[033] Better biking

Swim: 1,500 m/22,200 m

Bike: 14.04/51.7 miles

Run: 0/35.5 miles

Tough Tuesday returned this week, but instead of a spin class to follow an hour in the weight room, I returned home and hit the streets of my neighborhood for an hour-long, 14-mile ride. It felt great to get outside for a ride (and the weight workout was refreshing, too – as I type this a day later my arms are still pleasantly sore!), but I am left with many questions about my cycling efforts.

The main issue is that I feel like I should be a faster cyclist. My average speed has been right around 15 mph, and I feel like I’m working harder than that speed would indicate. It’s true that my neighborhood is pretty hilly (and it always seems like I’m going uphill instead of down), but there are a few downhill sections where I feel like I’m not riding as fast as I’d like.

There are two factors at play here – my fitness and my equipment. I’ve been a runner for a while, and although biking uses different muscles, I feel like some of my leg strength and cardio fitness should translate to the bike. I will freely admit that there’s room for improvement in this area.

Wouldn't one of these be nice? Looks fast just sitting there! This is what $4,000 gets you.

As for the equipment, I feel like I’m starting from the lowest levels. My bike is a department-store model, something we got with the idea of “let’s see how you like it before spending big bucks on a fancy bike.” As I’ve mentioned before, the pedals are naked – even an inexpensive upgrade like adding toe cages would help harness some of the power I’m losing as my feet frequently stray from the pedals. The bike also feels heavy – it’s aluminum but feels more sluggish than my mountain bike, which is a bit nicer. This was illustrated on rides with a friend last year, when even coasting on the downhill sections he would pull away easily, like his bike just rolled better than mine. (It can’t be discounted that he is a stronger cyclist than me, but even in the “easy” sections he seemed to pull away effortlessly.)

Also, the gear shifts are jarring, not the smooth transition that you would like when trying to maintain power up a hill. It can be frustrating to start a climb only to have your gears pop, which makes your feet slide off the pedals to which they’re not secured, causing you to lose all momentum.

In any case, these arguments are academic at this point. With entry-level tri bikes costing $1,500 or more, it’s not likely that I’ll be in the market for one any time soon. I can start with making easy upgrades to my current bike – toe cages and perhaps a tune-up at the local bike shop to get the gears dialed in. In the immortal words of Stephen Stills: “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” The road bike I have now is the only one I’ve got, so I need to make the best of it.

(The stats at the top of this post also include a 1,500-meter swim from Monday – another positive effort in the pool. This workout was more structured, with several sets of 75m easy, 50m fast, 25m breast.)

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2 Responses to [033] Better biking

  1. John Clarke says:

    I think you should get that bike! It looks awesome. You deserve it for working so hard.

  2. Tom says:

    Get a good book on bike maintenance and learn to tune your own bike up. It pays off in the long run. No special tools needed and after you get over the fear of playing with the adjustments it becomes pretty easy. A bike stand does help a lot but you can work around that.

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