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…