Sunday, November 28, 2010

From Knobbies to Slicks

From the moment I made my first turn of the pedal on my first mountain bike, I knew this was the kind of bicycle for me.  I enjoyed riding my BMX when I was younger, but this change was truly an exciting improvement.  The bigger tires helped me roll over obstacles with ease.  And with the 21 available gears (That’s right!  Only 7 cog sprockets during that time), I could cycle much farther and faster as well as tackle steep climbs that I would otherwise be unable to do on my trusty BMX.  I relished the idea of being able to go anywhere under my own steam even to places where the road ends and dirt trails begin.  I also thought that the mountain bike culture was more hip and cool.  Baggy/loose shorts, rock music, insane ride conditions (ankle deep mud, rain, steep descents, etc.) and the chance of being lost and ending up in the middle of nowhere among others always come hand in hand with the genre.  But like all things, people change. 

For some time now, I’ve been entertaining the idea of trying out road biking.  By road biking, I mean riding a road bike also known in the olden days as a “racer”.  These bicycles are meant to be specifically ridden on PAVEMENT ONLY.  The configuration of the handlebar, the geometry of the frame, the gearing ratios and most noticeably, the thin slick tires are some characteristics of the bicycle that I’m talking about.  So about a month ago, after doing some research in the internet and getting advice from some of my “roadie” friends (these are not the people who put together, take apart and set up the stage and instruments during concert tours of rock bands), my best friend and I took a trip to my favorite LBS (Local Bike Shop) and had the bike mechanic “asembol” me a road bike.  Assemble or “asembol” as opposed to buying a built bicycle off the rack is when the brand/model/specifications of the parts that are installed were specifically of your own choice.  Many cyclists would agree that this experience of watching your bicycle being assembled is truly an exciting moment.  This is especially true if it took you a long time to save up every peso so that you can finally have your bike built. 

As the bike was taking shape, the mechanic also shared some helpful advice on bike fitting, riding technique (knowing that I was a road bike virgin), basic maintenance, and some entertaining stories of his riding adventures.  Later on after doing some further research on the internet, I discovered that some of the mechanic’s advice specifically on bike fitting can be likened to the all-too-often “old wives’ tale” advice that your lola would give you to cure a common ailment.  In other words, the mechanic’s advice didn’t have any scientific explanation.  Take for instance the proper method to measure the correct saddle height.  I was asked to lean on the bike with my armpit on the saddle and my arm, hand, fingers and all, extended to the bottom bracket (BB).  The tip of my middle finger should land on the center of the BB.  If the tip of my finger went past the BB, then my saddle is too low and vice versa.  If that were the case, we’d have a lot of heavy guys with fat armpits riding their saddles too low.  Note that the armpit-on-saddle method immediately voids the warranty of the saddle especially if strands of hair and deodorant residue are found on the saddle seams.

When the mechanic was done, I was like a father being handed his newborn for the first time.  The bike was beautiful.  I cradled it in my arms and stroked its smooth tapered top tube.  I put my hands on the brake hoods and caressed the levers.  I ran my hands along the slick tires and immediately realized that this is going to be a wonderful new experience.  I felt my eyes welling up and noticed that the mechanic had this “What the f*ck” look on his face. 

I couldn’t wait to try her out.  The first time I took her for a spin, I was completely amazed at the pedaling efficiency.  At speeds where my heart would already be screaming if I were on my mountain bike, I was merely pedaling at a leisure-like pace on my road bike.  It was incredible!  As I was zooming down the road, I would sneak a peak at my cyclo computer and get so surprised that I’d do a double take in case I read the computer wrong.  Was I really going that fast?!  Maybe I made a mistake when I configured the cyclo computer.  Although I’m sure I did everything right.  I guess this is what happens to a cyclist who’s been riding full suspension mountain bikes for 10 years.  The sudden improvement in pedaling efficiency is overwhelming.  There is however something that will take time for me to get used to.  The form fitting spandex garb that roadies are required to wear can raise many a man’s insecurities especially for those who pack a paunch (pun intended) in the mid section than most guys.  But I have to play the part.  You can’t ride a precision instrument built with all manners of aerodynamic technology in mind only to blow it off by wearing wind catching sail-like outfits.  Besides, after working on losing all my excess pounds, I’ve every right to show off my new slim athletic physique like Buddy Love in the Nutty Professor.  “Where’s the spandex?!  Show me the spandex!!!” 

Now what happened to the “being able to go anywhere” and the hip culture associated with mountain biking that I was so fond of?  Well…  I’m still fond of it.  I have no intention of selling my mountain bike.  By getting a road bike, I simply added another tool to make me what I would call a more “well rounded cyclist”.  Mountain biking will always be part of my life.  Or rather, cycling will always be a part of my life so by adding the road bike to my quiver of tools, I have just expanded the horizon of riding opportunities for me.  I can now appreciate the tense feeling one gets to experience when riding inside a thick peloton (as if I’ve been in one).  I understand the idea of utilizing a rider’s draft to save energy (sans the risk of directly inhaling gas from yesterday’s carbo loading).    My French vocabulary has also improved with the addition of domestique, maillot jaune, Alpe d'Huez and Tour de France.  Now I know a total of 6 French words/phrases including deja vous and derailleur.  Fantastic.  I am also no longer limited to off road duathlons.  Although using a mountain bike on road duathlons is perfectly fine, being on a road bike definitely helps shave considerable minutes off your finish time.

Now if I could only get past that feeling of Felix Bakat…

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I Love to Ride My Bicycle

As what the great Freddy Mercury once sang, I’ve always loved riding bicycles.  I’ve been riding for as long as I can remember.  Ironically, for something that’s played such a significant part of my life, I have no memory of when I first learned how to ride.  I do not remember the day I started out with training wheels or if I ever actually used them.  I do not remember the moment when I finally got my balance right and actually not let my feet touch the ground.  Then again, I have a really bad memory.  I do remember my first bike.  Well, it wasn’t actually mine alone.  I shared this bike with my younger brother.  It was a kiddie BMX.  FYI, I just found out that BMX actually means Bicycle Moto-cross (X).  Thanks Google!  The bike was blue all over.  It had those standard foam inserts wrapped in synthetic leather fastened to the top tube and handle bar.  This was during the mid-80s.  The mag rims were plastic and the tires were solid rubber.  No need to fill it up with air.  It was the coolest thing in the world!  Those who still have memories of getting their first bicycle know what I mean.  That was the first of three important moments of my cycling life. 

The second moment was when I was in high school in 1991.  Coming home from school one day, I found the most awesome bike parked in the living room.  It was a black Haro 26” 21-speed mountain bike.  And it was mine!  It wasn’t my birthday nor was it Christmas.  I was nowhere near being a straight A student either so I really do not recall why my parents got me the bike.  But one thing’s for sure, I loved that bike a lot.  I still remember most of its parts.  It had thumb shifters, Shimano Deore Bio-pace chainring, Shimano Deore LX rear derailleur, and Araya rims.  I would get up at 4am every weekend and ride it around the village and even get as far off as the neighboring subdivisions.  Riding that first mountain bike was what got me into cycling as a sport.  What followed after that was years of joining races here and there.  At 14 years old, I was already riding 70kms from CCP in Pasay to Palace in the Sky in Tagaytay.  But before that, I had my fair share of “What the hell have I gotten myself into” moments.  I remember my first race so vividly.  It was a 70km race from CCP to Puerto Azul.  The race was called the Ginsana Road Race Cycling Classic.  It was sponsored by a ginseng health drink manufacturer, thus the title of the race.  Funny how I came into this race feeling well prepared thinking that 5 laps around the village, about 5kms in total was enough practice.  To put a long story short, by the time I crossed the finish line the race organizers were already packing up.  I think it took me over 4 hours to finish the 70km race.  Nearing Puerto Azul, I remember dismounting several times during the steeper sections to push the bike because I was so tired.  My legs simply couldn’t turn the pedals anymore.  But never did it enter my mind to call it quits.  After that race, I got hooked!  I would join race after race with one goal in mind.  Just finish it and be awarded the finisher’s certificate!  With CCP often being the starting line, I’ve raced to Nasugbu Batangas twice, Palace in the Sky, Batulao and Vista Lodge among others.  Always improving my time from the last.  I’ve even climbed up Baguio to Burnham Park via Marcos highway from Bauang, La Union.  All this I did before I turned 16.  And always in a mountain bike even though these races were all 100% on pavement.

The first time I actually went “mountain biking” where my tires were actually on dirt was what I would consider the third most important moment of my cycling life.  A cousin of ours who was a member of the Greenhills Cycling Club invited my brother and I to ride in Boso-boso in Antipolo sometime in 1993.  That ride was one of the greatest adventures of my life!  I enjoyed every moment of it.  The thrill of bombing down a trail for the first time with not a care in the world (or for my own safety) was truly a feeling unlike any other.  Note that this was a time when suspension was unheard of.  I was then riding a fully rigid chromoly Muddy Fox mountain bike that wasn’t even in my size.  It was a harsh ride by today’s standards but it was the best harsh ride I’ve ever experienced.  By the end of the day, my brother and I had the biggest smiles on our faces.  I wouldn’t stop talking about it to my friends for months after that.

At 33, I still love riding bicycles and I hope to continue riding until I’m old and gray.  I also hope to share my love for riding with my wife and with my kids when they get a little older.  In fact, my daughter and I have already started riding around the village together.  Although the farthest we’ve ridden together at one time is just a tad under 1km (she was just 2 years old at the time), I truly enjoyed that moment with her.  Her face was beaming during the whole ride.  Come to think of it, that ride counts as the fourth most important moment in my cycling life.  I hope that unlike me, she remembers that first time she learns how to balance her bike.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Newbie Blogger

Hi!  My name is Carlo and I'm a newbie blogger.  I am husband to a loving wife and father to two wonderful kids.

I enjoy going out for runs and bike rides.  I'm glad that I like doing these activities because otherwise, I would seriously be on the heavy side because as much as I enjoy running and biking, I also love eating.  A lot.  And mostly the unhealthy stuff.  Burgers, pizza, doughnuts, chips, sweets, you name it!  I have fortunately kept my weight in check thanks to my interest in outdoor endurance sports. 

I created this blog to share whatever is on my mind whether it be multisport, food, movies, product reviews or rants to whoever stumbles by.

Welcome to Bikerpalooza!