Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Taking stock after a week

It is now a week since I got the new bike, and I've done 60 miles - half in one longish ride, and half as a number of short local rides. It is time to take stock.

I suppose the main difference is that this bike is built for longer rides. It is lighter than the other, with a bigger frame, larger and narrower wheels. Oddly, the change is most noticeable when freewheeling (it feels as though it will run on for ever), but even though I am a bit out of practice, It certainly feels up for longer outings, and I already get round the shorter runs more quickly. So it meets the main objective of getting something that would carry me a longer distance. The Ridgeback motto "go further" is etched into the stem to egg me on.

The second most noticeable change is that the stance is quite different. I am less upright, leaning forwards more, and with a longer reach to the handlebars. I had originally considered getting drop handlebars, but the bike shop advised that was a step too far, and I think they were probably right. I'm now beginning to get used to the new angles, and I suspect it will turn out to be about right in the long-run. The longer reach is certainly more comfortable on the wrists. It's quite an odd feeling going down steep hills though. The combination of a downward slope, greater speed, and leaning further forward sometimes makes it feel as though I am about to go over the front wheel.

There is no suspension on this bike, whereas the last had a sprung seatpost, and sprung forks. The difference is certainly noticeable. A hard push on the pedals feels as though it is going straight to the wheels. On the other hand, while the narrower seat means less rubbing on a long haul than before, any discomfort from this seat comes from bumping. I am now more conscious of uneven road surfaces, and I tend to put more of my weight on my feet, and less on my seat than I used to (at least until I get tired).

Changing gears on the previous bike was done by twisting the handles, but now it is a case of clicking a couple of little levers. There is probably a proper technical term for this, but whatever it is called, it seems to work fine, and it is certainly snappier. The choice of gear isn't quite coming naturally yet - I still have to think about where I want the ratios to go, and sometimes I have changed in the wrong direction, or pulled on a brake instead. Practice will no doubt sort that out before long.

The only niggling thing at the moment is that I can't get used to the toe clips. Once I'm moving they are not an issue, but having to fit my foot back into the toe clip every time I re-start is a bit of a nuisance. It doesn't come naturally yet, so there is a degree of fumbling around each time.

On the whole, I am pleased with the choices I made. To my eyes, it's a very pretty piece of machinery. I am certainly not fit enough to take full advantage of the improvements yet, but at least I am heading in the right direction, and it promises to be great fun getting there.

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