Saturday, November 3, 2012

It is about the bike, and the shoes, and the lycra

Every kilo makes you slower. Slower accelerating, slower climbing and slower braking. GCSE physics tells me that being heavier doesn't make you go downhill faster either. Dieting is hard. But a shiny new bike costs naught but money.

I bought a new bike.

I love my Bianchi*, but it weighs 9.5kg. It's a bit too small for me. It's also aluminium framed and equipped with the lowest Campagnolo groupset available (Mirage). I've been busy upgrading in the year I've had it - new bar tape, new chain, new tyres, new cassette, another new cassette - but there's only so much you can do without serious money being spent.

And if I want a new wheelset and gears, the heaviest things on the bike after the frame and me, I might as well get a new frame to put them on. It's cheaper that way too.

Going against my (borrowed from a colleague who had an almost identical bike to me principal of "no to American Road Bikes, yay to Campagnolo", I bought a new, heavily discounted Felt F4 Ultegra.

It weights 7.3kg. It's made of carbon. With Ultegra RS80 wheels I could get the weight under 7kg (although that would cost another £350, minimum). That's 2.2kg gone instantly, 2.5kg with the new wheels. 2.2kg that I won't have to haul up more than 3,000m in July.

There's another advantage to upgrading, stiffness. To massively over-simplify: The stiffer the frame, the more of your energy goes into moving the bike forward. So more result from the same effort.

On my first timed ride with the new bike I added exactly 1pmh (or 6.6%) to my typical Richmond Park loop. And 1mph could be the  difference between an emotional ride over the summit of Annecy Semnoz to get a medal and sitting, defeated, in the broom wagon. That's 35 minutes from my projected (OK, made up) time of 9 hours. Totally worth it.

That said, my park loop contains a lot of town riding, I might just have got lucky with traffic lights.

Of course, while the bike matters more than anything else, there are a lot of "training substitute" purchases you can make.

I already had clip-in shoes (with added carbon-fibre), I've since bought a racing helmet (my existing one was made for commuting and had built-in flashing lights). Winter riding means I'm warming up my gear too - arm warmers (surprisingly inexpensive for bike kit and easily packable) and "Roubaix lined" bib shorts (they might make you look like the WWE's worst-ever wrestler, but the pros use them, so they must help, right?).

Then there's weight-saving accessories. I mean, why wouldn't you want bottle cages made of carbon-fibre? (saving about 18g each) or pedals that are 80g lighter than your old ones?

I'm forcing myself to step away from the 0% credit card for now - although a Merino wool base layer, shoe (or at least toe) covers and a warm jacket/gillet are sorely tempting my reserve. As is every email Wiggle and Evans send me. And those wheels.

*I haven't managed to sell it yet, it's now sharing a room with the new Felt. I plan to sell it, I just keep finding reasons not to.

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