Tuesday, November 06, 2012

New Bicycle: 2012 Edition

Last weekend, I went for a 33 mile bike ride. Nothing special, really, but it was slow. Very slow. It took me 3 hours, 15 minutes to complete the ride, for an average speed of about 10 mph. I could have blamed my sluggishness on any number of things - my route choice, the wind, or me not being in shape - but naturally, I blamed the bicycle instead. It's old and slow, I said! So the very next day, I bought a new one.

Well...fact is, I've had a new bike purchase on the radar for a while now. The bike I've been riding is 3½ years old and has over 6,000 miles on it, and it's had its share of incidents. I think I've gotten my money's worth out of it. Back in February, it underwent a major and somewhat costly repair job, which had the bike running "like new" again...for a little while. A few months back, I decided not to put any more money into it except for flat tire fixes, and that one year after the major repair job, I would get a new bicycle. And by "one year", I of course meant "nine months". Close enough.

But the biggest thing with the bicycle I've been riding is that it's not really a "road bike". It's a "hybrid", meant to be ridden on dirt roads as well as pavement. That's great, but in comparison to dedicated road bikes, it's heavy and slow. Every weekend when I go out, all of the "real" bicyclists blow past me. And, yeah, it's kind of demoralizing. Pretty much since my first long ride, I've wanted a "real" road bike.

Now I have one!

This new bike is made for road cycling. Yes, it cost twice as much as my original bike, but it'll be worth it. If I got 6,000 good miles out of the hybrid, I'm thinking I can get 10,000 miles out of this one.

First impression: it's super light! Coasting down hills was one area in which the hybrid bike actually had an advantage, but that's just because it was heavier, and of course, I paid for that going back up. I haven't taken my new bike up too many hills yet, but in theory, it should be a lot easier now, which could have a huge impact on my long ride endurance. Also, the tires are narrower, which seems to make it harder to ride. (This isn't a beginner's bike.) And the handlebars are lower, which makes me have to hunch over more. (Just like a "real" cyclist!)

So yes, I should be able to go faster on my road bike than my hybrid. But how much? I'm thinking, maybe 1-2 mph. That doesn't sound like a lot, but if I completed last weekend's 33 mile ride at 12 mph instead of 10, then I would have saved a full 30 minutes. All the "real" bicyclists will still pass me every single weekend, but at least I won't be embarrassing myself as much anymore.

I'll still keep the hybrid around for shorter rides and Marla rides, and it might actually be better for mid-week exercise. (Slower bike = more calories burned, right?) It's hard to believe I actually did a 55 mile ride on that thing once. There is no way I could do that in the bike's current condition. With the hybrid, anything beyond 30 miles is tough now. Of course, the hybrid wasn't really made for long distance riding in the first place. I've talked about doing a 100K for years now, and now I actually have a bike that I can realistically do it with.

Well...let's not get ahead of ourselves. This weekend, I'm going to take the new bike along the same 33 mile bike route that I did last weekend with the old bike, for comparison purposes. I've ridden the new bike around the neighborhood a couple times and it did seem a little easier than normal, but I won't really see the difference in endurance and speed until I go long with it. I'm hopeful that I can complete the ride in under 2:45, which would give me that 2 mph boost. (Although, to be fair, I set the bar pretty low last weekend.)

By the way, here is a graph showing my usual average speed according to the length of the ride. I'm optimistic that my new bike will bump this up by a mph or two, especially on the longer end.

So, this weekend, 33 miles. Then, next weekend: 50? Yeah, there's a charity bike ride that I'm planning on doing. I'm jumping right in, aren't I? A couple weeks back I mentioned that I've been having trouble motivating myself to ride lately. Well, buying a new bicycle is one way to do it!

Now...there are other ways I could theoretically help my speed and endurance, such as more aerodynamic clothing, and clip-on bike shoes. But I'm not ready for either of those things yet. One step at a time.

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