1. Allroad bike, Diamondback Haanjo Comp. This is my bike, I ride it the most and it’s the only bike equipped for rain and carrying things. It could be better at both those things but my tastes and use-case were still evolving when I bought it so some of the things are a little kludge-y but they work fine and it’s fun to ride. Handles up to moderate/severe gravel just fine on 32s balloned out to 36/37s on 28mm rims. Fast as I need on the road, comfortable but a little stiff sometimes. I can ride for 10 hours and have nothing but slightly sore and tired legs.
2. Mountain bike, Raleigh Tekoa Comp. For me, mountain bike racing is the ultimate experience. The speed is addictive and the mental skills needed to perform well add endless depth to an intrinsically enjoyable activity. My raleigh is a dyed-in-the-wool racing bike. Just stiff enough, just enough clearance and speed speed speed. I’ll keep riding it until the frame fails.
3. Allgravel bike, Charge Hi-29er. A portion of the gravel races in Georgia and near-Georgia grew out of mountain bike races and often feature 50/50 singletrack/gravel with significant elevation changes. A mountain bike is a blast on singletrack but kind of a drag on gravel. A drop-bar mountainbike is a blast on both! This is the racer I ride for things like Southern Cross, Big Frog 65, Fools Gold, etc. Anytime there’s gravel and lots of descending this bike excels. I think the fork is shot but it’s still workable for now. Steel frame and 29″ wheels are great, the bike reminds me of those Russian racing trucks. It takes a lot of horsepower to stay on top of it but the reward is extreme capability and ridiculous descending speed.
4. Gravel road bike, Soma Double Cross Disc. For those flatter and smoother gravel races. This bike fits in perfectly on a fast, tight paceline roaring over dusty gravel roads. Lots of planing with the frame and square taper cranks/bb, sometimes it feels like the bike is just pedaling itself. This bike is getting flared drops for the next season, should make a really good bike even better.
It’s been a long time since I had any cycling goals. So easy to set a ceiling and once hit continually venture only as high as you’ve already been.
I’ve done that this year, so far.
I did it last year.
I mean, I plan rides in new places and have had a ton of new experiences racing my mountain bike and gravel bikes around the Southeast but it’s been a long time since I set out to work towards and complete a goal that isn’t just a spur of the moment Saturday morning ride.
In 2015 I had a few goals. I rode a 200k and was on my way to a 300k when the seasons changed and I ran out of motivation.
In 2014 I was racing at the track and it was more fun than anything else. I did a few centuries and a lot of the Dunwoody Cycling Saturday ride.
2013 I wanted to be a road racer. I raced as much as I could afford and worked very hard to race well. It didn’t pan out but it was fun and made me feel accomplished at the end of the season.
2012 my goal was to ride a fixed gear century. I failed the first time but succeeded the second. Creeping out of my mom’s house at 5am and riding along the quiet Sunday hours to the outskirts of Athens, GA. Later I wanted to win an alleycat, which I did twice. The Peachtree Bash and the Black Cat Alleycat. The former is on of my most cherished experiences.
2011 I started cycling. First I just wanted to ride more than 5 miles. Then I wanted to ride from my duplex to the restaurant I worked at – a special place where I made friends and grew so much. 24 miles round trip, felt like a huge accomplishment at the time. Later I wanted to ride 40 miles, after that a metric century but I think that didn’t happen until 2012.
Remember, if someone is talking only about tire pressure and never mentions sag (looking at you Jan Heine) they’re not giving you the whole story.
Or; how I left the road race-industrial complex.
So much has happened in the past few months. Uh..well at least for my cycling life. If you live and ride a bike in the USA you’d be forgiven for thinking that riding fast and racing were the pinnacle of the experience. This has started changing in recent years but of all the pages printed and all the bandwidth used to discuss bicycle stuff, the majority is going to be about racing and “being fast.”
I got trapped into this myself. Started out innocuous enough; “riding a bike is fun and I see all these things about how racing is awesome so I should do that for the best cycling experience!”
This is wrong. Racing, especially road racing, is not the pinnacle of cycling and a lot of times is just a bunch of bullshit you don’t need. Now, I do like some racing but it’s important to know that being fast should be done sparingly. If you’re just riding around be sure to stop and take a picture or rest or turn off your route to investigate something cool. Sit down to eat your $2 stroopwafel.
For years it was so hard for me to do these things. I was so obsessed with being fast and riding hard so I could be a racer that I wasn’t actually doing things that made me happy. It seemed like I was, mainly because you punish yourself so hard that when you stop you immediately feel awesome and the cause/effect gets conflated. It feels the same as exploring a new route or seeing a beautiful vista or petting a stray cat but those things are not as hard as 195 beats a minute up a 11% grade trying not to get dropped so you can come in 50th our of 180 entrants.
So I’m still racing but now it’s more partici-racing. I’m more interested in the experience than the training or being fast. It’s fun to have an event to prepare for and attend on the weekend. Riding hard and then laying around and napping as the sun sets is such a wonderful experience. Legs sore and body pumping out drugs to make you feel good.
What’s really changed is how I ride now. I’ve abandoned any pretenses of riding fast or being fast on my regular rides. I just pedal along, ready to stop for anything interesting or to rest. It’s so liberating that I wonder how it was so easy to give up in the first place.
So what got me out and back into fun cycling?
- A front rack – riding in regular clothes usually means you can’t carry much as pockets become unreliable. Having a front rack gives me my tools, food and other stuff right there. Also opens up the possibility of stopping to pick up something cool.
- Street clothes – doesn’t feel as ridiculous to use a sidewalk to connect to a cool road I never rode before because there wasn’t a good way to get there. Also allows for easier stopping, don’t feel like a idiot sitting around in racing kit.
- Just not being fast – my first few rides averaging less than 14 miles per hour were hard to deal with but now I don’t care. If I want to be fast I can pick a short segment and blow up there. My rides taken as a whole are for fun and exploration, not speed.
It’s not really much but just having a front rack is what opened up everything else. I can carry what I need so I’m never worried about being stranded and feel comfortable going pretty much anywhere.
So I have almost two months riding this set-up, about 70 hours. Here are some things I’ve noticed. Remember this bike is set-up with 650bx42 tires and has a trail of 75mm.
The more I ride the set-up the better it feels. I seem to be adapting to the way the load changes the handling. Feels like a normal bike now whereas before it felt a little weird.
It’s more akin to riding a mountain bike than a road bike. Turning at high speed requires body english, leaning the bike and paying attention to where my weight is. It feels totally natural to go from my 80ish-mm trail 29er mountain bike to this bike.
It’s slower. On a strict mile-per-hour basis it doesn’t seem like much; maybe .5-.7 miles per hour per 3-4 hours. But really that’s around 3%-7% speed decrease, not insignificant in those terms. I think this might have to do with a combination of the cornering and climbing changes due to how the front load moves up and down as the handlebars move left and right. In essence, I’m not just pedaling the bike forward I’m keeping the front wheel tracking straight and this requires more power than before. My current load is only 2-3 pounds heavier than what I was carrying in my saddle bag and on my person so I’m not convinced it’s weight related. Might be small aero losses as well or that could just be from wearing a loose cotton t-shirt. Oh well.
There’s an inspired confidence to being able to carry necessities in an easily accessible location. I roll around with a full my full winter complement of additional clothes and have no stress about being caught unaware by weather. If I decide to change my two hour ride to a four hour ride I have extra batteries and clothes to accommodate this.
Find a three pound 16-inch wrench in the middle of the road? Pick it up and strap it to your rack!
This needs a handlebar bag or basket or something. I’ve got a handlebar bag working but I’ve just been strapping stuff to the rack and each other like a bicycle hobo so it works ok but bags/baskets would be better.
I am deep into my imitation of Patrick Plaine, at least in style if not necessarily in substance.
Still above is from this short film: https://vimeo.com/58201809