My new N+1 and a few lightbulb moments
When I told my daughter I was buying a new bike she questioned why: “But you already have lots of bikes. Why do you need another one?” I replied: “Well, like running trainers you need a bike to serve a particular type of cycling. I need a bike to cycle longer distances on the roads and with greater comfort.”
She didn’t looked convinced and because she is not a cyclist I can understand. I do, after all, have quite a few bikes already. But it was a trip to Mallorca that gave me the beginnings of a new urge for a new bike – and the latest N + 1!
You see, until then, I had always written off “sportive” style bikes as something for non-racing riders. Although I don’t do a lot of racing I still see myself as someone who wants to go faster and look sleeker. I might be kidding myself as I grow older but it’s about self-esteem, isn’t it?
I didn’t want a sportive style bike because I thought I was more than a sportive rider. So, I stuck with aggressive style racing bikes. I have owned several and loved them but these days I find I am becoming increasingly sore in my back and shoulders when riding longer distances. I realised that my super racy racer bike needs to be reserved for short-distance races.
The sportive Centurion bike (a German brand) hired while on my Mallorcan cycling holiday seemed to iron out many of my back problems. It felt far more comfortable to ride and in the “sportive” position I could cycle many more miles without feeling so fatigued. I suddenly realised I might “need” my own sportive bike.
The Cannondale or Giant sportive bike?
I narrowed my search down to two well-rated sportive style bikes, the Cannondale Synapse and the Giant Liv Avail Advanced Pro. I decided, too, after much research that I would go for my first female-specific bike. Having the classic female physique of longer legs and a shorter body, the geometry of a female bike should suit me better than a men’s bike.
These days, the range and spec of women’s bikes is so much better than it was even a few years ago and I was able to consider a number of good quality and well-spec’d bikes. In fact, the bikes I looked at were the same spec in male and female versions. What a breakthrough!
Another aspect that I liked was disc brakes. Many more brands are fitting disc brakes as standard and having used them on my cyclocross and mountain bikes I like their performance and lower levels of maintenance.
In the end, it came down to looks. When I visited Pedal Power, a shop in West Calder that stocks both Giant and Cannondale, I preferred the look of the Giant Avail Advanced Pro. It was on a par with the Cannondale but it made me smile a bit more.
Bike purchasing and bike fit
As luck would have it Pedal Power (which claims to be Scotland’s largest bike retailer) could order the exact bike and have it put together within five days. They also offer a bike fit as part of the sale. This impressed me because the bike fit is done by one of Scotland’s top road cyclists, Gary Hand.
In fact, the staff at Pedal Power were good all-round. They know their bikes and worked out what it was I was looking for. There was no big sell although they were keen to know if I might buy something in their shop or take all the info and head on-line to buy elsewhere. This is a fair point as it must be frustrating for real-time shops to lose customers to on-line outlets. As it turns out I like to support independent shops if I can and if they are open to talking about a “deal”!
The bike fit involved laser accurate measuring to ensure I was positioned on the bike to give the best strength to performance ratio, as well as comfort. Although the bike is for longer distance endurance and sportive cycling it should still go at speed if I am pedalling in the right position.
The length of the bike and my hand positioning was also assessed. I left the shop feeling confident that the bike was correctly set up to give me the best performance and comfort. I will report back!
A couple of lightbulb moments
During the bike fit Gary and I chatted. He showed me why buying a race aggressive bike is not always the best thing to do. So many times I have heard people (mainly guys) say that they expected to go faster on a lower profile, aerodynamic bike yet they did not.
Gary says that for many people an aggressive, low profile position can adversely affect the power output for riders, especially if they are not very flexible and have weak core and back muscles. Essentially, people will waste energy and strength keeping their stomachs and backs supported instead of putting all their power into their legs. It makes sense and it’s not something I had thought about before.
Gary also noticed something about my bike position. He told me that I automatically adopt a rounded back and shoulders position. Instead, he suggested I straighten my lower back and bend more from the hips rather than slouch over the bike.
By doing this I noticed that my back remained straighter and my shoulder more open. This might help to prevent the usual pain and cramps I get in shoulders after more than 25 miles on the bike. I hope, too, that the shorter top tube of the women’s bike will be beneficial.
Inadvertently, I also leaned something about disc brakes. I removed the front wheel to get the new bike into my van. When doing this I must have nudged the brake lever and when I tried to reassemble the bike at home, the brakes made an annoying scraping sound.
Apparently, if you pull the brake level while the wheel is off it can squeeze together the brake pads and they do not spring back too easily. Thanks to Nick, my friend and local mobile bike mechanic, for sorting this out whenI thought I’d broken the bike before I’d even ridden it.
Anyway, I now have “another new bike” (as my daughter said while rolling her eyes). I need to find somewhere to store all the bikes and I will be reporting back on how it performs.