Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Mid-life Crisis and the Stiff Neck

Looking through various websites at bikes weighing about 7 kilos has taught me two things:
1) ultra-light bikes are cheaper than I thought - £1500 ($2100, €2000) gets one a decent bike if one shops around and picks one up on a discount.
2) beware of the mid-life crisis.
Taking a step back, I was out last Sunday, training for a sportive that is in 13 weeks time. It was my first "century" of the year (OK, so it was a "metric century", but in pro-cycling, everything gets measured in km, rather than miles, due to a mix of tradition and it just sounding more impressive).
Anyway, about 3/4 of the way through the ride I came upon a conveniently placed bench just outside Oving. So I sat down and admired the view over the valley.
And that is my sort of cycling.
Pootling about on country roads, and enjoying the view.
Not tearing around with my chin on the handlebars with a permanently stiff neck.
I like a luggage rack on the back of a bike, because I can hang a pannier on it, with a flask of tea and a box of sandwiches being transported to the various benches of Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire where I can enjoy the view. (There is a nice bench up near the reservoir between Cuddington and Quainton, too).
Yes, I like one or two sportives a year, but apart from that, a lightweight bike would just sit in the garage gathering dust, while my existing bike does all the commuting and shopping (yep, sometimes I get the groceries on my bike - the rest of the time my wife gets them on her bike).
Winter training?
Surely a robust, heavy, bike would be ideal.
Nothing like a cheap bike to take the salt from the roads, and the weight helps to toughen you up, too.
But I still do the odd sportive.
And a bit of audax/randonneuring.
So ... I'll not be getting a new, fancy, bike BUT I will be making some changes to Mermaid.
1) one of those adjustable, pivoting, stems, so the height of the bars can be easily altered. I have one that does a +50 to -10 degree angle. Bars high for commuting, shopping, and touring. Bars mid-level for audax/randonneuring. Bars low for sportives.
2) lightweight tyres. Keep the Marathon Plus for commuting, shopping, training and touring, with a set of MUCH lighter tyres (like Schwalbe Ones) for audax/randonneuring and sportive. The weight saving will be substantial - about 1300g just for a switch from my 37-622 M+ to a pair of 28-622 Ones! Substantially lower rolling resistance as well.
3) lightweight wheels. Keep the M+ tyres on my existing Mach 240 rims, and mount the lightweight tyres on the lightweight wheels. Heavy wheels for commuting, shopping, training and pootling about in the countryside, lightweight wheels for audax/randonneuring and sportives.
Again, it is not hard to find a modestly priced wheelset that saves about 500g on my existing behemoths.
4) water bottle cages are going to start sprouting all over Mermaid. The bike currently doesn't even have a bottle cage, although there are fitting for one. The others will be attached with some of those universal adapter kits one sees advertised.
5) For sportives, Mermaid will be losing the mudguards (fenders). Not sure how heavy they are, but they are steel (oh!), and certainly not minimalist racing jobs. 500 to 1000g sounds like a likely range.
6) Mermaid might be going 9-speed, but I haven't decided on that yet. I have a BNIB 9-speed derailleur I picked up very cheap a couple of years ago, so it wouldn't cost much. My existing 8-speed set up has an 11-32 rear cassette, but the lowest gears are spread 21 26 32 which are quite large gaps. The equivalent 9-speed cassette runs 21 24 28 32 which is nicer. I'll have to see if I can pick up a cheap shifter.
So I reckon I can get more out of Mermaid yet.
And the mid-life crisis can wait another year ;-)

Update: I did, in the end, buy a new bike.
Mermaid needed quite a bit spent to replace worn out parts.
I bought Hoppy, and the fancy wheels will have to wait :-)

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