On Flats, Stationary Bikes, and the Big Ring
Random thoughts for the day...
Flats: I got a flat today. In fact, I got two flats, the second coming right after I replaced the first. Flats are the cycling equivalent of running out of beer in the middle of a party -- it just sucks. Unless you carry a spare tube and pump, which I don't, your ride is officially over, and if you don't tend to the flat right away or get a second flat in a row, your bike is put out of commission. So as soon as work lets out I am off to a local bike store for the second time today. Ughh. To be fair, my front tire has gone 2000 miles without needing much more than the usual pumping up every few days or so. That's pretty damn good.
Stationary Bikes: This weekend I had a chance, for the first time in years, to try a stationary bike. This bike had all the bells and whistles -- you could tailor your workout to burn fat or focus on your cardiovascular system, you could ride up hills or stick to the flatlands, you could even find out how many calories you were burning in the process. I was excited, until about three minutes in. I'd guess that roughly 80 percent of the joy of riding a bike is in the scenery, the very thing that a stationary bike denies you. Watching TV while you ride just isn't the same, and counting the calories you lose is frustrating and much slower than you'd hope. By the time I'd burned 100 calories I was ready to call it quits. I like the challenge of riding up hills, but it isn't nearly as satisfying or challenging when the resistance on the stationary bike increases to mimick a real hill. I lasted a little over 15 minutes, and gave up.
The Big Ring: Most road and mountain bikes feature 7 or 10 chainrings in the back and 2 or 3 in the front, allowing for anywhere from 18-30 gears and a variety of combinations for any type of terrain. Most riders, myself included, change gears exclusively in the back, leaving the front chainring in a default position (on a three-ring bike, probably the second ring; on a two-ring bike, probably the first). Just last week, though, I switched into my second, bigger ring in the front (my Bianchi Axis only has two rings in the front, though later models have three), and instantly noticed that I was riding faster and accelarating more quickly. It was a whole new side of my bike, and resulted in an extremely satisfying and an extremely fast ride home. My cadence was lower (I pedaled less over the same amount of time), but I felt like I got more out of legs and my bike. I'm surprised I never thought to do this before -- most competitive cyclists, Jan Ullrich especially, are known for jumping onto their biggest ring and powering away at a low cadence. Lance Armstrong, though, bucks the trend by staying on the smaller rings and pedaling faster than other cyclists (it seems to work best with his physique, or so I have read). Either way, I have found myself a new, more satisfying way to ride.
Stupid Factoid for the Day: Courtesy of OLN, I found out yesterday that until 1937, riders in the Tour were not allowed to use rear derailleurs. The rear derailleur is essentially the mechanism that runs the chain up and down the rear chainrings, allowing you to handle hills and flatlands easily. Until that year, riders would come to the foot of a hill, get off their bikes, manually change gears, and ride on. Wow.