This followed me home from the bike shop today! Can I keep it? PLELEEELEELEELELEEEEEEEZZE????? I promise I will feed it and wash it and take it out for rides (almost) every day and I’ll take it to races where it can play with other bikes… Can I? Huh? Can I? PLEEEZE??!
I know… I got some ‘splainin” to do. Stick with me for a minute.
Picture, if you will, a garage full of bicycles. ONE for the wife, ONE for the boy, ONE for the girl and THREE for me. Now, granted, I ride a LOT more than they do… but still. I had a commuter bike (cyclocross), a mountain bike (hard tail, lower end), and a million dollar triathlon bike. Guess which one got the most miles last year? Yup. The commuter bike. Then the mountain bike. Then the triathlon bike.
…I’m an idiot.
Actually, last year was just a really tough year. Lots of things kept getting in the way of training. Serious things that needed to be dealt with. But it all lead up to me really falling off the exercise wagon. In October I was standing in the garage looking at my stable of bikes and I just started asking myself why I had them and what my goals really were. AND, most importantly, did the stable live up to the needs?
The answer, obviously, was no. I had a triathlon bike any pro would be proud to ride. A $5000 rig that was made to go far and fast. I do neither and don’t really expect to. The reality is that I’m an overweight, 40… something working dad who exercises, not “trains”. This bike was a race rig. Really only to be ridden on race day. I was using it kinda like using a Ferrari as a daily commuter car. It made no sense. I needed a less exotic, more work-a-day machine that I could train and race on without guilt. If I rode it 500 miles in a week, great! If I didn’t ride it for six months (like I did with the million dollar bike), it was a total waste of money sitting in the garage.
Part two of my reasoning for changing the stable was the type of riding I enjoy the most. I LOVE mountain biking. For a million reasons. But the biggest one, around mid MO anyway, is that I can get a great workout in about the same amount of time on my MTB and not have to worry about traffic, angry drivers, narrow roads and all the other crap I put up with most of the time on a road bike.
So I had a mountain bike that really wasn’t built for the mileage (I also want to do offroad triathlons at some point) I wanted to put on it, a RACE bike that was overkill for my needs and ability level, and a commuter bike that was getting long in the tooth. And since we moved our offices to a different location this bike no longer made sense to have because a mountain bike can do the same thing.
So the shuffling began. I sold all my bikes. Then I got an all terrain mountain bike (good quality, but matched to my ability… not my desires…) and now this bike. Again, not top of the line by any stretch. One step above base components, average frame, a decent setup but mostly basic. No fancy hidden, aero brakes (that clogged up and stopped working… a lot) or super tight geometry (that damn near killed me on occasion when I went to turn tightly and the front wheel hit my FOOT). Just a solid, dependable, ridable bike.
I took it straight from the shop to a locally famous loop called Big Tree. I was giddy like a kid with a new toy. But I was also worried that I had been spoiled by the Ferrari bike and would hate this one from the first ride. My friend Dan met me for the ride and I was glad for the company. I was also worried that, since it had been 5 months since I had been on a road bike, I would forget how or something…
So how did it go?
Very, very well. After some parking lot adjustments to the saddle and seat height we left out for this 21 mile loop that has all kinds of terrain in it. Hills, flats, hills… more hills. After the initial squirreliness of riding any bike for the first time and getting used to it, I settled in and found the bike to be responsive. Not as nimble as the old bike, but a lot more stable. The Shimano 105 shifted crisply and lightly and the FSA brakes stopped me when I wanted them to and did so with ease. The gearing on this bike is the first big difference I noticed. The Ferrari was geared for top end speed. A huge chainring on the front with a small chainring that wasn’t really all that small. The rear cassette was something like a 12/24. For you non bike geeks that just meant there wasn’t much difference between too easy and can’t pedal. The Valdora has a decent sized big chainring (50?, maybe 52?) but has a granny ring (40?) that makes getting up the steep stuff easier to spin through. Since I don’t have climbing legs like Lance, I need gearing that lets me spin the crank faster so I don’t blow up on the run from using all my power on the hills. And I believe the rear cassette is a 12/28 (or higher). This doesn’t sound much different, but it is when you want to spin, not stand and stomp.
The Valdora frame is carbon fiber and it’s STIFF. A couple of times I missed a shift and HAD to stand and stomp. It made for a really good climbing platform. It handled the hills well and the extra teeth on the gears really made for happy legs when I was done. Overall I would say that was one of the more enjoyable rides I’ve had on a road bike. And my knees didn’t hurt either (a constant problem no matter what I adjusted on the old bike).
There are a few things I will change though. Although I like the flexibility of the bar set that is on the bike, it is a bit cheaply made. I will upgrade it at some point. I need to shorten the bar stem to keep me from feeling so stretched out (or I might just have to get used to not being bunched up like I was on the old bike). I need to drop the bars a bit because I feel like I’m too upright. All minor tweaks that you go through with any bike, really.
I’m really looking forward to spring. Yes, I will still do most of my training rides offroad, but I’m loving those early season duathlons and triathlons more and more as I go… 🙂