Here’s an email I got yesterday:
Hi, Mr. Wanky
I started cycling hard-core back in April, and fitness-wise I’ve come a long way. My 7-mile ride to and from the brewery where I work has gotten easier, but I’m plateauing (is that a word?) with my current rig. Other cyclists with nicer bikes whiz by me with what seems like less effort. They are not all lathered up like like a horse in heat, they glide by way faster, you know?
About my rig: This was a Craigslist special. I’m 6’1″ and the frame is 58cm or 65cm, I can’t really remember. Someone or someones used it a bunch and it’s definitely not carbon. The back tire is fat compared to the front tire since I needed a cheap replacement after someone failed to steal the ol’ gal with a hacksaw.
So about my get-up: My clothes are sporty with very good all-court shoes but no bicycle outfit yet. I’m not sure about that *tighty-tight* stuff (confidence??) and my pedals don’t clip.
More about my rig: My seat is down compared to the handlebars, and when the bars droop which they do about once a week I get out my wrench and jack them back up. The seat hurts my balls (can I say that??). I counted five gears in the back and two of them work. Solid. The brakes are okay when I’m starting and they grip so-so most of the time. What’s my quickest route to “gliding” fast?
Should I buy a new bike? Fix this one up? Seems like the ol’ gal still has life in her. Buy new clothes? Tires? I have no clue. Thanks for any help!! Here is a picture of the bike if that helps.
So I answered him ‘cuz he took the time to write.
Dear A Fan:
You have covered a bunch of issues and I don’t know where to begin. Let’s start with your job at the brewery. If you work at a brewery you are gonna be the most popular guy on two wheels. Schwag for beer is a fuggin’ given.
Your rig is fine, don’t touch a thing. Maybe a spritzer of air in the front tire for shits and giggles but otherwise that thing is great.
With regard to clothes, some are better than none, at least most of the time. Don’t worry about the *tighty-tight* stuff. It will make you look *dummy-dumb.*
Seat height is a matter of taste. Some people like it high, some low, but if it is hurting your balls you might consider having them removed.
Gears are a complicated issue for cycling. Two is a good round number. The next jump up would be 200. So I think for now you are okay.
The reason you are having trouble “gliding” is because of your brakes. Take them off and you will glide like crazy, trust me.
If you think you have plateaued, you need to hit the gym and start lifting. Work on your arm strength to help you grab the front tire for stopping after you remove the brakes.
You mention that the “ol’ gal” still has life in her, which is pretty sexist, but basically after another 5-10 years you can consider a bike upgrade. $25,000 and up would be my recommendation. Stern-O has twelve of them in his garage and they are immaculate.
Basically, speed is about being aerodynamic. Ride in the drops more to stay aero and you’ll go faster. Maybe get a teardrop helmet if you absolutely HAVE to spend money.
You don’t need new tires, ever. That is a sales scam.
See you on the road.
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