I’m baaaack! On the road again

I’m baaack! On the road again.

I know it’s the wrong song, but it my head I sound like Aerosmith singing “Back in the Saddle”.

60 degrees in early March in Chicago, weekend — I’m riding! Get that bike out of the basement; dust off my helmet and the riding glasses; and let’s see whether all this riding on rollers is going to pay off.

First of all, no amount of indoor training can truly prepare you for the road. No matter how fit and strong you think you are, the road is hard. When you’re going 20+ miles per hour and spinning at 80+ RPM in your largest chainring, it is likely not the months of off-season training paying off, it’s the wind in your back. Unfortunately, you only realize this when you turn around and that wind hits you in the face.

Second, it still is early March in Chicago. Going out in shorts and a short sleeved jersey with just a t-shirt underneath may not have been the best idea. When the sun is behind clouds and that wind is in your face, it is bloody cold.

And lastly, I missed my kung-fu movies and definitely did not miss suburban drivers and unchained dogs.

But nothing can take away the joy of actually being outside, on the road, watching the empty brown fields and bare trees fly by. And, all joking aside, the off-season training really does pay off. Even on this first ride of the year, you feel stronger and better prepared than you would have been otherwise. You can actually enjoy the ride as opposed to struggling through it and cursing all those rich winter-time foods.

So here’s to a great start of another riding season.



How I was rescued by Performance Bicycle team

Just want to say many thanks to the wonderful folks at the Performance Bicycle store in Schaumburg, IL for rescuing my behind or rather my tire yesterday.

I was out on the road, about 10 miles from my home when I suddenly felt that something was wrong with my back wheel.  I found a pretty good sized bubble in the back tire.  Never having experienced that before, I didn’t know what caused it.  I changed the tube, but even with a new tube, the bubble was there, smaller but still there.

Realizing that I was less than 1 mile away from the Performance Bike store, I rode down there.  Luckily, I had 20 bucks on me.  I explained the situation to Bob in the service center.  He had the exact same tire in stock, which I believe lists for about 30 bucks.  They applied whatever discounts they could find, even replaced the tire for me and got me out of the door all for $18.

Again, many thanks for saving me a 10 mile walk of shame of home.

I got a new bike

I finally got a new bike. I’ve been talking about it long enough and took my time to decide and select one. Just like I do with every purchase more than 50 or 100 bucks. So what I got is a brand spanking new all-carbon 2008 Scattante Race road bike. Shimano Ultegra components. Mavic wheels. Forte SPD pedals. Louis Garneau shoes. Bell Alchera road helmet. I attached my Garmin Edge 305 bike computer, attached the cadence sensor — one heck of a machine. At first I wasn’t so sure about Scattante — there’s a lot of talk about it on the web, but no concrete information on who makes this bike. Scattante is actually a Fuji bike made for and sold by Performance Bicycle stores under their own brand name. Of course, it’s not Specialized, which I had my heart set on for a long time. But for the price it can’t be beat. An all-carbon Specialized with comparable components would’ve cost several grand more — probably not worth it for a beginning road rider like me.

I was also a little reluctant purchasing a bike from Performance.  I heard that they didn’t spend all that much time fitting the bike for you, so I was leery of their customer service.  In comparison, last year I was looking at a bike at Spokes in Wheaton and they spent a lot of time measuring me to make sure that the bike geometry fit my size.  When I went to pick up my bike, it turned out that my worries were all for nothing.  They put my bike on the trainer, had me ride it and adjusted various things, including getting a shorter stem, to make sure that the bike was right for me.  I was very pleased with the experience.

Getting the bike home I felt like Lance Armstrong: ready to hit the road and cover 40 miles in a couple of hours. Turns out this road bike thing is not as easy as it looks. Those guys riding in Tour de France and Giro d’Italia make it look way too easy on TV. In reality, belting out even 15 miles is not so easy. And this is nothing that riding a mountain bike, even on the road, can ever prepare you for. There is something very unnatural about getting on top of a tiny hard bike saddle, getting clipped into a set of tiny metal thingies protruding at the bottom of the machine and trying to propel yourself and the whole contraption under you along the road. The whole thing gets even more ridiculous climbing a hill. In some instances it seems that I can make it faster to the top, if I were to carry the bike on my back.

Plus, there’s the whole image thing to be concerned about. When on top of a road bike, you don’t want to be seen slowly crawling along the sidewalk. You want to ride and ride fast and look good while doing it. And that is all very hard work.

In short, the first 2 rides totally kicked my ass. I am simply not strong enough yet: my legs, my upper body just have to get used to the riding a road bike. Looks like I’ll have to keep practicing.

And in the mean time, if you are a road rider, live around Elgin/Hoffman Estates and are looking for a riding partner, drop me a line.