I’m on this planet once that I know of. I say that a lot. A whole lot. I don’t have the answers to what happens next. I know what I’d like, but I don’t have a vote. As a result, I give a lot of thought to what I want my ride on this rock to be.
I want to enjoy myself.
For some, that means perpetual laziness, doing as little that’s not immediately recreational as possible. In high school a buddy told me he planned to do all he could to stay stoned for the rest of his life. He was of the opinion that going through his entire life baked was the best possible scenario. He’s a hospital administrator now. What happened in between is an event I’m not privy to.
As I said, I’d like to enjoy myself while I’m here. For me, that means riding, spending time with my family, and writing as much as possible. Good writing is work in its truest sense, but in that endeavor I can lose myself for hours. It’s terrific fun and a process in which I discover something new about the world with each new sentence. Me, a Mac and a blank Microsoft Word document is a party.
So where does all this intersect with training equipment? Easy. Why ride crap? It’s one thing if you’ve got the income of a college student on work study, but if you’re gainfully employed and not putting six kids through Yale, then you probably spend a bit on bike stuff here and there.
People come up with a lot of crazy rules—and I don’t mean any of the stuff that winds up before the Supreme Court. I’m referring to the idea that some equipment you just don’t ride except in extraordinary circumstances, like the five races one might do per year.
Back when I raced every weekend, I had a great set of wheels that I did keep as my dedicated race wheels. They were tubulars and I didn’t train on them because I didn’t want to risk knocking them out of true or flatting them the day before a race. Some of this is rooted in another age’s practicality. If your history in racing goes back to the time of stuff like Fiamme Red label rims which would flat-spot on a driveway ramp, then you may recall that keeping wheels true could be as hard as keep a meth addict clean. I can recall feeling that I’d been introduced to the secret handshake when I learned that wheels would stay true for longer if as you built them you concentrated on keeping tension even on all the spokes.
Wheels are far more durable today.
So how much use were my finicky race wheels receiving? When I was actively racing I might spend as many as 30 days riding them in a year. That’s one month out of 12. Seems kinda sad to think my life only measured up to my best equipment one-twelfth of the time.
I stopped racing a few years back.
This year, if I recall correctly, I rode three gran fondos. I’d like to have ridden more, but injuries set the agenda, so-to-speak. What I can’t fathom is why I would own a set of wheels that I would reserve just for those days. In my mind the math goes: I only ride my good wheels on special days. I only had three special days. I rode my wheels three times. Why make the investment if you’re never going to use them? And any piece of equipment that gets ridden on three of 365 days really isn’t getting used.
The hell with that. I want as many great days on the bike as I can have. And if I own a piece of equipment that increases my enjoyment when out riding, I see no point in not riding it. Enjoyment is a motivation virus. The more fun something is, the more I want to do it. If I have a truly exceptional ride one day, I’m that much more inclined to make sure I don’t miss my next ride.
The converse is all the corollary you need: When you’re hurt, your motivation for getting on the bike is at perigee. Who will get on a bike if riding is only going to be a source of pain, not suffering, but pain?
Let me back up a minute. I can see a certain logic to a set of wheels that maybe you reserve just for the weekend. Some of my weekday rides take in more sand than I’d like and roads that can be rough on wheels. I can see putting a lesser set of wheels on for a few rides a week.
Let’s look at this from a different angle. Most nights, I have a glass of wine, maybe two, with dinner. I will occasionally open a bottle that runs as much as a decent tire. The problem is that it lasts at absolute most three dinners. Then it’s gone. Imagine having a bottle of wine that you pay for once and can drink every night for a couple of years. If that were the case I’d be drinking $100 Russian River Pinots every flippin’ night.
Why spend $5000 (or more) on a bike and then ride it in a cheap pair of bibs and with crap wheels? Who would only use an $800 GPS on their big rides? My wife would shoot me if I only wore my good helmet on the weekend.
Owning a great set of wheels or a killer pair of bibs means having the tools to enjoy a better experience. If this blog is about anything, it’s about enjoying cycling. You shouldn’t suffer because your cheap saddle is uncomfortable. You should suffer because you drilled it at the front with the group single file behind you for 2k.
I’ve never been in the army, but I think they had it right: Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.