Tuesday, July 13, 2010

(Sorta) Speedy Daddy

Hey, guess what? I rode in a race a couple of weeks back. I'm not fast or even very competitive, but my brother and sister-in-law were doing a team triathlon and their bike segment guy dropped out only a couple of days before the event. They asked me if I'd be interested, and as a surprise even to myself I agreed. This was the first race for my brother since he had back surgery, and my sister-in-law was just there to have fun. I knew I would be slow and had no chance of winning, so the pressure to be fast was off.

Without a time trial bike, I had to consider my steed from among my roadiest bikes. Those would be a 29 year old Trek 710 touring bike (more or less a museum piece) or my (single speed) Surly Cross-check. I even thought about pulling some of the cargo parts off the Big Dummy and riding it. In the end, I went for comfort, familiarity and dependability in my 1990 Titan Half-Trac mountain bike (better known as the one with license plate fenders). About 35 pounds, give or take. Albatross bars. Platform pedals. Seven friction-shifted gears. Continental Town and Country 1.9 tires. Vintage Rock Ring as a chain guard.

So early on a Saturday morning, I rode the Titan 30 miles in 1:56:54 from Lake Loveland to Horsetooth Reservoir and back in the company of guys in pointy helmets and 16 pound carbon-fiber bikes. To put it mildly, I stood out. As it turned out, the relay teams started in an early heat, so I got to see much of the field as they went by me. The elite riders just shot past, with their surprisingly loud disc wheels. A lot of the normal riders took the time to compliment me on my fenders or bike or remarked their impressions of my tenacity necessary to ride such a bike. A pointy helmeted guy even screamed, "Go 290! Woo!" (my number) on his way by. In a bit of a surprise, I did actually pass several people who were riding more suitably equipped bikes, but who were likely below my modest fitness level.

The experience made me really think about how compartmentalized the thinking of bicyclists is with regard to the equipment of bicycling, a perception that I noted even in myself when choosing a bike to bring to the race. Sure, I was slow and uncompetitive, but only marginally more so than if I had chosen my touring bike. At a certain level, there are distinct advantages when it comes to bike equipment, but for me and the rest of the ordinary racers, there probably isn't much of a difference. If I had added a second chainring to my Titan and taken the race slightly more seriously, I could have easily chopped 20 minutes off my time, without abandoning my 20-year old quirky bike.

That said, at least for the present time, I'm now considering a real-ish road bike. For some reason, I'm liking the idea of a "magenta and macaroni" colored late 1980s Dave Scott Ironman Centurion. In the mean time, don't be surprised if I'm riding the Big Dummy a bit faster than normal.

Heading out onto the course.
Team Molasses. Photo by Hazel (age 4)


  1. Thanks, Tracy. We lived up to our name, which was thought up by Jen (a.k.a. the sister-in-law). Get ready to be impressed, but we placed in the top 20! (Full disclosure: there were 21 teams. I'll leave it to you to figure out our ranking.)

  2. Your kind words and confidence in the codification of our cycling greatness has earned you your second blog follower. Thanks for the Tour de B-Cycle props!

    I was glad to read your race post, smiling throughout as I imagined you tooling along on a bike that likely has far more miles than most of the carbon frames that passed you by. Or crabon fribe, as commonly called by a popular cyclist/writer.

  3. Hey, thanks Sandy and/or Genevieve. I was impressed and inspired with your Tour de B-cycle prowess. I'm now planning on a weekday try to replicate the feat as I would guess most of the Tour de B-cycle attempts have been on weekends. Also, as a daddy/student without a real job I can harness preschool coverage to my advantage.

    I thought along similar lines about the attention generating value of my bike as a ratio, with inquisitive interest as a numerator and dollars spent as a denominator. Using this ratio, I'd match my bike up with any crabon fribe on the planet. This view might be more nerdish than snobbish though.