Since my ill-fated first ride attempt a while back, I have not been back out on my nice shiny (and now slightly scratched up in places) Giant Defy 2 Compact road bike for various reasons (injury, illness and then running prep for the Bristol 10k).
Two days after the 10k run, on a nice midweek day-off, the sun was shining and I mounted up for my second lesson in how to ride a road bike!
As an adult, I have only ever been a ‘leisure’ cyclist, riding occasionally (and sometimes a short hop to and from work) and never very far, on mountain bikes or more recently a hybrid bike. I actually thought I was a pretty proficient cyclist! That was, until my first couple of test rides on this road bike, and my first proper ride which resulted in a crash after only a few minutes on the road!
So, I thought I might as well put my embarrassment to one side, and blog about my adventures in learning to ride this thing, it is not as straight forward as I thought it would be, and I have a new found respect for those who compete in road races!
The whole reason for buying one is because I have a thing about Triathlons, and I would love to complete an Olympic distance one some day. The hybrid bike is all well and good for a beginners distance, but to put more serious mileage down, I need a quicker and more efficient bike, hence making the purchase. Being a decent runner now and a fairly strong swimmer, the cycling part is definitely my weakness in Triathlon, and it is one I really need to get in order if I am to grow in this sport!
There is so much that is different about a proper road bike than with a hybrid bike, and this had made my learning curve pretty steep, and very urgent!
- Thin road tyres versus fat hybrid (or mountain bike) knobbly tyres, meaning the balance is completely altered, as is hitting any obstacles!
- More aggressive seating position versus relaxing upright and enjoying the view, adding to a change in balance and speed.
- Drop handlebars versus straight and wide grip handle bars, giving three different ways to (learn to) position your hands and they’re more narrow overall which dramatically affects balance, especially in an emergency!
- Brake levers on the front of the drop handlebars versus brake levers being always accessible from the straight bars. On occasion I have failed to brake efficiently due to having to think about moving to the levers! 😕
- Gear levers incorporated into the brake levers versus a nice twisty gear change, or little thumb levers where you never need to change your hand position! Not only a different position to what I’m conditioned to, but a different movement to get used to.
- Clip-in pedals and shoes versus big wide pedals and trainers. OMG! For me, the steepest (and fasted) learning curve of them all, and even though it pained me, I was relieved to see another unfortunate cyclist falling recently in a similar fashion to my own fall (albeit more stationary), so clearly it happens quite a lot!
- Lighter frame and wheels versus big heavy and chunky setup, adding to the balancing act!
- Much much faster gearing especially when combined with the thin tyres and light weight, means the thing positively flies along, the world goes by quicker (and everything in it!), which produces a lot of exhilaration and excitement!!!
- …and maybe more yet to discover??
Most important for me on today’s ride was learning to clip-out in time to glide to a graceful and controlled stop! Happily I have become used to it now, and actually started to struggle more with clipping back in after successfully clipping out so many times, Lol! I guess that will get easier with time and practice.
Other things I noticed as a novice on this ride, making sudden turns becomes a bit scarier (and more wobbly) with such a finely balanced bike (and being used to a wide gripped straight handlebar), flies hit you much harder (I took a bee right on the adams-apple at full speed downhill, which made me jump!), and I now understand why everyone advised me to get padded shorts, as those rougher parts of the surface really ‘go through you’ in the contact zone! In fact my seat post slowly sank over this ride because of that, so another lesson is to make sure all the bolts are secure before heading out for a long ride! On the way home I required shorter legs… 😉
Still much learning to do, and this was only a 10 mile session of varying speeds, but I’m getting much more used to the bike now. And because of the speed of the thing and the excellent gearing, it really encourages you to attack those uphills, so my legs were satisfyingly wobbly afterwards too (although some of that is down to my 10k run 2 days before I hope!).
All in all, a successful session on the bike, if I am to judge success as ‘not falling off’ in these early attempts… 😀
Looking forward to the next one more now!