Monday, April 18, 2011

A Little Introduction

I discovered road cycling as a form of exercise in May of 2010. A month before, I had visited the doctor for the first time in at least twenty years for a physical exam. I was about a month past the age of 43, three years past the milestone of 40 when I had initially promised myself that I would do so. While I was not in bad shape overall - my blood pressure has always been fine for example - my cholesterol numbers were too high. Also, I was about 20 pounds overweight. Not nearly enough for me to qualify as a Biggest Loser contestant, but not very attractive, either. The doctor let me go off to address this with diet and exercise before any serious talk about statin drugs. Good thing, too, because I was not going to accept that option without a solid effort.

After a brief stint with a rowing machine (later sold on Craigslist), I went out for a 5 mile ride on my circa 1995 Trek 830 hybrid bike. The bike is ugly, heavy, and has knobby tires and plenty of rust, but it showed me that I could ride on the road with traffic, something I hadn’t done since I was in middle school. Soon after, I visited my local bike shop (LBS), Pedal Sports in Oakland, NJ, and grabbed a silver Fuji Absolute 3.0, a flat bar “comfort” road bike.

Fast forward a couple of months, and I had put 400 miles on this bike. Most importantly, I had dropped 10 pounds and reduced my cholesterol to normal levels. Cycling was a critical factor, and it was here in my life to stay. But I was finding the limitations of the flat bar configuration to be fatiguing, even after I added bar ends for another hand position option. And at 26 pounds, it was not very lightweight, even though I had little to compare it with. After taking the Fuji down to Bethany, Delaware on our family’s June vacation, I concluded that the bug had bitten me for real, and I wanted to invest in a real road bike. I decided that I would go with an all-carbon fiber frame, and stick with the more upright geometry of the so-called “plush” road bike category. My LBS stocks Specialized, so that meant a Roubaix, and a matte dark gray Roubaix Comp with a compact double chainring was soon in my garage. I sold the Fuji on Craigslist, too.

Now this was serious. So along the way to riding over 2,200 miles during what remained of 2010, I tricked it out with orange accents: Cinelli cork handlebar tape, Vittoria Rubino tires, and Bontrager water bottle cages. I hauled the Roubaix out to Long Beach Island, New Jersey, for a week of riding on its windy flats. I rode in three organized rides, reaching 25 miles, 50 miles, and a 100 km (62 mile) “metric Century.” By October, I had reached my weight loss goal of 25 pounds.