Wow. Sorry about the long break between entries. I’m not sure what I’ve been doing for the past week and a half, but I must have done something. I definitely don’t have 200 hours sitting in my savings account.
Now that I’m back, let’s talk about my bikes. Or more specifically, the bits of my bikes that have retired this year.
Before I begin the true meat and potatoes of the story I need to give some context to the discussion. In 1982 at the age of 15 I was introduced to cycling. From 1982 to 1988 I consistently improved to the point where, in 1987/88 I achieved a silver medal at the state championships on the road and, 6 months later a 4th place at the state track championships.
A week after those state track titles was the beginning of the end of the super-cyclist period of my life… the ambulance ride. 6 months later I ruptured my right anterior cruciate ligament. Another 9 months down the track I broke my collar bone in 2 places. A couple of weeks later I broke the same collarbone again. In the middle of all of that I met the lady who I have now been with for 16 years.
So, with 3 major injuries in 15 months as well as entering a new phase of my life, cycling took a lower and lower priority. I never got ride of any of my equipment, but it sat unused for significant periods of time.
I would sometimes have a burst of enthusiasm for the bike. Usually while I was on holidays, or during summer. But holidays end. And so does the warm weather. And cycling would go back into hibernation.
Late last year I realised I wasn’t getting any younger. It triggered a rant, right here. It also triggered a change in my priorities – you may remember the revolution. The revolution went well and I have a whole new batch of habits in play now… good habits, healthy habits.
I’ve always kept a training diary. I never knew what to do with the information, but I kept it all the same. Up until about 9 years ago it was literally a written diary. Then the computer age arrived. And about 3 years later I lost every scrap of information I kept on my computer when my first hard drive collapsed. This was in the days before CD burners were common and backing up meant dozens of floppy disks. Bah, humbug. It’ll never happen to me. CRASH!
So my electronic training diary started again in 2002. From January 2002 to December 2005 I rode a total of 2182km (1355mi). Pitiful really. But now we get to the exciting bit. This year I’ve already ridden 5571km (3460mi). Good, fast, quality riding.
I’ve improved… in January my weight was 126kg (277lb) and my riding averaged 25.8kph (16.0mph). In June my weight was 111kg (244lb) and average speed was 29.9kph (18.6mph).
Man! That was quite an in-depth background story. So here comes today’s feature. Here we go…
How has my bike held up under that onslaught?
All that activity has taken its toll. I’ve had twitches and twinges and niggles and aches. And so has my bike.
I have gone through 7 tyres. The first couple were quite old and the casings ruptured. One got a nasty cut and wasn’t safe or salvageable. The other 4 have worn out. Completely. 4 tyres that were brand new worn down until the casing was exposed. That’s bound to happen with all my weight being propelled up the road by my big nasty legs.
In amongst the tyre carnage one of my old shoes breathed its last.
And not just shoes and tyres… the back wheel on my road bike has been rebuilt. Twice.
Finally – the catalyst for today’s entry.
I love my bikes. And some of what I love relates to the age of them. Today’s bikes have seats that are designed for the backsides of residents of concentration camps. 2 of my 3 bikes have seats dating from the mid 1980’s. Seats with heart and soul and substance. Slightly wider, slightly softer seats. Seats that suit my posterior.
But alas, this is a tale of losses.
More background… My track bike is undergoing steerer tube surgery and I am swapping head stems between the road bike and track bike. Bits are scattered all over the garage floor and the only bike that was available to ride on Saturday was the fixie.
So away I went Saturday morning. I was out on the big bunch ride with about 80 other riders. The fixie is currently running 42×18 while I re-establish my pedal stroke for the track season. That gear’s OK cruising in the bunch at 32kph (20mph). It’s also fine for climbing. Where it becomes unpleasant is going down hill.
And here’s the punch line of my story.
After 15 minutes of perfectly flat road we arrived at the first hill. I bounced up it with enthusiasm, knowing the descent would be challenging on the fixie. But I had no idea of the truth.
It was a moderate slope and I was pedalling as smoothly as I could manage. But at 48kph (30mph) in that gear I was spinning at 160rpm. I was getting little bounce going when I heard quite a loud crack. It didn’t sound like metal breaking but I felt my saddle change contour under me. I’ve read horror stories of riders impaling themselves on broken seat rails and images of torn flesh and bloodshed were flashing through my brain.
I moved out of the line of riders and braked to a halt. Here’s a photo of what I saw. Ignore the battle scares on the back corner of the seat. They’re normal on any bike that’s seen some miles. Have a careful look at the crack that opened up two thirds of the way towards the nose of the saddle. Now imagine how wide that crack opens up with my weight bearing down on it.
So I rode very gently back to the coffee shop alone. I had a coffee while I was waiting for the group to finish their circuit (and the local bike shops to throw open their doors). After everyone arrived and the ensuing discussions were had, I accepted an escort to the nearest bike shop for a replacement saddle.
My story would ordinarily end there except the LBS guy spotted my helmet (hanging on the handlebars) while he was fitting my seat. There was a fine crack in the foam at the front. That’s a no-no. So I bought a new helmet as well. And I returned home $424.95 lighter.
I’ve swapped saddles around on the bikes and will show you the new saddle along with the track bike when I get it back next week. When the track bike went in for surgery the forks needed to be painted so I asked if the whole thing could be stripped down and resprayed. The original paint was badly damaged. Mostly because the bike was painted in a rush. Back in 1990 the whole bike went from order placement to working machine in 11 days. That’s building the frame from individual tubes and lugs, not just putting the groupset on a new frame. The paint was soft and “green” and it took quite a few knocks. But when it comes back, the blue beast will be fire-engine red two pack enamel.