Today, I rode. I just rode.
I rode a bike with round tubes. It was carbon, but, old-school carbon. Yes there is such a thing. Tube to tube construction; common composites. In a lab test of stiffness, it would get crushed. If I took it to the A2 windtunnel, it would be so far north on the drag chart I’d need to zoom out to find it.
It had 50mm deep carbon wheels, but inexpensive ones. Narrow V-shaped rims. Nothing wide or blunt about them, like the new wheels I’m told are so much faster than everything else.
Vittoria EVO CX tubulars, even though I’ve seen tests that show they’re less aerodynamic than a Conti GP4000. Inflated to the minimum pressure printed on the hot patch. Because I didn’t want to think about what the ideal pressure might be.
I did not wear my Giro Air Attack. I did not wear my Castelli Aero Race shoe covers. I did not wear my shoes with three Velcro straps, even though an aerodynamics expert told me shoes with mechanical closures are slower.
Look Keo Max pedals: not the Aero Blade version which supposedly saves 5 watts or something. Not Speedplays which I’ve been told are more aerodynamic than other pedals.
I wore my Kapelmuur Independant kit. Because it is comfortable and I like the way it looks and I’m proud to be part of this club.
I had one Vittoria Pitstop, my iPhone and two dollars in my pocket.
Without a Garmin. No heart rate strap. No power meter. The iPhone was running Strava, but it was out of sight in my pocket.
The saddle feels slightly nose down. I obsess about it for a moment. I did not bring a tool. Should I go back home? Should I divert over to the San Juan Cycles and borrow a tool? Nah. I’m just going to ride.
I turn onto Florida - floor-ee-dah in these parts - Road towards the Edgemont climb. Past the stoplight the Strava segment begins. 3 miles; 4.6% average grade; 739 feet of gain.
I wanted to ride my anger and frustration away, so I pushed. I would listen to my body and push as hard as I could. If I broke before the top of the hill, so be it. But I wanted to push.
At Whippoorwill Drive I am breathing heavily. At Ute Pass Road, the sweat had overwhelmed my helmet pads and began to trickle down my face. As the ‘Welcome to Edgemont Ranch’ sign slides into view, it gets steeper. I bury myself. My legs began to tingle and my jaw began to ache.
I did not know my wattage, but the weight of the effort in legs tells me I am pushing hard.
I do not know how fast I am going, but I am deep in my cassette and spinning, so I know it is pretty fast.
I do know what my heart rate is, but it feels like a coconut is trying to pass though my chest, so I know it is high.
Out of instinct, I look down where my Garmin would usually be, wanting the display of watts and heart rate and speed and cadence to confirm that I was working hard. I wanted it to tell me that I was red lined and that what I was doing was a very bad idea and that, if I was smart, I would back off. Instead there is only handlebar and stem; a rotating tire; a shadow bobbing on the tarmac.
I pedal ugly. Jerking and bobbing; fucking the bike. No panache. I see the top. I lose track of everything. It’s only when I feel the weight lift that I know I’m there. My body relaxes, my focus returns. I think I was fast today, but there is nothing to confirm it. No times, no averages. All I know is that pushed as hard as I could. Almost.
From the top of Edgemont, I lollipop. I ride fast on dirt. I sprint up some hills. Everything by feel and only what feels right and satisfying.
It’s warm today. I unzip my jersey all the way, ignoring every aerodynamic expert who has told me that loose and wrinkled clothing devours watts. The wind picks up and drops the jersey playfully. I like the way it feels. The warm spring air feels good on my chest. I love being released from the tightness of the race-fit jersey.
I get home, tap ‘finish’ on the Strava app and open the garage door. As it lifts, I look at the Cervelo S5 VWD with Zipp 303s and Quarq powermeter. That’s the fast bike, I think. Everything I’ve ever been told tells me that is the fast bike. Today wasn’t about fast, tough.
Or so I thought.
I look at the ride on Strava and find a PR on the Edgemont climb, one KOM and a overall 9th fastest time. I was over a minute faster than my previous PR on the Edgemont climb. A PR I had set on the Cervelo S5 with the 303s. Over a minute faster on a bike that, comparatively, is a brick.
I do admire all the hard work companies put into advancing and differentiating their products. Does it make a difference? Yes. Does it matter? That is a question I can’t answer.
They’re chasing shadows, carving away ever-diminishing returns, with less and less daylight between one product and another. They’re using computers and software and lab testing to design and “prove” their products in highly controlled circumstances when we all use it in the incredibly variable, random and unpredictable real world.
Could I have been even faster up the Edgemont segment with an S5 VWD, Zipp 404’s, Conti GP4000s tires, Speedplay pedals, three-strap shoes, a Giro Air Attack, Castelli Aero Race shoe covers and San Remo suit? I’d say probably. Could using a powermeter, heart rate monitor and Garmin to precisely monitor my effort have helped me eke out every bit of speed? Also probably.
But it doesn’t matter to me. Today I was faster than I’ve ever been before on a slow bike. I did so many things wrong, and still I was faster. I was faster because I lost 15 pounds and I’ve been riding more. I was faster because I was angry and stubborn and I didn’t know anything other than what my body told me. I was faster because I just rode and I loved it.