I fired down the first piece of pizza cold while I jammed the rest in the toaster oven to warm up. I was that hungry, even though I’d topped my breakfast toast, four pieces washed down with three cups of coffee, with a donut and a half after my arrival at the office.
The off-season, or winter as civilians call it, provides something of a double dose of fitness trouble for me. On the one hand, I use the cold and snow as a reason not to be on the bike. On the other hand, I eat like Robinson Crusoe at a cruise ship buffet. Really, culturally, American’s set themselves up for failure, scheduling our Thanksgiving feast in late November, just as the cold is setting in. The caloric excesses of that holiday tend to dovetail nicely with the pre-Christmas calorie orgies, followed quickly by the holiday itself and then New Year, when food and drink again become the center of social interaction.
By then, bad food choices have become bad food habits. I spend January (and most of February) trying to get back to something like a reasonable daily intake, to incorporate a vegetable somewhere during the day, if not the week.
Really, I do the opposite of what makes sense. In the summer, when I’m riding the most, I eat the best. When I let myself go, late in the fall, I really let go.
I am lucky. My genes keep me thin and my cholesterol low. Outwardly, there is little indication that I am completely off the dietary rails. But when I get back on the bike I know it. I may only be five pounds from fighting weight, but I’m a lot farther from true fitness, and I know I need to eat better to feel better.
I know I’m not alone in this. The Group Ride this week asks how hard you think about your food? Do you carefully monitor everything that goes into the tank, or do you ride hard so you can eat whatever you want? Do you eat differently in the off-season, or do you maintain a consistent diet? What’s your weakness? Mine is sweets, but I have been known to abuse french fries, too.
The Spring Classics, and particularly their opening weekend, mean a lot to cycling fans. First, they herald changing weather. Freddy wasn’t feelin’ it because where he is looks and feels a lot like where I am, cold, snowy, and still dark. Trees are not budding. Birds perch silently. Snow still blankets the ground. But the racing won’t wait. Classics season comes whether we’re ready or not. With the desert pre-season over, the season proper is now on.
As it turned out, Tom Boonen froze his ass off in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (rolls right off the tongue) on Saturday, and Ian Stannard stole a march on Greg Van Avermaet, putting an Englishman on the top podium step of the opening race of Classics season for the first time since, oh, wait, an Englishman has never won this race. In 67 runnings, a Belgian has won 54 times, the Dutch 4, Italians 4, and the rest, including Stannard, remain outliers on the curve, a bit like this winter.
On Sunday, at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Boonen took one back for the home team. Order restored.
Perhaps in response, I’ve begun riding my bike again. It was 14F when I left home yesterday. But screw it. We have to start somewhere. If Tommeke can do it, so can I.
After my chat with Radio Freddy, Chris at Velobici emailed me to say they are running their Spring Classics Challenge again this year. I don’t Strava a lot (it’s a verb now), but I will take whatever motivation I can get this time of year. Chris was particularly excited about the competition between countries, which I took as a casting down of the gauntlet, a cheery, polite challenge. It made me want to ride. Of course, they’re giving away prizes, but I don’t need prizes nearly as much as I need the miles that lead to the prizes.
Somewhere in this flurry of Classics-related hijinks a shiny new copy of Les Woodland’s Tour of Flanders: The Inside Story showed up at my house. OK. OK. I get it. It’s time to HTFU. Woodland does a great job of evoking the spirit of early Flandrian cycling, painting pictures of the stoic hardmen who begat their eponymous race, including the race’s founder Karel van Wijnendaele who was very much the Belgian version of Henri Desgranges, a driven and tyrannical journalist/promoter who helped drag professional cycling into the modern era.
Woodland peppers his narrative with Belgian and European history to add context and color where it will help his story while keeping with the best tradition of character-based non-fiction. There are characters, and there is drama. The book is good as a history, good as a cycling book, and finally good as a motivator to pull on your tights and get back on your bike after a too-long off-season.
I have mentioned over a number of posts here over a number of months my dwindling interest in pro cycling, which may be a function of the short time I have to think about anything other than work and family as much as it is a result of a growing disillusionment with the whole idea of people racing bikes for money, and the decidedly mixed results therefrom. HOWEVER, some habits die hard (most of mine seem to), and there is something about Spring Classics season that stirs me, that motivates me, that excites me.
Last week, Radio Freddy and I weren’t feeling it. This week, we’re riding our bikes.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
I am no one and nothing. This is as much a statistical expression of my importance as it is an exercise in humility. One of roughly four billion of my species, alive for a picosecond of geologic time, my individual identity, diluted still further by a pseudonym and the ephemeral nature of this pixelated medium, is vague and fleeting to the point of comedy. The ‘I’ I refer to may not really exist, may just be a whorl of dust in infinity, is at the very most a product, a projection, of all those other whorls around me, all of us sheltering under an angry sky, capering across our lives in flight from predators both real and imagined.
I sometimes get all caught up in what people think of me, as if that matters, as if I know what they really think, and if I knew, as if I could change myself. I am, in no small measure, what I’ve been made by everyone else. Put me in a line of cyclists, and I will pedal. Put me in the grocery store, and I will shop.
Identity is a funny thing, how we perceive ourselves, how we define our “true selves.” I have mostly ceased to believe in such a thing. And while that may seem sad, the idea that there is no true me, nothing unique or special or abiding about my existence, it is also enormously freeing. It gives me less to maintain, less ego to coddle and stroke.
In looking at myself, I can break down almost completely what I am trying to express by putting on these shoes, this shirt, getting my hair cut just this way. It’s fun to paint that picture. It’s what we do, as humans. In fact, it may even be a reaction to our insignificance that we set so much store by our individual identities, tilting at the windmill of our comical sameness.
We love constructing identities so much that we even anthropomorphize objects. We name our cars, our bikes. We ascribe them genders and describe their personalities.
And while I’m not one to name my bikes, if I squint, I can just about see who they are. My road bike is a Frenchman, more of a swashbuckler than I am, a little more buttoned up, a little more confident. My mountain bike is a harried surgeon, very particular about his lines, very deliberate in all his decisions. I wish sometimes he’d let loose, but it’s not in his nature. I have another road bike who is clearly a college student with tastes which surpass his means. He’s that guy who will never properly grow up, but will wrinkle pre-maturely, maybe even color his hair and then pretend he hasn’t. He’s vain, with no real cause to be.
It is ridiculous to talk about bikes this way, but for me, it seems no more ridiculous than to talk about myself this way, and it’s more fun, less freighted, less (un)important.
This week’s Group Ride asks not who you are, but who is your bike? How did he/she/it get that way? Do bike identities change? How? Who do you wish your bike really was? I suspect my bike is better than me. Is yours better than you?
All this fucking snow. Excuse the f-bomb, but as I tell my kids, if the context demands it there is nothing at all wrong with the word. It’s not all the snow’s fault, either. Its enabler, the cold, is lingering at 30-year-lows.
The snow is so nice, so beautiful, as it falls, limning the leafless branches of the trees. The road disappears into the neighbor’s lawn, all of it paper white, a giant blank canvas to imagine the summer against. Cognitive dissonance creeps in here, looking out the window, trying to hold the winter stillness in mind, contemplating warmer weather, less clothing, more riding. Snow storms more or less demand you stand in windows, staring vacantly, thinking these thoughts.
Once the plows come rumbling, dropping their blades concussively to the pavement to scrape away what they can, and once the salt trucks visit, broadcasting sand and calcium chloride across the resulting mess, you are left with something that looks not unlike the bark of the white birch, mottled and rough, dark in patches. The main roads are the trunk, the side roads the branches. The white birch is also sometimes called the canoe birch, because some native tribes used it to skin their canoes.
During every storm, a great levy rises at the edge of the plow line where the snow piles, churned by the broad plow blades into a sort of cement. The shoveling can be easy until you reach this levy, and then you need dynamite and a crew of metal shovels to break through, to reconnect yourself to the world.
This snow bank, which shrinks the useable asphalt to a narrow strip, will look like the tide as it recedes, melting, all froth and sand pulling back, dwindling, going away. Bits of garbage melt out like fetid time capsules.
While it’s not true that Eskimos have a hundred words for snow, there is a period in the life of each flake during which it is rideable. One of my very favorite times to ride is between the first dusting and the fall of the third inch. There are complicating factors, of course. If the snow is too cold, and there is a frozen under-layer, then you can’t ride it. The meteorological dominoes have to fall the right way. When they do, and the temperature remains cold and stable, this magic snow can remain tacky for as many as two or even three days. Once the first melt comes on, even a momentary thaw, the whole surface turns to ice again, and you’re lost. It’s over.
I like it best when the snow is actively falling.
My first snow ride this season featured 12F temperatures and a stiff wind. I set out at night, the flakes swirling in my headlights, and the cars idling in stand-still traffic like little huts of misery, their drivers watching me pass, thinking I was crazy but wishing they could be moving, too.
The next weekend it snowed again, and with more time on my hands, I headed for the woods. Alone there except for a few cross country skiers, I struggled to remember all the features of the trails I’ve ridden hundreds of times before, like going to your favorite restaurant only to discover they’ve changed the menu, and the cuisine, and the decor.
All that fucking snow. It gets hard to know what to do with it. By the driveway it got high enough that I struggled to throw more over the top of the bank. On the bike, some kids with sleds pointed and laughed as I churned through the fresh snow in the park by the house, on my way where exactly? I have been off the bike more than I have been on it, but I have stood in the window thinking hard on it. It’s so lovely, as it falls.
Image: Matt O’Keefe
It’s been a hard winter. I won’t elaborate too much here (because I’ll do it elsewhere), but suffice it to say it’s been hard to get rides in. Even when you summon the will to leave in sub-20F temperatures, ice and snow make the proposition tricky. The roadway is much smaller, and utilizing main roads to connect more bucolic sections gets more tense. The level of planning necessary to pull off a good ride in this weather is often more than I can manage, given the other requirements of my middle class existence, chief among them youth hockey.
My wife said, “What makes this time of year so hard is that you can’t pin your hopes on spring. It’s too far off still. So you don’t have anything to look forward to.” It was that sentiment that led us to purchase four plane tickets to visit family in Wales. Something to look forward to. Whether we can afford it or not.
Then, this morning, Dan said, “You know what’s good for the winter blahs? A bike project.”
Yes. Something to look forward to. I can’t ride, but I can build a new bike to ride when the ice pulls back from the asphalt, when the mud starts harden on the trail. Again, whether I can afford it or not, this makes good sense.
The riding I have been enjoying the most over the last few seasons is this sort of mixed terrain stuff sometimes called gravel grinding, which, while alliterative, makes me cringe every time I hear it. Because I live on the fringe of the city, the trails and dirt patches we ride are often tucked behind people’s houses or stuck on the back of public parks. It feels like poaching on someone else’s land. For me it has, a little bit, the same vibe as the So Cal kids of the ’70s and ’80s skating people’s empty pools while they were away at work during the day. It stokes the coals of (extremely) latent teen rebellion that still churn in my over-stimulated brain.
So I’m building a bike. I am piecing together a parts spec. I am making up my mind, then changing it, making not very much progress, but achieving my chief aim, which is to think about something other than the 6 inches of snow still sitting heavily on the roof of my house, melting out into stalactites of ice during the day, building itself into ice dams and tearing at the shingles.
This week’s Group Ride is about projects, about the things we’re looking forward to. What are you working on? What is the point? Is it a new bike or a new training program? Is it a trip or just cleaning your chain and getting back on the road? Cyclists are very seldom still. We are always plotting and planning. Maybe it’s just cleaning the garage. What is your plan?
Images: Matt O’Keefe
I remember reading, a long time ago now, the story of a pilot confronted with the failure of his plane’s engine and all the thoughts that raced through his mind in the brief time between the last sputtering of his propeller and the surprise instant when the engine restarted. The point of the piece, beyond the improbability of surviving such an incident, was that the human mind is capable of processing a lot of information very quickly so that seconds seem to stretch into minutes and quite complex ideas can form and pass in a flash.
We all have this experience sometimes when we crash, don’t we? There are those crashes that seem to happen before we know it, i.e. we find ourselves on the ground before we are aware that anything is even amiss, but then there are crashes where everything seems to happen is slow motion. I remember once going over the handlebars when a car stopped in front of me unexpectedly, and in the fractional seconds of flying through the air I became aware of my elbow hitting the ground first, the blooming pain of skin being ground off that elbow by the pavement, and the realization that when I came to rest, there would be blood.
Consider too Padraig’s description of his big crash from last season. He is more informed than I am on the neurochemical explanation for our experiences of these visceral moments.
But adrenaline isn’t the only way to make amber of your time. Hard effort can get you there, too. This quality of the elasticity of time was mostly the inspiration for In the Space of a Pedal Stroke from earlier this week, that and a root-level need to think about summer instead of this cruel, persistent winter.
How many times have I been to that painful place at the edge of effort, sawing my way up a steep hill or trying in vain to cling to a wheel I have no business following? How many times have I been out in shitty weather, sleet cutting sideways, my cheeks going numb or the summer heat like a smothering pillow held over my face? It’s interesting the thoughts that bubble up in these circumstances, when things get hard.
This week’s Group Ride asks what you think about in your difficult moments? Do you have a go-to thought? A mantra? Is this where your great epiphanies comes from? Or have you perfected the art of blankness? I sometimes try to think about the aching in my quads as something apart from myself, to observe it rather than feel it. I always fail at this.
Image: PhotoSport International
In the languid summer, in the rise of the hill, as we work our way up and up and up, time suddenly slows and spreads, like a rain drop on the afternoon paper. The prickly tingle of sweat slants across my forehead and threatens to run saltily, stingingly, into my eye.
I wonder at the sand, hard-packed in places, that shushes beneath our tires. It has been rideable up to this point, but why should it stay that way? Why won’t we round some bend and come into a dry patch, unprotected by the swaying pines, that bears the sun’s full heat, so that each grain slips easily against the others, the cumulative friction of thousands and hundreds of thousands of very small rocks grinding against composite rubber and bringing us down, clattering into the dead dry grass of the verge.
How much sand must be here? I contemplate the impossibility of large numbers, fantasize about spending a life counting each granule, the road staked out like an archaeologist’s dig, the whole thing pointless but purposeful.
As my left knee crests its circular path, I become aware of the building acid in my legs, the dull ache forcing its way into the froth of thought. My heart pumps furiously to wash the muscles clean. How many beats per pedal stroke? I don’t know. And what volume of oxygen, distilled from the dusty air, commixes somewhere in my chest, air and fuel combusting in a chamber, firing a piston at some measurable output. All the math goes hypoxic though.
You don’t run these calculations when you’re fresh. It’s only in the desperate dwindling of resources that you begin to worry whether you’ve got what it takes to make the top, to relieve the burden of gravity, becoming a stone, plummeting, great gusts of heat bursting off your back, cooling the admixture of effort that earned you the descent.
My companion sits quietly just ahead and to the left, half a bike’s length on, but the hardness of the work separates us. He might as well be on another planet. I suspect in this moment that he is stronger than I am, that I am somehow holding him back, but this is only self-doubt creeping in, less a product of his superiority than of my own insecurity. We are not tethered together, he and I, but there is some not visible connection, a tension, like water bulging over the rim of a glass. His speed adds to mine. We react to each other’s whimsical surges, unconsciously. Much of the time I am only trying to hold him there, slightly forward and to the left.
I don’t know anyone who lives on this stretch. The houses are all struck back from the road, tucked in their own little glades. Trucks rumble and lurch from the ends of driveways, and I imagine their drivers shaking their heads and smiling bemusedly, wondering at these fools in lycra.
I think to drop my heel as I was taught to do, to scrape the sole of my shoe. In my water bottle, the electrolyte suspension, neon translucent, sloshes rhythmically, left to right, forward and back. It churns in liquid mimicry of my legs. I will wait until the road slackens to reach down, to pull the bottle from its cage and jam it into my gasping mouth. There is the urge to hold the liquid there, like the beach clutching at the tide line, but the need to breathe forces the drink down quickly. I can almost taste it. Almost.
This is a ride with nothing in it. We are not measuring ourselves with magnets or satellites. The route is a vague idea, not a careful plan, and we have only set out to test our legs and build some form. Of course, the test is always more stern than the idea of the test. In the flickering fantasy of riding, in the planning, we are always stronger than we are in the actual pedal stroke, this pedal stroke, with its heavy thud against the ego. Later, when we’ve had the chance to put these moments into the larger context, we will each pretend that we were not so far out into the hinterlands of our capacity, that it was more or less what we expected. This is the tacit agreement of riding friends, the first rule of Fight Club.
I am back to counting. My pedals have not yet completed one rotation, but I am trying to extrapolate the seconds per stroke, the strokes-per-meter or meters-per-stroke, the distance from the jagged stone we have just passed, jutting crudely into the side of the road, to the stump ahead, there at the limit of my vision when I think to tilt my head back, to lift my eyes from my top tube, from the slowly rolling bead of my tire. It could be a quarter mile or it could be a light year.
You can never get your glasses just right on a day like today. At the bottom of the climb the trees cluster tightly and the low angle of the sun leaves it dark. By the middle, the bright light is darting crossways, strobing past the corner of your lens, almost blindingly. And here, now, in the heart of the matter, far enough along to feel the full brunt of the topography but not yet in range of the relieving promise of the top, where the branches fall back and reach upward, everything is cracker-baked, only the dew of the morning and the rising water table, yesterday’s rain, keep the surface tacky and rideable. It all goes three shades whiter, washed out and harsh.
My family is waiting for me, back home. I can imagine my wife reading a book on the back porch, a glass of tea, unsweetened, in front of her. The kids swirl and caper in the road, our dead end drawing scab-kneed boys from all over for roiling games of hide and seek. Excited shouts go up from beyond the widow’s house at the corner, and then all falls tensely silent, kids stuck in the gaps behind garbage cans or perched anxiously at the corner of the garage. I wonder at what point my absence will become problematic.
There is a relief to completing one pedal stroke. Each revolution is a challenge, a microcosm of the whole ride, with struggle at top and bottom, strength somewhere in the middle, the search for rhythm. You have to believe you can keep going, round and round, up and up and up. You have to know you can finish.
Often enough, the joy for me is in letting the hardness of turning the pedals over draw me into the moment. I don’t live there as a rule, too bound up in doing the next thing, planning for future exigencies, sifting through the inadequacies of the past. The present is the only place I can do anything, but it is also the hardest place to be. Sometimes, in the heat of the afternoon, out with a friend, I can drive myself there, an ox plowing a furrow, an idiot riding a bike.
I have three friends who have complete Mavic gruppos from yesteryear, who are actively looking for just the right bike to put them on. Each of them has been holding the prized parts for longer than my kids have been breaking hearts and making messes. This is how we are sometimes, bike nerds, obsessive and patient, nostalgic and ingenious.
If I were to go to eBay and search for a bike frame from 2004, the chances are good that I would be able to take the componentry off my current bike, move it all over to the ten year old frame and it would all work. This is part of the great fun of this hobby of ours, upgrade and afterlife, making an old bike new or taking a current bike up a level in the quiet of the basement or garage, like my father’s generation bent under the hoods of their cars, slung headlong beneath engines with heavy wrenches and oil stains on their faces. No one I know works on their own car anymore, not a modern car anyway. The computerization and modularization of newer engines resists tinkering.
If you scan the covers of your favorite cycling magazines, you might think the road bike is going the same way.
A little over ten years ago road frames started having 1 1/8″ head tubes instead of the 1″ tube they’d had for decades, and that created problems for tinkerers. A lot of riders employed ugly adapters to slip through the eye of that needle, but by and large a frame’s head tube marks it as either retro or contemporary. Still, that break was fairly clean, and it was a single paradigm shift.
A similar leap had taken us from down tube shifters to brifters (brakes/shifters) in the ’90s, but simple adapters to convert the down tube bosses to cable stops made this a fairly painless one. Cable stops and guides remained the same, preserving the path future utility.
Then things went haywire.
Bottom bracket standards proliferated. Electronic shifting came on line. Disc brakes arrived on the road, and each of these changes hint at future compatibility problems beyond the reach of simple adaptation.
Two or three years into the life cycle of products like Shimano’s DI2 and Campy’s EPS, we see all the batteries formerly bolted to chainstays and under downtubes disappearing into seatposts or into the frame beneath. That leaves us with several season’s worth of bikes filled with holes they don’t need and parts bins harboring batteries we’ll never use again.
Say you want to build a mechanical bike five years from now. You will find that some large percentage of what’s available on the second hand frame market is routed for Di2. No cable stops. Say you want to build a bike with rim caliper brakes, but some large percentage of what’s available has disc tabs, and no brake bridge. Say you want to build a bike with a straight 1 1/8″ fork steerer, but some large percentage of what’s available has a 44mm head tube. You’ll be able to get adapters, but you’ll end up with the classic ‘hot dog down a hallway’ look. It’ll be ugly.
It could be argued that for decades the road bike was evolving along a single path, bikes of the past being upgradeable to the components of the moment. But over the last few seasons, that evolution has branched hard in myriad directions, many of which have led to dead ends, seriously degrading the sustainability of the existent bike population.
We’re going to end up with a lot of garbage, and we’re going to have fewer and fewer frames to work with in our basements, in our garages. It could be that the performance advantages afforded by many of these new technologies will be adequate recompense for the loss of the ability to tinker, to while away hours in studied silence, or to knock out a new bike with some music playing, over beers. It bears thinking about.
Sociologists use the term cultural lag to describe the moral and social delay we experience in assimilating new technologies. The Internet provides the most immediate example. Web technologies that spawn efficiency, convenience and cost savings also enable all manner of transgression, all of it governed by outdated laws and on-the-fly social contracts. For all its transformative brilliance, there is a dark side we struggle to contain.
The modern day road bike is not, probably, such a treacherous medium, but its effect on this cycling culture of ours, what has been a mechanically inclined culture organized around a people’s technology, is rapidly becoming modular and proprietary. In the moment it may be more aero, or more accurate, but its obsolescence will cost us more than the price of replacing our favorite ride.
I’m old fashioned. You know that by now. I like things that last, both because I am New England thrifty and because I tend to become quite fond of my stuff. I have never in my life put a bike frame in the garbage. I have also come to see my bikes as living things on some level. They grow and change, and when I get a new one I am normally thinking about how I want it to be in the moment, and how I will maybe alter it later. And I think cyclists in general have always had these values. Quite why we are engineering ourselves into corners now, I can’t say, but I’m concerned and a little sad.
Image: The Salvatore Collection
I don’t know why I read books, paper and ink bound together rather than agglomerations of dots on glowing rectangles. My mother made me love them as objects, and set the example of reading hard books, so that I became one of those overly serious young men who plodded through Hesse and Dostoyevsky and thought it made me smarter.
Yeah. No such luck.
Still, I love books the way I love bikes. I love them as the things they are, as well as for what they give me. Like reading a difficult book, finishing a difficult ride can push at your understanding of the world. It can change you.
I finished a novel a few weeks ago, Return from the Stars by Stanislaw Lem. The book is about an astronaut who returns to Earth after a ten year mission to the far reaches of the galaxy. In those ten years of space travel more than a hundred have passed at home. All the main character’s family and friends have died, and the society that welcomes him back views him as a savage. The planet he returns to has overcome violence. Murder and war are things of the past, but so too is curiosity for its own sake, so too is love. The whole idea of exploration has become passé.
What then, he wonders, was the point of his trip?
And yes, what is the point? Why do we leave home, travel along a circular path, or worse yet a straight line, only to return to where we started? Lem’s astronaut struggles with this problem before finally realizing that going is the whole point of going. We go because we go. It’s what we do. You can conjure reasons, for exercise, for adventure, for the environment, but are those real reasons or just excuses?
There is a great line in the book, the astronaut, conceding that he won’t reconcile his drives with the comfort of his fellows, says, “I have probably experienced too little, and thought too much of it.”
And maybe I have that problem, too. I have ridden too little, and thought too much of it. But, this week’s Group Ride asks, what is the point of cycling? Why do we care? Why is it good for us, but not for everyone? Are we in some ways comical, working hard at riding in circles? In the end, Lem’s adventurer signs on for a new space mission, a secret project, contrived by some like-minded souls, not yet ready to give up on going, despite its apparent futility. I’m not ready either, but I don’t know why.
Image: Matt O’Keefe
I was on the phone with some folks at a bike shop today, and they asked what I thought would happen with disc brakes for road bikes. This happens to be a sore subject for me, and not because I dislike disc brakes, although I do. So many people at the shop level are trying to figure out what’s going to happen, whether the trend is going to take hold and birth a new sub-category.
Here’s my problem. I don’t know anyone who has experienced brake fade on a long road descent. I don’t know anyone who has blown out a tire from an over-heated rim. I understand that these things have happened, but that I don’t know anyone who has experienced them suggests that any statistically significant shift in the number of disc brakes on the road is an over-reaction to the few incidences of these things happening.
Yes, I have disc brakes on my mountain bike. Yes, I think a winter commuter is a good candidate for disc brakes, because snow and ice are real problems for those kinds of bikes. Discs are good, but are they good everywhere?
Someone smarter than I am told me he thought, in 5 years, half of all road bikes would be disc-equipped. Let’s not even get into the maybe-not-ready-for-primetime-ness of the current component options. Let’s just think about how much weight we’re adding to the machine at the end of a cycle of carbonification (my word) that drove grams out of the average bike like they were rats in a place called Hamelin. Now we’re going to pack them back on for a small percentage gain in braking power?
OK. I’m a Luddite. More often than not, I don’t see the point of the next technological leap. And there are consequences to each of the these “steps forward” for compatibility, upgradeability and long-term usefulness. I could go on and on, but I already did that on the phone this afternoon.
But it’s not for me to tell you what to ride, so this week’s Group Ride asks, do you want disc brakes on your road bike? Do you see the benefit for your riding? Do you plan to upgrade in the next year? Or are you just curious to see what they’re like? Am I crazy? You would tell me, right?