If, like us, you’ve sold a few body parts on the black market to pay for your race bike, the last thing you want to do is subject it to the insufferable torment of prolonged training sessions that gradually wear and tear costly components and expose the bike to the elements, leaving it prone to scratches and rust. That’s why we believe that it’s necessary to have a training bike. A bike that is reasonably priced, reliable, cheap to maintain, and one that you don’t have to worry about meticulously washing after each and every ride.
by Paulo Conde
When my training bike was, well, involuntarily removed from my custody, I began the process of looking for a replacement. What should have been a relatively straightforward decision ended up turning into a deep, dark rabbit hole that left me a nervous wreck with patchy hair and a bad case of sleep deprivation. I was initially set on getting a budget 29’er hard tail because (a) I had always ridden mountain bikes, (b) it would be lower maintenance than a dual-susser, (c) it would be the same wheel-size as my race bike, so I could cannibalise parts from it if required, and (d) to be honest, it would spend most of its time putting long hours in on the road, not devouring flowing singletrack, so I didn’t need anything too fancy.
But the more I dug, the bigger the hole became. Suddenly road bikes were in the mix due to their low cost and maintenance. Then there was the option of a training wheelset that I could swap out with my race wheels on my race bike. Also, it didn’t help that over the years I had come to appreciate the higher end of product ranges, so I would always start at the budget bikes but quickly end up in the R15k bracket, which obviously went against the point of getting a cheap bike to train on. At the end of the day I decided to buy… a road bike. (One of our ‘Tread’itors took on a CX bike for cross training/commuting) This may not be right option for everyone, but for me it was, based on the following key factors:
It’s no surprise that road bikes are generally cheaper than mountain bikes, simply because there are less ‘things’ on the bikes. There’s no need for suspension at the front or back, no remote lockouts, no tubeless rims, no tubeless tyres or valves and the brake system is relatively primitive in comparison to the hydraulic brake systems found on most mountain bikes. To put it into perspective, you can get a used, mid-level spec’d road bike for around R7 500, whereas the equivalent MTB would cost you closer to R12 000.
For similar reasons, road bikes are generally cheaper to maintain because there are less parts to service. They also require less maintenance because they don’t spend time in the dirt, so they hardly ever need to be washed. The drivetrain works under optimal conditions in most cases so it generally lasts longer too.
If cycling disciplines were music genres, MTB would be punk rock and road cycling would be classical music. There’s a certain elegance or grace involved with powering a road bike along the smooth road surfaces. Everything is silent, smooth and fast. The bikes are light, slim and responsive. There’s a purity that fills you with nostalgia and magically transports you back to the days where road bikes were the only option and people wore cycling caps instead of helmets.
A WHOLE NEW WORLD
A surprising benefit of hopping on to a road bike has been the fresh perspective on the sport that I thought I knew so well. Road riding has taught me the paranoia of riding in a bunch, allowed me to reach speeds that seemed impossible, compelled me to grind big gears up climbs, forced me to work on aerodynamics and how to ride in a pace line with a bunch of riders going hell for leather. It’s been so refreshing that I actually look forward to heading out for a training session on the road. Plus, it puts you on level pegging’s with the roadies that set all the Strava KOM’s so you can actually compare your efforts apples for apples!
HORSES FOR COURSES
You can ride a downhill mountain bike in a cycling velodrome, but why would you? As much as we’d like to deny it, the majority of the riding time during the week is spent on the road for us average bros. It’s simply not practical to get out to a local trail several times a week. So, if we’re spending most of our time on the road, we may as well do it on a bike that is built for the purpose to maximise the enjoyment from the ride.
TOUGHEN UP CUPCAKE
One of the things I realised very quickly was that there is nowhere to hide on a road bike. The gearing is biased towards allowing you to reach higher speeds, so when you hit a climb you quickly run out of gears and then find yourself grinding a monster gear all the way to the top. This does however give you excellent strength training and your muscles are forced to adapt to the higher power requirements which then make MTB gearing seem like child’s play. Also, with zero suspension available, you get to feel every bump in the road and this takes its toll on your body more than you’d think is possible. Lastly, as much as the position on a road bike does not activate exactly the same muscles as on a MTB, you find yourself in a more aggressive position quite often which gives your lower back and core a good workout and stands you in good stead for when you hop back on to the MTB.
It’s not all sunshine and roses though! I still battle to get my head around how little technology has made its way into a sport that has been around more than a century longer that MTB. Words cannot express the frustration of having to deal with punctures again, especially given the frequency that they occur. The calliper-based braking systems feel like they are better suited to a cycling museum than a bike showroom. But by far the biggest tragedy is that I now get pigeon-holed as a roadie when training, and it takes a broad smile and overly enthusiastic wave to convince my MTB bro’s that I am in fact one of them!
Gresham Enersen and Paulo Conde are not pros; just a couple of average bros that love riding their mountain bikes – in the real world. They share their learning in this column every issue and are useful to follow on twitter: @Rookie_Project
*Originally published in TREAD Issue 35, 2015 and can be found on Zinio – All rights reserved