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Saturday
May062006

The Road Bike; an Elitist Machine.


If I am having a conversation with someone who knows nothing about bikes; on learning that I once built racing bicycles they invariably ask. “Isn’t it uncomfortable to ride bent over like that?”

You may as well ask. “Isn’t uncomfortable for a jockey to sit on a horse like this?”


If you had little or no experience in riding a horse then of course it would be extremely uncomfortable to ride in this position and you wouldn’t even attempt it. And yet with bicycles people see Lance Armstrong on a bike and think “Anyone can ride a bike.” And off they go to their local bike store and buy a top of the line road bike.

Before long they realize they are uncomfortable and this is not as easy as it looks. Next they are raising the handlebars defeating the whole object of dropped bars. They may as well start out with a bike with flat handlebars.

The truth is the road bike is an elitist machine and you need a certain degree of fitness and suppleness just to even ride one. I used to work for a man who used to go skiing for a one week a year, play golf for one week every year, and go sailing for another week each year. Of course I imagine he was not very good at any of these sports, but he could at least participate. Road cycling is not that kind of sport, to enjoy it you have to make a regular and long term commitment.

You don’t necessarily have to race or even ride with another person. The road bike is the most efficient machine know to humankind; riding in that low tuck position is not just about aerodynamics, it is about getting maximum power to the pedals not only through the legs but from arms, shoulders, and back also.

There is nothing like the feeling you get when the rider and machine become one; the bike becomes an extension of the athlete. Just as I am sure the jockey must feel when in full flight and the man and horse become as one.

Reader Comments (1)

I felt the same way when I started speedskating; it took me a year just to stay in the tuck position and get the breathing down, all while being in very good condition with bicycling.
That is what I love about cycling: I am still trying to "perfect" my style, still riding myself into condition, each day different from any other, even on the same roads and hills.
I stopped in-line skating because I didn't have the coordination for efficiency and speed. I keep riding because what I lacked on skates results in a very efficient ride on my bike.
It's enough to keep me riding for a long time.
May 10, 2006 | Unregistered Commenter VintageSpin
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