Training Tuesday: a new bike and my first long bike ride

Wow, lots has happened since my last Training Tuesday entry. Maybe I should call it “Triathlon Tuesday,” since not every post is about training? But then again, not every post is about triathlon, either, as you’ll soon see.

I’d been wanting a new bike for some time. My previous ride, a Specialized Crosstrail Sport Disc, is a big, heavy beast of a bike. Its gearing is designed for trails; it has 3 chainrings (more on which later) with 9 gears in each. In addition, the frame geometry is such that you sit up straight and tall, which is fine for riding to work (the reason why I bought it) but not so great for riding fast in races or training. After my debacle at Rocketman, and my successful experience at Nation’s Tri with a rented Cannondale road bike, I knew I wanted to try to find a road bike before my last two races: Racin’ the Station and Rocketman Florida.

To save you lots of tedium, I’ll cut my description of the shopping process short. Suffice to say I did a ton of research, hit all the local bike shops, test rode a bunch of bikes, and spent an unhealthy amount of time looking at bikes on SearchTempest and eBay. The keys to finding the perfect bike are that you should pick a bike:

  • that fits you. This is a bit of a problem since I am tall. Bike geometry is complicated, so I quit trying to predict what would fit me in favor of riding bikes to see. how they felt
  • that’s in your price range. You can spend many thousands of dollars on super-fast racing bikes with all kinds of fancy crap, but that wouldn’t do me much good. To get faster, I need more time riding, not an uber-bike. All I wanted was a basic entry-level road bike, so I set a budget limit of $1000.
  • that you like. This was tricky. I saw lots of bikes that I liked that weren’t in my price range, and some that I liked and were in my price range didn’t fit me (including a really sweet all-carbon Douglas).

I pretty much struck out at the local bike shops. The model year for bikes changes over in August or September, so there were very few 2014 bikes in my size left, and most manufacturers hadn’t shipped many 2015 bikes in my size and price range. So I narrowed things down to a couple of 2014 models at two local shops– a Trek Madone 2.1 and a Cannondale CADD9–  and was planning on going to pick one out when I got back from Exchange Connections. In the meantime, though, a mechanic who works for one of the local shops told me about a sweet-sounding bike he had: a 2013 Giant Defy 1. It was in my price range, and I liked the idea of getting a slightly used bike for less than retail. We met Wednesday, I test-rode the bike for a few laps around the parking lot, and made the deal. Thus this picture from Wednesday night:

What a sexy beast! And the bike is nice too.

What a sexy beast! And the bike is nice too.

I didn’t get a chance to ride Thursday, but Friday afternoon after work I put on my SPD pedals and speed/cadence sensors and got in about a 2-mile ride. After a few tweaks to the seat position, I packed up the bike and went to bed. Saturday morning, I got up bright and early to meet Wendy (one of my Tri101 coaches), her husband, Teresa (another 101 alum), and her husband to convoy over to the All You Can Eat ride sponsored by the Spring City Cycling Club. I hadn’t really planned on riding this ride, but after I told Wendy that I bought the bike, she encouraged me to give it a shot. I decided to go for it. I only signed up the 34-mile loop, but I figured that would be plenty. The 50-, 67-, and 103-mile groups rolled out at 8am, and I joined them so I could ride with Wendy and Mike. The weather was absolutely perfect: mid-70s, with a nice breeze and plenty of sunshine. The first 6 miles or so were pretty slow, as we were riding in a big mob. However, about mile 7, there was a long downhill (with a sharp left at the bottom, yikes), and that spread the group out a good bit. I hit about 30mph downhill and could easily have gone faster if I weren’t so chicken!

Doesn't look like much from here…

Doesn’t look like much from here…

This ride was much different from what I’m used to. In triathlons, you’re not allowed to bunch up or draft, and everyone rides hell-for-leather. In this kind of ride, you can ride abreast, clump up, ride right of the centerline, and pretty much do what you want as long as you’re not unsafe. It was great to be able to ride along chatting with people, the more so because I actually knew some of the people I was talking to!

Another big difference: in this kind of ride, there are rest stops WITH FOOD. That’s right: we rode about 15 miles, stopped for a snack, rode another 8 miles, snacked again, and then rode about 9 miles to the finish. At the first stop, I had half a PB&J, a banana, a big cup of Gatorade, four or five Fig Newtons, and a brownie. Longer distances thus mean more snacks, giving you a built-in incentive to push your distance. As it was, 34 miles is about double my previous long ride distance, so that was enough pushing for me.

After rest stop 2, the ride went fine until we turned onto Salty Bottom Road (great name, huh?) The turn put us into the teeth of a stiff headwind, which slowed me down, and then I had to stop and walk up about half the hill around mile 32– I was just gassed at that point. I definitely felt the difference in chainrings on this hill; on the Crosstrail I would have just dropped to the lowest ring and blasted up the hill (well, OK, “blasted” probably isn’t the right verb). Having only 2 rings is going to take some getting used to.

The scenery was incredible: a hundred shades of green in the grass and fields, a squadron of planes overhead flying into Moontown for the EAA 190 pancake breakfast, and mountains, or at least what passes for mountains here, in the background. The course was very well marked and the support volunteers did a wonderful job of feeding us, providing a sag wagon, and handling all the pesky logistics.

This graph nicely summarizes the overall ride for me. The white line is elevation; the orange line is speed. The gaps indicate rest stops. You can clearly see the big downhill around mile 7 (look for the steep white cliff), plus a few later hills. My average speed was 14.3mph, which was pulled down by the long stretch of chat-riding  at the start. I was routinely hitting 20+ mph on the flats, something that would have been improbable, if not impossible, on the Crosstrail, so I’m really pleased with the results.

Tale of the tape

Tale of the tape

Now I need to log some more miles before Rocketman Orlando, which features a 32-mile bike course. On Sunday, I rode the Racin’ the Station course with a group, just to get a feel for it; I wasn’t pushing hard at all and averaged around 14.5mph. I need to get a few more rides in this week (along with RtS this Saturday). I’ll definitely be on the lookout for other sub-metric-century rides– I may have accidentally caught the club-ride bug!

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