As promised earlier in the week, today I rode my hybrid two miles to church. The reasons I rode my hybrid were the general nostalgia of riding that thing after two years (I used to love this bike), it was less hassle (has a rack for carrying my trunk pack, regular pedals with clipping straps), and I wanted to see if my general great shape has made any improvements to my ability to get some speed on it. Well, it turns out that it does not matter how muscular my legs are or how much better my cadence is; I found it extremely hard to maintain a 13-15mph average even on the straight parts of the route. I feel a little humbled by the fact that my apparent strength and speed on the road has more to do with the bike I’m riding than my actual ability.
I rode 8.17 miles (I also stopped at Marc’s up the street from me–in the opposite direction of church–to pick up some stuff I needed) and attained a completely horrible average of *cough, cough* 10.7.
Maybe my computer is not up to snuff right now. There seems to be some things I need to have replaced or adjusted on that bike. I’m not sure what all they are, but I did notice a few things:
- The seat post has a tendency to sink a little despite being in the locked position. Perhaps the locking screw is stripped or something.
- The plastic guard between the gear cassette and the back wheel is loose and, therefore, it rattles as it moves freely as the wheel spins.
I also noticed that the biggest difference between my hybrid and my road bike is that while the gears are generally lower than the the ones on my road bike, they make less efficient use of my spinning. I seem to run in a much higher gear than I would need to on my Giant because a gear on my hybrid, being lower, doesn’t seem to help me move any better. I used to think it was a weakness of my road bike to have to work so hard in these generally higher gears, but now I’m realizing it’s really the benefit because one turn of the pedal on my Giant makes much more efficient use of the spin than my hybrid does. I can’t explain it too well here–it’s something you feel as a rider. You just become so tuned to what you know you should feel as you’re pushing those pedals and what the output of that energy gives you.
For example, there is one short but kind of tough hill right as I get into Kent (the city where my church is). I had no problem pedaling up that hill in the middle back gears while in the middle ring of my front gear. Granny gears would be overkill on this hill. On my Giant, I usually take this hill in the lower back gears in my middle ring. Anyway, as I pushed up this hill, I was spinning my little legs at a comfortable, sane cadence while appreciating the push of this relatively high gear. I only had about 2-3mph going up the hill. I felt as though I were literally crawling. It’s a hill with a sharp grade, but on my road bike, I’m usually going up it at about 6-10mph. 2-3mph on my road bike would be a pretty nasty hill–something of upwards of 7% grade or more. I surely have been on some hills that have put me that low, but they are not located on city streets… I mean, it was almost embarrassing to me how slow I was going.
Maybe that bike needs a serious tune-up. It really hasn’t been used much in the last two years since I got my Giant. I lent it for awhile to Diane and she used it for a few months to do some rides and registered tours before buying her own event bike. Then it sat in my garage for several more months, accumulating the dust from my dad’s many projects remodeling in my house. I only recently raised the seat and installed the straps back on the pedals (because I absolutely cannot ride a bike without my feet being strapped into the pedals in some manner any more).
It’s funny how everything changes the more you get into cycling and you upgrade bikes as I did. I also could not help but feel how heavy that bike is. It’s not just something people say to you that you accept as a cycling snobbery. It’s completely and utterly true, another thing you just feel when you ride a hybrid after all the time on your road bike. People used to say it to me all the time when I was going up those long climbs in Colorado, “Man, I admire your ambition for doing a ride like this on such a heavy bike.”
I used to think, “This bike isn’t heavy!” It was much lighter than the trail/mountain hybrid I’d owned previous to the hybrid, and even at one time I thought the mountain hybrid was lighter than any bike I’d ever owned. So I never understood it quite until I moved into the ranks of the road cyclists. Now I’m the one thinking about how uninformed I was riding my hybrid up those mountain passes. I was giving myself much more work than necessary. I could have done those rides much faster and more efficiently had I gone from my mountain bike right to a road bike. Mountain biking was never to be my thing–I always wanted to do distance and roads.
It’s like one of those lessons where your parents tell you something as a kid that you never understand the logic of until you become an adult. It reminds me of when my parents used to tell me as a teenager that owning a car was expensive. I used to think, “Huh? I can get a used car for a couple of thousand dollars and then all I have to do is pay for gas.” Then you have a car and you realize you have to pay for all the oil changes and miscellaneous repairs and insurance coverage in addition to everything else. It’s something that doesn’t make sense until you live it. And then the words just ring back to you and you realize they were right. Damn sobering sometimes.
Something else I learned today is that I really should wear bike clothes on the hybrid, even on shorter commuter and putzing around town trips. I wore the skorts and shirt I was wearing to church and it was really hot and sweaty. Next time, I think I am just going to wear my bike shorts and a t-shirt or something, and then change into church-appropriate clothes in the bathroom when I get there. The regular clothes were way too restrictive and retained sweat and I was hot throughout the service from my ride in (since we don’t have any AC). I know bike clothes aren’t too attractive, but there is something to be said about how lycra “breathes”–releasing the heat from your body and allowing cooler air in to cool your body. The shorts allow for unrestricted movement as you are pedaling, whereas my skorts just hiked up and caused my thighs to chafe against the seat a little.
Anyway, I think my hybrid should be relegated to only short commutes around town, rides on unpaved surfaces with friends who aren’t obsessed speed demons or on trips to places like Pelee Island where the objective isn’t to ride ungodly miles quickly. Really, I can ride a bike and relax. Though I understand that it doesn’t appear that way when I can’t even use it on my commute to church and a store without complaining about its lack of speed. I guess I just get used to a certain speed and efficiency factor, and it just depresses the crap out of me when I’m not attaining that. Actually, as I stated earlier, I’m humbled by the fact that my bike makes all of the difference and that not even my fitness level and cycling prowess could beat the confining factors of the hybrid. It makes me feel bad about myself on some level that the only reason I’m able to achieve some of the riding feats that I have is more due to the bike that I ride than my personal skill.
Oh well. I guess the tools we use enhance what we have… It still takes my skills to put me in the middle of a club ride when I’m amidst a crowd of people with equally as equipped bicycles. And if I ever wanted to achieve greater cycling speed and efficiency, I still have many bars to reach for. I really have a lot to be proud of as far as my cycling goes, anyway. I’ve become a much stronger hill climber than I was last year and that’s a skill that is the great equalizer of all road cyclists.
Maybe I will throw some money into getting my hybrid back up to par. I hate to have a bike sitting in my garage that is not in good shape. All my bikes should be working as efficiently as possible for the best riding experience when I’m using them. (All? I only have two! Right now, that is…)
I guess, too, I just need to relax when I take my bike for a ride into church, which was really more a gas-saving move for me than anything else. It seems stupid in weather like this to drive 2 miles down the road. My hybrid is perfect for around town commutes. Not anything more than that–my commute to work is 17 miles through the Cuyahoga Valley, so if I ever do ride into work, my road bike is going to be the choice for that venture (plus, I’ve gotta go up some monster hills that I’d rather not do on the hybrid now that I know how slow it is up hills).
I gotta remember to smile. It’s not all about the speed. It’s is about the enjoyment for me. Sometimes I lose sight of that in my crazy competition with myself…