Friday morning was different though. I have been following the Tour of California this last week and my god are they inspiring. It makes me want to just jump on my bike and ride for hours. Unfortunately, time is my limiting factor and I need to get to work. This mornings difference was that I felt ready to get on my own bike. The bike that dropped me prematurely to the ground. I know I'm blowing this all out of proportion but I have had this thing about road bikes. Historically, while growing up, I always had a mountain bike. Maybe it's the width of the handlebars or the fact I never had toe clips that gave me a sense of security. This is probably why I have the bike that I have. The brand name should tell you something. It's a Marin. Marin are not known for their road bikes, well that is to say, they are mostly known for their mountain bikes and I understand that this whole revolution started up there in Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. I had a Marin Mountain bike in England when I was a teenager and loved it. I could do anything on that bike and had all of the confidence in the world when riding it.
This is probably the reason, why in 2006, when arriving on American soil, I decided to go with a bike that I knew well. It was not a mountain bike as such, or a road bike for that matter. It was a commuter style street bike. The Marin Fairfax. If you were to take a mountain bike and blend it with a road bike, this is what you would get. All of the components are from the mountain bike devision. The handlebars with their bar ends are truly mountain bike style but the geometry and tires were that little bit more road bike like. This gave me the sensation of familiarity that I am accustomed to while having something that little bit more efficient on the roads.
This was a good bike for about $550 and I think I made a good choice for commuting. The problem was, I was asked by a friend if I wanted to take part in the Malibu Triathlon. I jumped at the opportunity but I didn't really have the budget or the room for another bike. What I decided was to work with what I had and try to make it more into a road bike while keeping the components and the frame the same.
I started with adding the tri bars just so that I was getting the correct sensation. My tires were 28mm and with slightly thicker rims than standard road wheels, I decided to to put on higher pressure 25mm tires. This made for a slightly faster and improved rolling resistance.
After a number of comments from other cyclists that I had tagged onto during my commutes I made the biggest move and the one I was most nervous of. I got some clipless peddles and a set of road shoes. I had been taking spinning classes using the same shoes for a while by this point so I was familiar with the sensation and the slightly different muscle groups that are utilized.
With a bike computer measuring my progress, this seemed to add considerable speed to my commute. I had a bike that I could race on. Okay, so it was a Frankenstein job on a hybrid commute bike but I was holding my own with club cyclists on the road so I went with it.
As the geometry placed me quite upright, I reversed the stem so that the angle dropped down rather than raising up and removed the spacers on the headset which further lowered the handlebars.
A year later I made the jump to slightly deeper dished rims and 23mm slick, racing tires. I now had a racey looking commuter bike. It was confusing everyone. I am hoping that this is the fastest Marin Fairfax on the planet.
Right, lets get back to the main topic. This Friday morning was different as I had decided that it was time to leave my wife's bike at home and take my own bike again. I put on my cycling shoes for the first time since falling off and took the bike outside. I jumped on and instantly felt like I was about to fall off the front. I had never realised how aggressive this bike was set up. The changes had been made gradually so I always assumed they were subtle and of very little effect. Now that I had gone from an upright geometry bike to my custom effort, I realised that I had done a pretty good job. It is important to note that I got the Marin Fairfax in the first place due to a recovering back injury that resulted in surgery. I wanted the more upright geometry in order to aid my cycling position. Now that I had made all my changes, I had eased myself into a more aggressive race position.
This really caught me out, but I eased my way down to the start of the cycle path, slowly getting used to the now, not so familiar, position.
On the path, I got up to speed and dropped down onto the tri bars. By now I was getting used to this again. The main problem however was my speed. Without looking down at my speedometer, I felt like I was going fast. Much faster than on my wifes bike. But the gear was not my usual commuting gear and the speed was much slower. I tried cranking up the speed but there was nothing there. I was only doing 17.7mph when I would usually be traveling at 20mph+.
Although phased, this gave me a reference point and only added to my inspiration. I knew what I was starting the year with before any training and I had something to monitor my progress.
I put a fair bit of this slowness down to the lack of training in the tri position and the fact that I had not been clipped in. The muscle groups used between these two scenarios is different and not as transferable as I would have hoped.
So next time, I will record my starting stats so that I really have my progress to track.