Here it is, folks: this is the bike leant to me by a friend for this year’s Arch to Arc. The bike I’ve been itching to get out on. Yes, here it is, artfully perched on an empty Pepsi Max tin I found lying by the side of the road.
After my previous ride report, where I’d had problems with the chain, my friend popped round last night to get it sorted out. And tonight I was able to get out and give it a proper ride.
Here’s my route:
Nothing particularly unusual about the ride in terms of terrain, and it followed my usual pattern: the first few miles feel a bit of a drudge but then I get into the swing of things and start enjoying myself. It wasn’t a massively long route at just over 22 miles, but it was beginning to get a bit dark out there so it was appropriate to head home when I did. But the route isn’t the important thing about this ride: how was the bike? How was it riding with those handlebars, with those gears, with those tyres and so on?
Well, there’s no doubt at all that riding a bike like this is smooth and feels fast (though in fact my average speed wasn’t that much better than my usual). Gear-changes will become more instinctive over time – I’m still having to consciously think about where my hands need to be to control things at the moment – but certainly didn’t cause any problems. Gear choices, on the other hand, do feel like they need some work. It often felt like I wasn’t really in the best gear for the road, and I need to work out the best strategy for deciding. I found myself in the highest gear quite a lot (that’s 50/12 for those who need to know these things) and noticed half way round that I’d been standing up a lot more than I usually do. Not a conscious choice, I just seemed to find hill climbing easier staying in a high gear and standing to power the pedals more efficiently rather than changing down.
There are a couple of things I’ll miss about my own bike. See these handle bars?
Yep, those ones. What do you spot? Just there. Up the top. Right hand side. Yes, that.
I’ve ridden with a mirror for a good few years now, and find it really useful. I still look over my shoulder to get a clearer view (and, to be frank, to make sure drivers know that I’ve seen them) but the mirror gives a really useful advance look at a quick glance. It is perfectly possible to fit on on the end of the drop handlebars of a road bike, but I’m not sure if it might be considered sacrilege to do so. The other thing I’m going to miss is also visible in the photo above, but here’s a closer view:
I’ve been telling people for years that I bought my bike about 19 years ago for about £400. I actually found the receipt recently (yes, really) and was surprised to find I’d only paid £349 for it. Now, 19 years later it’s very difficult to gauge whether that was a huge amount for a bike, but Raleigh certainly did include some great components, and this was one of them. I’ve never ridden a bike with suspension, but have spend nearly two decades with this little delight: a Girvin Flexstem. It’s simply a hinged, strongly sprung, stem, with a very small amount of travel, that allows the handlebar to up and down move a little. And I really mean a little: perhaps about a centimetre.
Until today, I’d never appreciated just how effective it was. Riding with a fixed stem (and, it must remembered, tyres at a much higher pressure) has left me with aching hands, wrists and forearms. There’s no escaping the fact: you feel every little ripple and bump. And there’s lot of them to contend with.
That’s enough for now. It’s late and my bed awaits me.
Until next time, then…
Today’s dull stats:
Riding time: 1 hr 31 mins
Distance: 22.27 miles
Average speed: 14.6 mph
Top speed: 32.4 mph