Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Stacks of bikes

Date: June 5
Mileage: 21.4
June mileage: 71.6
Temperature upon departure: 51

Today I returned home from a bike ride to find every other bicycle in the house strewn all over the yard. It turns out there was an unfortunate sewage incident in the storage room. The plumber had dispatched many of the contents of the room wherever they fell in the back yard, which made for a scene right out of Kentucky Homes and Gardens. (I later learned he cleared out the room before the pipe burst all over the place, which made me feel both relieved that my bikes weren't covered in sewage, and also irked that they would be treated like that in the first place.) But my first thought, upon seeing a yard full of overturned bikes is, "Wow. I own way too many bikes."

I just happened to be returning from a ride on Geoff's road bike, the closest thing we have to a "real" road bike. Before my whole knee debacle really settled in, I was seriously considering purchasing my own roadie this year. And when I found the rear tire on my bike flat - again - I thought it was about time to see how I felt about drop bars, rail-skinny tires any any other seemingly frivolous feature that supposedly eats up pavement.

The first thing I noticed was that Geoff has his clipless pedals set much tighter than mine.

The second thing I noticed was that I couldn't steer to save my life with my hands down in the drops.

The third thing I noticed was that the brakes were nowhere in reach while I was hunched in that position.

The fourth thing I noticed was an oncoming curb, in just enough time to narrowly advert tragedy.

The fifth thing I noticed, after finally coming to terms with my precarious situation, is that I couldn't get a single good stroke out of my legs. I felt like I was pedaling in water, going slower than I typically do riding pavement on my 2.7" treaded tire snow bike, and I just couldn't manage the speed. I did 20 miles like I was riding into wind, although there was none. It was a truly disappointing first encounter with a true "road" bike.

It makes me wonder if I've never developed the specific leg muscles for that position. Maybe in all of the mountain/touring bike riding I've done, sitting high and happy on flat handlebars, I've progressed in such a way that all of my power relies on high and happy muscles. This theory would hold more water if I'd actually done enough high and happy riding in the past few months to develop any of my muscles. But still ... why would a bike built specifically for speed specifically make me slower?

Geoff's theory is that he owns a slow bike.

Maybe I just had a bad day.

Either way, after coming home to mountains of mountain bikes and adding Geoff's roadie to the pile, I was able to voice what I already knew. I won't be buying a road bike this year.

These glass-coated roads are way to harsh for those wimpy tires.

And I just (finally) replaced my 7,000-mile chain/cassette on my touring bike. Might as well aim for 7,000 more.

And I already have way too many bicycles.

And, anyway, I need to save up for a real snow bike.


  1. Is Geoff taller than you are? I tried once a long time ago to ride Martin's (who is taller than I) road bike and ended up with about the same kind of feelings. I felt, like I had never ridden a bike before and I decided that day, that I would NEVER ride a road bike again!
    Only this winter, about 5 years later, for the sake of getting more training miles in, I bought I women's specific road bike, my size, kinda fitted for me. I had it on the trainer inside over the winter and in April, I got my courage up and took it out...
    Boy, those tires where skinny in the beginning. The breaks were hard to reach (they told me it was the right set up for me!?)and it didn't break very well (I am spoiled from having disk breaks on my MTB) and the worst after riding it, I was so SORE. EVERYTHING H U R T!!!!
    What in the whole world is this bike doing to me?
    But this time, being on a training plan, a was on a mission and I stuck with it. I can break now, the tires don't seem so skinny any more and I don't hurt after riding.
    I will actually try my first road race this weekend.
    But I still love my nubby tires more and will always be a MTB:)

  2. I owned four bikes up to mid winter. Then gave one away and sold another, so I was down to two.
    I turned my Kona mountainbike into a singlespeed, so I had one bike with gears and one without.

    Then I crashed the one with gears so that it was useless.

    The crashed bike is now a singlespeed, I still have my Kona singlespeed, I've ordered a 2006 jamis nova cross bike, and a reader of my blog gave me a free steel frame to build up another bike.

    So I'll soon be back to four bikes again! maybe it's kind of like a cycling kharmic balance!!

  3. Jill - I hope you don't mind, but I wrote a little blurb about your wonderful blog on my blog this morning, hoping that some of my readers will enjoy your writing and photos as much as I do.

    (If you DO mind, let me know and I'll remove it.)

    Thanks again for such a treat...

  4. I'm not trying to be a wise-ass but I thought I'd ask to see whether you pumped up the tires or not. I find I need to pump the tires up each time I ride my road bike, otherwise I feel like I'm riding in soft tar. I can just hop on my Mt. bike without checking it for several rides. Because of the small relative volume of air, as compared to a Mt. bike tire, the performance of the road tire will be affected with just a slight loss of air.

  5. No such thing as too many bikes...

    There is problems with limited space to put them tho....

  6. It is not a question of how many bikes. I myself own four and I am inheriting right now another MTB from my husband b/c he thinks it is the better race bike. And yes, every bike has a different purpose. I even own a polo bike, since we play bike polo in the winter. But I understand Jill. You always think about your NEXT bike and in her case, I would definitely go for the snow bike instead of an road bike...

  7. Velocc and Dreamwalkn both make valid points. The bike probably didn't really fit you, which can make a big differcne in your performance. And what Dreamwalkn said about tire pressure, I find to be true, too. I swear I can only have to pump my mtn bike tires like 3 times a year, but my road bike tires I have to check before every ride, ESPECIALLY if I have latex tubes instead of butyl (like I do on my race wheels).

    What I would suggest though, to give you the best of both worlds (road and mtn) is a cyclocross bike. I bought one of those last year, and it has hands down become my favorite bike. It has a more upright position than my road bike, but overall still handles like a road bike. The knobby tires and mtn bike gearing (my low gear on that bike is 26x32) allow me to go anywhere. I've even had that thing on singletrack, and it was a BLAST! It also has all the mounts for fenders and a rear rack, so makes a great commuting & touring bike, too. I did a 3-day self-supported tour w/ friends on it last fall, and it was great.

    Anyway, my two cents...


    p.s. I hope all goes well w/ your plumbing situation!

  8. I don't like road bikes much either, and for where I live it's not that useful of a tool anyhow. A snow bike would be sick! What are you thinking?

  9. I'm still trying to figure out the guy I keep seeing on the levee bike path down here in New Orleans riding a snow bike. Poor guy. He must miss it terribly! BTW, borrowed road bikes never feel right!

  10. Forget road bikes. If you must have a skinnier tire bike, go with a cyclocross bike. I just built up my Surly - the frame was cheap (<$300.) and I put cross brakes on them - they mount up on horizonal part of the bar to allow you to brake while your hands are on top of the drop bars. Much nicer in my opinion. Plus you can ride with fatter tires. Seem like that would be better up there in the north.

  11. One -- my next bike will be a surly cross check, if I ever decide to own another bike.

    Two, Road tires that are kevlar jacketed are absolutely worth the money, espcially if you live in a bottle strewn state that starts with an "A." It makes all the difference in the world.

    Aside from the two flats today. I have hardly had a flat since I returned from AZ 9 months ago.

  12. yep the cross check, just got one for the oldest son and he is loving it, it is his only transport, and then the pugsley and your set, road bikes have to fit like a glove, I do not think you can borrow someones and really have a good experience on it, I am glad your knee is on the mend.


Feedback is always appreciated!