Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Biking update

I am still trying to deal with the fact that I'm not supposed to be running.  Swimming mostly sucks, which leaves biking until the snow falls.  I have been doing a mix of mountain and road biking and enjoy them both. 

I decided if this is something I am going to have to commit to, I was going to replace my 17 year old road bike.  If you go that long without buying something, chances are you will be stunned when you see the new prices.  High quality bikes now start around $2,000 and run up towards $10,000.  I decided I would rather get a used expensive bike than a new cheaper bike.  I started watching eBay, Craigslist and KSL.com.

I ended up buying one off eBay from a bike shop in Pennsylvania.  A customer had bought the bike, decided it wasn't the right fit, and asked the bike shop to sell it for him.  It only has a few hundred miles on it. I managed to get it for about 55% of the cost of a new one and it is in perfect shape.
My choice was a Specialized Roubaix Expert, which I think of as a racing bike for an old guy. It is designed to provide high performance, but also to lessen the shocks and vibrations from the road.  The name and design came from the Paris-Roubaix bike race, which is famous for having stretches over cobblestone streets.

There are a number of things they did to minimize the riding pain:
  • The frame is all carbon fiber.  They can lay the fiber in such a way that the bike flexes in some directions, but not in others.  It is stiff and responsive to pedaling, but gives in the direction of the road shocks.
  • You can see some odd bends in the seat stays and the fork.  Specialized calls these Zertz.  Zertz are elastomeric dampeners. They aren't really shock absorbers, but they are supposed to reduce the road vibrations.  Around here they slather the roads every summer with something called seal coat.  In theory, it seals the cracks in the road so water can't get in and freeze.  In reality, it just vibrates the hell out of bicyclists.
  • It has a long wheel base.  You can see how the front fork angles forward instead of straight down.  This softens the blows from bumps.
  • They also made it more upright.  They understood that us old(er) guys don't like folding into a deep tuck all day.
I also got a version with a Compact crank up front and a bigger freewheel in the back.  Now I finally have gears I can use on these mountain climbs and still keep my cadence up.
And finally, the previous owner upgraded the wheels to Mavic Ksyrium's.  Did you know that racing wheels often run well over $1000?  For entertainment, go shopping here for a minute or two.  Damn!
So, no more excuses.  I have a great road bike and it should last me many years.  I can ride it hard and fast (if I get into shape) but it will still take care of my poor, tired body.

I struggle with where to spend my exercise time, road biking or mountain biking?  I keep hearing about accidents my friends are having on their mountain bikes, and that has me a bit timid.  Serious mountain bikers answer "sure, but you can get hurt driving or even walking."   Yes, but I can't think of any other activities where in the past month or two, close friends have:
  • got a concusion
  • broke a jaw and lost 5 teeth
  • broke 4 ribs, a collar bone, and punctured a lung
  • broke a radial bone at the elbow
  • punctured a thigh with a brake handle
I'm pretty sure I can go a good chunk of my life without hearing about that many injuries from walking.  Now I just wonder how much cycling I can get in before the roads ice up and the snow falls.  At least few weeks I hope.
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