Tuesday, May 10, 2011

On the "Feel" of Different Bikes

So this week has been a good one so far, at least in terms of cycling.  The weather has finally decided that it can't resist the sun's rejuvenating rays any longer.  Even at 7 AM it's roundabout 50F degrees, which rapidly warms as the sun rises over the trees.  This is perfect for the early weekend morning rides that I've missed for so many months.

I rode 18 miles on Saturday, meeting a friend at Saddle Brook Park in Ridgewood, then traversing East and West Saddle River Roads for most of their lengths.  On Sunday I repeated part of that route on my own, but added some distance by crossing into New York up to the NY State Thruway.  Then I returned via Saddle River and Chestnut Ridge Roads.  That was 23 miles in all.  Both of these were on my Roubaix, which is such a comfortable bike for these vigorous (yet somehow still leisurely) weekend morning rides.  More than once I thought about the simple reward I was getting - just to see the early sunlight dappled through the newly-leaved trees, and hear the silence of the still-quiet country roads.  Later, of course, that quiet would inevitably be shattered by the insistent buzz of lawnmowers and the laboring of trucks' diesel engines.

The Roubaix feels fast, yet upright.  I don't stretch out on it much, and even the drops are shallow, as it has a so-called "ergo" handlebar.  The bar's gripping areas under one's hands are also non-cylindrical and somewhat beefy, which is very comfortable.  I enjoy the compact double, as it simplifies gearing, and I have yet to tackle a hill that I couldn't climb by spinning in the lowest gear (34/28).  Now that I've printed this, I'm sure such a hill is looming on my next ride!

The Roubaix is all carbon, which is light and easy to toss around.  It absorbs bumps better than aluminum, but has a "crispy crunchy" feel to it that I don't always like.  This is in contrast to my Clockwork singlespeed, which is cro-moly steel.  The Clockwork seems to urge the rider to scramble over rough pavement rather than dodging it.  It absorbs in a softer way, more predictable and with an old-school feel (compared to my days of youthful riding on a heavy Ross 10-speed).

Today I did a short but energetic ride with the singlespeed in my town, climbing one significant hill and numerous other small ones.  I had replaced the 17 tooth freewheel with an 18 tooth one, and I wanted to give it a go.  I was finding the 17 to be good for speed on the flats, but just a bit difficult for anything but short climbs.  The bike also had a sluggish feel with this arrangement.  I went from 71.1 to 67.2 gear inches by making the cog change.  Now the speed at which I can comfortably spin tops out at around 21 MPH, but the bike feels sportier and faster.  It also (most importantly) feels less inhibited by the hilly terrain in my area, and I'm going to be more confident riding it in a variety of situations where hills might pop up unexpectedly.  And that's a good thing.

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