Week 13 – The Bike Fits

BMW-and-Boeing-to-partner-up-on-carbon-fiber-research-including-recyclingIn 1998 I bought my first bike, a Trek 5200. It was, at the time, an extravagant purchase. The bike cost 2500$, (or 3570 in inflation adjusted dollars) which is a lot of money to spend on anything.

But I rode it on the streets during my test ride and fell in love with the smooth experience that is carbon fiber.

At the time carbon was an exotic material. There was a non-trivial amount of discussion about carbon bikes breaking spontaneously.Questions like these were not uncommon:

1998 Trek 5200 OCLV Bike?

I am very interested in buying this bike at a very good price…
Would the carbon frame be viable and stable still today?
I’m very worried that the frame would break down on me while riding.
Also how do the Shimano 600 Ultegra/ Dura Ace parts compare to parts today?

The metal bike manufacturers didn’t explicitly make that claim, but they certainly encouraged that belief.

I remembered my 5200 fondly as this smooth biking machine. And it served me well during my Death Ride where I rode it for 15+ hours.

By 2004, I had started to wonder if I wanted a new bike… I was suffering from Titanium envy. All the cool kids had Titanium bikes, and I wanted a new shiny Titanium bike. And then I did some research on exotic metals and wanted exotic metals…

Because in 2004, I had discovered the downside of carbon frames, the perfectly muted ride. The feeling of riding a wooden bicycle when you rode on smooth roads.

But after the Death Ride I stopped biking seriously, so it seemed like an extravagant purchase that I could not justify.

Fast forward to this year.

As part of my triathlon training I’ve had to get on my bike, again. And the first time was horrible.

I was convinced that something had fundamentally changed with the bike. After 6 years of collecting moth balls, the bike had broken … Because it’s a well-known fact that carbon warps and distorts after 6 years. I mean carbon is the basis of organic materials so of course it’s decomposed!

But I am cheap bastard when it comes to buying things (except laptops that can play games). And I hate spending money, so instead of immediately buying a new bike, I decided to give it some time.

And lo and behold, I’ve discovered a bunch of things

  1. It turns out that spending one hour and 45 minutes on a bike continuously spinning is a lot more strenuous than biking for one hour and 45 minutes on the roads.The lights offer these nice breaks every 5 to 20 minutes. 
  2. It turns out that the carbon doesn’t warp, but your weight and muscles can move the seat post down over time. A simple 15 minute adjustment can fix that.
  3. It turns out that the pedal you stuck onto your shoe in the middle of a bike ride might have been attached incorrectly. Attaching the pedal in the quiet of your garage where you have the time to test and test again results in a much better placement.
  4. It turns out that secondary muscles can be trained and not hurt. Things like your neck and shoulders and hands.
  5. And it turns out that you can learn to sit on your bike so you don’t get numb.

Which means that several weeks into my base building activity, I’ve discovered that the bike fits quite nicely.

Which is a bummer, because I’ve been wanting to buy a new bike for 8 years.

I guess I’ll have to admit that if I buy a new bike it’s not because I have to but because I want to, and I am such a cheap bastard…

But then I read that triathletes use these time trial bikes... And man are time trial bikes these awesome geeky things…

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