pimply faced teenage guy in the hot little tuner sport import next to you revs his just gotta hit the gas.

There were a couple of nice days last week, which I took full advantage of by doing my pseudo-commute (drive some, ride some). I pulled out the Quickie Blue Fixie, the main commuter bike. You know the bike, old 70's vintage Schwinn frame, fixed gear, mismatched bald tires, clip on-fenders and knock off Pletscher rack. Add a lunch bag and 15 lbs of clothes, tools, lights, reflectors and miscellaneous gear in a Carradice Longflap bag and you get the general idea. Sign me up for the Tour!

I happened to be pedaling my way home from work when out of the corner of my eye I happened to notice a roadie. Not just someone out for a leisurely ride but someone who appeared to be out for some serious speed exercise, dressed in roadie clothes, riding a fast-fancy-carbon-looking roadie bike. Normally, someone like this might have just breezed by me, but he appeared to be pacing me. Now I don't move super fast, but I don't dawdle either. I could see him moving closer and he appeared to be reeling me in.

For some odd reason, that good old classic American male DNA kicked in. I jumped on the pedals and quickened my pace. OK, go ahead and pass me but you'll have to work for it. I figured he would overtake me and I glanced back to see him pumping away. I cranked and puffed away, buzzing through intersections I'd normally slow down for (of course, making sure they were clear of traffic), leaning a bit more in the turns, accelerating a bit harder out of them.

I may have surprised him a bit. Like I said, I'm not bike racer by any stretch of the imagination but I looked back and he wasn't nearly as close to me as he was before. I'd slow down for some turns and he'd pull in closer to me, but I'd hop back on the pedals and crank away and sure enough, he'd fall back some.

Maybe he was just playing with me, but I just kept hammering away. I knew at one point I'd have to stop for a crosswalk and a light, and there was absolutely no way I was going to blow through that one...I don't have a death wish! I figured he'd just burn past me and that would be that.

I stopped at the light and hit the crosswalk button, panting like a dog. I looked behind me expecting to see a blur zoom past me.

Nothing. Nada. Zilch. No one behind me. When the light turned, I putted through the crosswalk and loped down the road. I figured my shadow would have caught up to me now but no sign of another cyclist behind me anywhere.

Most likely, he went off in another direction or he just stopped somewhere. But I'd like to think even with all the hot-rod super-light carbon cycling technology, some old guy on a rusty, muddy old Schwinn can still drop a guy on his fancy expensive carbon road bike.

As Lance once wrote, "It's not about the bike", it's about the motor. So keep on motorin' :>)



Travel Gravel said...

One must remember that it is easier by far to chase than to be chased. Still, when it's on, it's on. Also, I saw a couple of your bikes on Cyclofiend. How did you bend that lever? Looks interesting. Later! said...

Not sure which lever I bent, hopefully I did it right :>)

The QBF soon will be reshorn with new rubber...I figured if I was going to commute on it I should have decent tires!

Dave Moulton said...

Great piece. I was caught by a teenage kid on a mountain bike. "I did pretty good to catch a road bike on a mountain bike." he said.
My reply was, "Well before you get too excited, I need to tell you I am 73 years old."

Travel Gravel said...

I think it was on the blue bike. Looked like one half of a handlebar mustache. You would remember that much bending, so maybe it's OEM? Wow, Dave Moulton has a blog and a half! Hit that thing up for some serious wisdom. Seeya! said...

Gravel man - OEM bars:

Check 'm out:

Yeah, Dave's blog is really cool. I'm glad he's back - SB Guy