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Sat, 04 Nov 2006

six months on the road

It's been six months since I decided that a road bike would be a good thing to own. I was doing a lot of mileage on the road on the mountain bike and getting fed up with wearing out knobbly tires on the road. I toyed with the idea of a second set of wheels but you really should use the right tool for the job.

Plus more bicycles is almost always the right answer.

It's mostly been a good experience. The sheer fitness of purpose that a road bike exudes makes it a joy to ride. It is one of the few things I own where it's hard to imagine something better suited to the task at hand. And it shows in the ease with which you can cover the miles. On the mountain bike 30 miles on the road seemed like a pretty decent ride whereas now if I get home and I've done less than 30 miles then I feel a bit let down. I find myself adding in extra loops to rides partly to prolong the ride and partly as I often find the ride's taken less time than I expected so I have the time to go further.

What's also noticeable is that after a couple of hours on the road you don't feel as tired. It's simply much less effort to get the thing going and to keep it going.

The bad is that hills hurt. As soon as the road gets anything like reasonably steep I really begin to suffer. Years of having a mountain bike have acclimatised me the the idea that you always have a lower gear. This is not the case on a road bike. You run out of lower gears alarmingly quickly and after that it's all suffering and brute strength to get yourself to the top. I imagine this is doing wonders for my fitness but it doesn't make it any more pleasant.

On the plus side it does now mean when I'm on the mountain bike most hills seem pretty easy.

A road bike also provides one with an appreciation of how badly maintained many roads are. You do feel all the bumps.

The other bad is that because I bought a low end road bike it came with Shimano Sora Dual Control levers. These are terrible. Normal dual control levers come with the brake lever, which also acts to let you shift up the cassette/chainrings, and behind this a smaller lever behind this to shift down. The brake lever on Sora units functions in the same way but the downshift is via a tiny little release on the side of the unit roughly level with where the brake lever pivot is. This is fine if you are riding on the hoods of the lever: both up and down shifts are equally accessible. If you have your hands on the drops though down shifts are not at all easy to reach. It's an ergonomic disaster. The levers are the only reason I wish I'd spent some more cash and got the next model up. And of course because they are only 8 speed and everything above them is 9 or 10 upgrading would not be cheap.

posted at: 22:03 #

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