Saturday, April 23, 2011

First time trial on a respectable road bike  

     Never mind what you may have heard about cycling. Truth is it really is at least somewhat about the bike. I had almost convinced myself that with enough determination and drive that I could make my flat bar hybrid do anything a road bike could do. Maybe I will if I ever decide to dedicate myself to that end. Today, however, I took my first ride on a road bike.

     I borrowed a friends Trek SL. He had been looking to sell and I had been putting off buying, but the time was right to see if a road bike is really worth the expense, so I made the effort to test ride it. I was actually kinda excited about it and ended up making a couple of bone head rookie errors. First I didn't do my warm up stretches and then I left the house with out my helmet and riding gloves. I took a chance on not stretching, but a helmet is mandatory, so I go back to the house, get the helmet and I'm off.

     First thing I notice is how easy it is to hold an aggressive position on this bike. Getting low in the saddle and leaning forward on my comfort and hybrid bikes was always a fight and one that I could only win for short durations. Getting low and forward on the Trek SL felt very natural and accommodating. Next thing I noticed was the full extension of my legs when pedaling. The bike isn't fitted for me and I'm not sure what adjustments constitute a good fit if its anything more than just comfort, but the fit felt good enough to just go with it.

     The 8/10th mile warm up to the Blue Ridge Parkway did see the chain pop off the gears during the first moderate hill climb. I wasn't to concerned about it because I wasn't familiar with the bike and I may have geared down too fast and that's just the kind of thing that can happens. I told myself it wouldn't be a problem unless it happened frequently.

     I had decided to do a 10.9 mile time trial on a route I've been doing time trials on since I started cycling in May '09. The route starts at the Blue Ridge Parkway overpass above Rainbow Forest Drive, proceeds 2/10ths of a mile south to the end of the median just past mile post 105, then north 5.45 to the Great Valley Overlook just past mile post 100, then south back to the start. Its really an out and back but I didn't know to call it that when I started cycling so I always called this course The Great Valley Overlook Loop since in strictest technical terms it does qualify as a loop since I'm riding on both sides of the road.

     The first mile felt smooth, but my avg speed didn't seem all that different from what I had doing on my bike recently. Halfway into the 2nd mile the chain pops again as I'm gearing down going up a steep hill. it it a problem? I remembered to stop my Garmin (so as to not mess up my timing), reapply the chain, and I'm off. The rest of the ride up the mountain was a good solid ascent, I adjusted to the prolonged aggressive riding position nicely, I carefully watched the chain on each gear change, I had a feeling I was going faster than usual, but it didn't seem particularly drastic.

     The ride down the mountain was good too. I hit a solid top speed of 37.3 mph with minimal effort, the speed still seemed a bit faster than usual, I timed my gear changes correctly and the aggressive body positioning was still comfortable. I did notice going down hills was rough on my hands in that they kept trying to go numb. I have some ideas to correct for this, but they will have to wait for next ride.

     I crossed the finish line with a respectable time of 42:15. I always record my cycling times using avg mph so I wasn't sure yet how the final numbers would stack up, but the old record for this course was set in Oct '09 with a 13.5 mph avg. I have 3 short time trial courses and the other two got new course records when I upgraded my bike last year and again when I upgraded that bikes equipment. For some reason I never could beat this courses record, although I only tried a few times...until today!

     Usually when I set a new course record its a few 10th of a mph, today it was a full 2 mph. 2 mph is significant for a course with 1200' elevation gain. Now I need to see what I can do with this bike on one of my speedier routes. I had no further chain issues and I think there is a good chance that the chain issues I did have won't repeat as I adjust my technique.

     Stay tuned for more drama as it unfolds, next test ride will be a 20 miler on Tuesday, and you'll read about it here first.


  1. If it's popping off on the inside (small gear), it needs a SLIGHT adjustment with the barrel adjusters. You can do it or bring it to me and I'll do it for you. On the outside, it needs the same thing, just in reverse. The main thing with a road bike is to make sure you don't shift under load, but before you need to. Let me know if you need help...

  2. Thanks, Brian. I'll keep you posted. I'm usually good at anticipating the road to determine my gear changes, but being the first time using the bike I may have miscalculated the gear to load differential ratio (is that a real expression?) :) Anyways, now that I'm mindful of the situation I'll be able to read it better on the next ride.