Falling in love (again)

2 11 2012

Regular MAer Guy recounts his latest love affair…

One of the odd things about getting older is I seem to keep rediscovering things that I had forgotten (and I’m not just talking about the location of my keys or wallet)

I last owned a proper road bike (drop bars, thin tyres, big wheels, 531 frame) over 22 years ago. I loved road cycling for the sense of speed, freedom and the ability to cover distance quickly that you only get when you are young, can’t afford a car and aren’t allowed to buy a motorbike (due to over-protective parents). The discovery of mountain biking when I was at college meant that the way forwards was going to be fat-tyred and roads were ignored for trails, hills and mud. As the years wore on I took the popular view of road bikes being “The Dark-Side”, a place of archaic bikes, men who shaved their legs, general boredom and the dullness of tarmac. Off-road was where it was at.

Over the last few years however, I seemed to be finding myself in cycle shops looking at new road bikes and having feelings of, for want of a better word, confusion. A loan of a mates’ bike last year slightly put my mind at rest: the frame was far too big for me and the bike also had some rather worrying crash damage too meant that I hated the (thankfully short) experience of riding it. That should have been the end of it but the interest remained.

A few muddy@rsers have been known to dabble in road biking and to be honest, peer pressure seemed to take hold. Magazines (of a non-off-road outlook) were bought, reviews read and, after a lot of faffing, earlier this year I finally decided to take the plunge and buy a roadbike. Not really knowing what to get I decided to use my Designers’ instinct and go for one that looked good. A basic but rather neat looking black and silver Specialized Allez was duly purchased from Evans Gatwick with the view that if I really didn’t like it, I could always give it back and get my money refunded.

The first ride was interesting to say the least. I hadn’t done any test rides at all and set off down my road for a quick ride round the block…the sheer shock of a modern road bike blew me away: it was fast, really, really fast (please note that this is all relative). The feeling that no effort was being wasted in fat tyres, weight or suspension, the steering though a carbon fork and narrow drop bars was super direct. The bike felt comfortable and could be thrown around a bit too. The worryingly thin tyres seemed to be able to find grip on corners that I didn’t realise was there. The ride round the block became a 5 mile evening thrash around my local roads. A longer weekend ride confirmed my first impressions, this was FUN! Different from mountain biking? Yes. But dull? Definitely not. The bike just willed me to go faster and farther. Sod the Jedis! The Darkside had ensnared me.

Recent rides have only confirmed this. A 60 mile ride in the rain with Sally and Robin showed me the delights of quiet lanes and short sharp climbs with no (well, not much) mud.

Local rides where I was able to discover lanes that I didn’t know existed and even finding the occasional side track that would need to be checked later on a map and then on the mountain bike.

 

Guy out for a training ride through Worthing (in his head)

A ride from Box Hill to celebrate Lisa and Rick’s wedding anniversary took in some of the Olympic road racing course and a 4-man team sprint with Dave, Jim and Rick on the back roads from Leith Hill to Dorking were such good fun and reminded me of when I was a kid fooling around on my first racing bike.

More discoveries have been made:

  • 45minutes free late on a weekend evening? Just enough time to blow some cobwebs away and sprint on quiet roads then home definitely beats sitting on the sofa channel flipping when there is no TV to watch. This worked very well during the Tour de France where Worthing would be treated to a bloke on a black Allez trying to do a nightly impersonation of Bradley Wiggins (only slower, slightly fatter and without the sideburns)
  • Dreadful weather all week meaning that the trails are nothing but a muddy hell? Well, the roads are dry-ish and early Sunday morning means they are quiet too.

This really does seem to have rekindled my fire for cycling in a way that I didn’t expect.  The mountain bike is appreciated more now as I ride it when I really feel like it rather than as my normal Sunday morning ritual. I seem to be a bit fitter too which is always a bonus. A recent trip to the doctor for my annual asthma check-up showed that I have also lost a little bit of weight too…RESULT!

And then we come to the next stage of succumbing to the Dark-Side: Strava.  This seems to have unleashed even more fun and stupidity in equal measure. It makes even a quick shopping trip into town a time trial where I can pit myself against a lot of unknown (and a lot fitter) local riders who I have never met.

I’ve even bought a pair of Bib Shorts for heavens sake!

So it looks like the future for me is going to be, in part at least, as a MAMIL (*)  but I don’t think I will be shaving my legs…well not yet anyway. 🙂

* Editors notes: MAMIL =Middle Aged Man In Lycra

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2 responses

8 11 2012
fishing1

It is all true. Guy has written something that could have been the story of my 2012. Yes it is fast and the distance you cover is impressive, yes it is clean’ish (suprisingly dirty on the country roads though), very rewarding & satisfying. Initially the biggest shock for me was how tiring it is. You never stop pedalling, i didn’t realise how much rest you get on a mtb. but it’s all riding. The bug has really bitten now i’ve joined the local road club ! Now the upgrade thing has started all over again but on a different bike now.

13 11 2012
Will Newton

So with you on this one, it’s like going back to being 14 – 18 years old and cycling off round Kent all the time. Time constraints mean I can’t do several hour rides anymore, but a good route means you can go 15 miles out in 2 hours. Wish I could descend like I used to… and the roads were smooth…

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