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First ride on my new Madone: a few thoughts, and a few questions.

Friday, October 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

October
12
2012
My new Madone, out on her very first ride. Seminole-Wekiva Trail.

My new Madone, out on her very first ride. Seminole-Wekiva Trail.

Yesterday morning I took my new Trek Madone 5.9 out for her first real ride. Today I’ve got some thoughts on the ride and the bike, as well as a few questions for you roadies out there.

I decided to go to the Seminole-Wekiva trail for my first ride. Even though this trail crosses a lot of busy intersections and driveways leading to shopping centers and the like, the trail itself does not allow motorized vehicles. I figured this semi-closed trail system would be a good place to get familiar with the new bike.

As I rode I experimented with different hand positions. I found riding on the hoods was the most comfortable for me, and that wound up being my default riding position. Occasionally it felt good to move up to the tops, which is the most upright position. Getting down into the drops was the most natural and aerodynamic position when I was pouring on the speed.

Of course road bike shift levers and brakes are completely different than those found on a mountain bike. I adjusted to the changes pretty quickly, but at the beginning of the ride I occasionally found myself upshifting when I meant to downshift and vice-versa. By the end of the 30 miles I felt very comfortable with the shifters, and was no longer making shifting mistakes.

Some mountain biking “best practices” that have been ingrained in me after years of riding created some problems…

First of all, when I mountain bike I always keep my index fingers resting on the brake levers. It was, therefore, a very strange and uncomfortable feeling to not have my fingers resting on the brake levers at all times. I also noticed that when I reached for the brake levers they felt like they were too far out. I stopped by the shop (which is literally located right off the trail), and they were kind enough to put a couple of 10mm rubber shims in for me. The shims did the trick: I was able to reach the brake levers much more quickly and naturally.

Riding position was another area that required some serious getting used to after thousands of miles on a mountain bike. The default “attack” position on a mountain bike has your elbows flared out, low body position, heavy feet and light hands. Riding on a road bike involves a more upright position, the back is arched and the elbows are much closer to the body. By the end of the ride I was starting to feel much more comfortable riding in this new style.

Also, I found that my Madone’s very light front end combined with no suspension took some real getting used to. When I’m mountain biking I keep my hands very light on the grips, but that same light touch on the road bike almost caused me to wreck a couple of times: hitting even small bumps caused my front end to get squirrely and jump around. I had to get used to holding the bars firmly enough to maintain control over bumps and ruts.

I definitely noticed that an entirely different set of muscles are recruited for road biking compared to those used when mountain biking. For example, my triceps! Actually, I have a funny story about that…

When I got to the halfway point of my ride I was sitting at the trailhead taking five and eating some Sport Beans. A couple of guys came riding in, and one of the riders was really struggling. The guy who was hurting cried out in pain as his calf cramped up. He told his friend he didn’t know how he was going to make it back. I had a mustard packet with me which, if you don’t already know, does an amazing job of instantly relieving muscle craps. I told the guy about the mustard trick, and offered him my lone packet. He took it, and it helped. I hope he made it back OK!

Now when I gave that guy the mustard packet I was feeling just fine, and I sure didn’t think I’d need it. Well, about 23 miles into the ride my triceps of all things started to cramp! The different road cycling riding position was certainly using more of my core and way more of my triceps compared to mountain biking.

Also, this morning my legs are not sore, but they feel fatigued in a different way than I’m used to. I don’t know how to describe it, really, but clearly even my legs are being used slightly differently than they are when mountain biking.

I’m sure I’ll adapt to all these things very quickly. In fact, by the end of my 30 mile ride I was feeling much, much more comfortable on the bike.

As for the bike, wow! I liked it when I bought it, I’m in love with it now. It was so light, fast, responsive and agile that I pretty much had a stupid grin on my face most of the ride. I think I’m really going to enjoy road riding. 🙂

I rode pretty hard in spots, but I also took a several breaks. I was also adjusting to the new controls, the new riding positions and the feel of the bike. It was, therefore, quite surprising when I got home and uploaded the data to Strava: I placed 4th overall on a 7.7 mile segment, and 8th overall on a 1.4 mile segment. These trails are frequented by hardcore roadies, and so placing so high on the leaderboard on my very first road bike ride in more than 20 years (and not even gunning for time) is very encouraging. There was also a Cat 4 climb in there that the Madone gobbled up and spit out like it was nothing.

Here’s the complete ride on Strava.

So, a couple of questions…

I did not take a CamelBak, as I understand that is simply Not Done™ by roadies. I have a couple of 25 ounce CamelBak water bottles, and they did just fine mounted on the frame. It was amusing, however, just how frequently on yesterday’s ride I instinctively reached down to grab the non-existent CamelBak hose. 🙂

I also did not put an under-the-saddle bag on my bike, as I was told that is also generally frowned upon by the road set. So, in my jersey pockets I carried a spare tube, my cell phone, my car keys, a packet of mustard, a packet of Sport Beans and a small repair kit (two CO2 cartridges, a couple of tire levers and tire patches). That felt like a lot of crap bouncing around on my back.

The jersey I wore yesterday had a zippered pocket, and so I put my car keys in that. Some of my jerseys, however, do not have a zippered pocket. Even though it seems unlikely that car keys would come out of an un-zippered jersey pocket, I don’t really want to take that chance.

I also left my wallet behind, as there was no room for it. Do you guys just wear some sort of ID bracelet when you’re riding?

So what’s the protocol with all of the above? I was hoping some of you could chime in with how you carry your gear when riding, what you take with you and any other tips along those lines.

John Stone Fitness Comments

27 Responses to “First ride on my new Madone: a few thoughts, and a few questions.”
  1. As a person that does both forms of riding, You’ve already hit the nail on the head in earlier discussions, roadies can be quite snobby. I don’t do the camelbak for aerodynamic reasons but I do carry an under the saddle bag for all the item you just explained except for the things I need without stopping. Who wants to carry a tire on your back? Until I can afford a support car to follow me around like the pros, I’m not going to worry about what some people think. You’re success on the roads is not surprising at all. 170 pounds and 5% body fat make for a good start. You might just find you’re better at road than mountain. Wouldn’t that be ironic?

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  2. i keep a business card with my wife’s cell phone number in my pocket. i also worry about my keys falling out so i keep a single house key because i ride from my house, in a zipper pocket on my shorts or jacket if its cold. i found pearl i shorts that have a zip pocket. i ride with my hands on the saddle the most and i often have a finger around the right hand brake on down hills because i dont like to speed over 22-25 on down hills. again, i ride on roads with cars so i have be very careful.

    i think you hit the number one issue already with the handle bars. bumps are dangerous. i had too loose a grip once and hit a bumb and both my hands went off the bar. i recoverd but it scared the hell out of me. i watched a youtube video on road bike saftey and the guy mentioned that specifically saying always keep your thumbs wrapped around the bars. it makes sense. on my hybrid, i ride with my hands on top of the grips and my thumbs are not around the bars. but on the road bike, i keep them wrapped. it stands out to me, even in the gym. i see people bench pressing with out their thumbs around the bar and it unnerves me.

    you’re a very experienced rider, i’m sure you’re going to kill it on the road. i do think you want to be very careful at the higher speeds. i think the consequences of falling on the road at a high speed will be much worse than on the trails. of course you went back out after gouging a hole in your lip and i think that might have stopped me.

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  3. My opinion, never wear a CamelBak and no to the saddlebag (that bike is way too nice to have a saddlebag strapped to it). Put your 1 CO2 inflator, 1 tube (forget the patches on a road bike, high pressures makes them iffy) and 2 levers together. You can fold them so the tube is the thickest item, then wrap a piece of velcro strap or electrical tape around it to make it keep its shape (plus you can use the velcro or tape for a whole host of things if necessary). Put that is a zip lock sandwich bag to keep the rubber of the tube from catching/pulling on your jerseys pocket as you ride (the baggie is “slicker”). One car key, phone, $5 bill and a bag of beans and you’re good to go. Bulkiest/heaviest item in center back pocket, lighter items in the left or right jersey pockets.

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  4. I wouldn’t call myself an overly experienced rider by any means, but I have ridden with quite a few people over the past year, and we all use under the saddle bags. That’s where I keep my tire changing stuff, phone, etc. I also use a road ID bracelet when I run and ride.
    For the Camelback, not a lot of roadies wear them, but I lean more toward the “if you want to do it, screw it” mindset. I have not really ventured out for really long rides yet (50-100 miles), but I can’t promise that when I do, I won’t have a camelback on.

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  5. This post makes me smile. If you are having tricept issues, then it’s ok when I do.

    Take $20 with you in case you need to pick up some emergency goodies.
    Podium Chill bottles are the stuff. They keep your go-go juice from getting hot and turning sour.
    Saddle bag? Who cares? I’ll drop you with my cheap bike. Go ahead and try to suck my wheel. It ain’t happening.

    One last thing. Be careful on those trails. A 20mph pace line on a trail + dog walkers + people who just want to complain = a bad encoutner just waiting to happen. I know. I know. I hate the roads cause people try to kill me, but it’s actually safer for you and keeps you away from them. There’s nothing worse than a dog darting out in front of you. It happens and it’s bad for you and the dog.

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  6. Seat bag. I put a tube, multi tool, tire levers, and C02 inflator in it as well a $20 when I venture out on the road. Another tip, which I may catch flak from the roadies, is learn how to bunny hop that bike, it will save you from crashing more times then you know when you suddenly realize there is something in front of you you can avoid like debris, a sewer grate, or curb. Not a huge bunny hop but just enough to get you 6″ off the ground.

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  7. Lots of great information here, I knew the JSF roadies would come through!

    So, on the Road ID – I’m going to order one for sure.

    As far as the CamelBak, there’s no way I’d wear one while road cycling. Yesterday when I was riding I felt so cool and unencumbered without that thing strapped around me. I did 30 miles yesterday, and I consumed approximately 35 ounces of water. I think I could do 50 miles on 50 ounces of water, except on the hottest of days. On longer rides I’ll just have to plan to refill my bottles at some point.

    I knew there would be a few different opinions on the under-saddle bags. For those not in favor of the saddle bags, is that a purely aesthetic thing, or is there some other reason for not having them? Unless I’m missing something, it seems to me weight in the jersey pockets is the same as weight under the saddle? So, unless I’m mistaken about the weight thing, this is a comfort issue as far as I’m concerned. I would much rather have the spare tube, my car key, the CO2 carts and the tire levers under my saddle than banging around on my back.

    I was thinking one of these micro bags would be perfect. They seem to hug the underside of the saddle really well, and are not big and bulky at all:

    Blackburn Zayante Bicycle Bag (micro)
    Serfas Road Bag (small)

    Anyone using one of these? Thoughts?

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    • Looks like I was the only one against a saddle bag so here’s my 2 cents. Been riding for 15+ years both mountain and road. When I go out for rides be it solo or a group ride, I only take the minimum. As I mentioned, a tube, CO2, levers, phone and $5. Phone and $5 in one pocket and tire repair in another. If you give it some thought, you can fold/fit your tire kit into a 4×4 “block” that easily fits into a ziplock bag. Mine is roughly the size of my phone, just a little thicker and it only weighs a few ounces. It easily fits in your jersey pocket and if your jersey fits the way a road jersey is supposed to, it will fit to the small of your back and not sway or move as you ride.
      On another note, why would you put any additional weight on your bike that you didn’t have to? All serious bikers (I put you in that category) are concerned with weight and go to great lengths to get their rides as light as possible. I think the work you’ve done to your mountain bike is testament to your weight convictions. To add several excruciatingly ugly and drag inducing ounces to a beautiful bike such as yours to carry something that can easily fit into your jersey pockets (that’s what they are there for) seems to be taking a step backwards. This is just my opinion, but do this, look at the guys that you will soon be riding with in a “fast” group. I’m not talking newbies, but guys that ride/race consistently. I’ll bet you won’t see any bags hanging off their saddles.

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      • You’re not the only one against the saddle bags–just the only one who replied to this particular blog with that opinion. Several of my friends and a couple JSF members contacted me via PM or email and share your view.

        OK, I’ll continue to use just the jersey for now and give that option a fair shake. I definitely need to take just my car key instead of the whole ring. I worry about losing it, however.

        I’m still curious about something. You said, “…why would you put any additional weight on your bike that you didn’t have to?” I asked about this in my previous comment, but you didn’t address it. How is the weight in a saddle bag on a bike any different weight carried in a jersey? It’s not like it’s rotational weight, so I can’t see how it really matters.

        Put another way, I really want to know if your advice is performance-based, or aesthetics based.

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        • > How is the weight in a saddle bag on a bike any different weight carried in a jersey?

          It adds more wait on the pedal when you stand on it 🙂
          Actually, I’ve always heard that it’s better to have weight on the biker than weight on the biker (even not rotational), but then why bottles instead of a camelback ??

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    • Blackburn Zayante, best bag I used in years. Very narrow and fits well under saddle. Won’t ruin bibs by rubbing on inside of thighs. Never liked those clip mount systems. Holds extra tube, patch kit etc.

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      • That looks like a great bag, too. I like the low profile and narrow design a lot.

        OK, you’re a hardcore, long-time roadie. I take it from your post that you’re OK with saddle bags. What’s with the anti-saddle bag sentiments, in your view?

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        • I still carry my phone, MP3 player and Mini Pump (carbon) in my jersey pockets, but none of these weigh me down or create too much of a bulge. So when I am climbing out of saddle and have that rhythmic dance on pedals, my jersey isn’t bouncing up and down in back.

          But if I added extra tube, patch kit, tire levers, tool into my jersey it is too much, it isn’t worth it. A small saddle bag like that Blackburn works for me. In fact, I bought a couple of them just in case they stop making that model because I like it so much.

          I have done 100+ mile rides on my own, and you want to have all you need with you and this saddle bag is small but fits what I need. That is why I carry a pump and not C02. I have had multiple flats on a ride and without a pump I would have been screwed.

          Some Roadies don’t like them, but they really refer to those goofy HUGE bags that some recreational cyclists tote around. That Blackburn is not an issue. It is a perfect size and if cinched tight under the saddle, you won’t notice it.

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    • I love that mounting system! I looked at a few of SciCon’s models, and there are a couple of smaller ones (the Phantom and the Compact) that look promising. I’m still going to hold off on the purchase for now, but if I get a seat bag one of these will be in consideration. Thanks!

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  8. “that is simply Not Done™ by roadies”

    “that is also generally frowned upon by the road set”

    Do whatever the hell you want!! Hell I ride in basketball shorts and a wife beater. I don’t let it bother me if get ‘frowned upon’ by the Lance Armstrong Wannabe’s of the world.

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    • My reasons for asking these questions has nothing to do with not wanting to be looked down on; I want to know the practical reasons for these practices. The water bottles instead of a CamelBak is a no-brainer, the saddle bag seems less clear-cut.

      People who excel at something and have been doing it a long time generally have very good reasons for doing things a certain way. It’s prudent to ask why, and then make up your own mind. I am simply attempting to separate the practical advice from the road bike-snob nonsense.

      For example, you may be fine with riding in basketball shorts and a wife beater, and that’s great. I resisted Lycra for a long time, but once I tried it I found that Lycra is about 100 times cooler, more comfortable, more aerodynamic and safer than baggy clothing. That’s why I, and most other XC MTB riders and road cyclists wear it–it’s certainly not to impress anyone.

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  9. I’m late to this thread but agree that the seat bag is the way to go. I suspect that some “die-hard” roadies who look down on seat bags do so because the pros don’t use them, but the pros have an army of support staff following them, even when they train. You’re trying to be self-sufficient.

    The weight of the bag itself is negligible, and the tools and other accessories will weigh the same wherever you put them. If you ride on a wet day, dry your bag out; it can get pretty funky in there. More than once I’ve had “moldy money” syndrome. Same goes for spare tubes, which can begin to rot with time. Small Zip-Locs rock.

    CamelBaks are probably not used more because of the additional profile — wind resistance — than the weight. I drink all my water before going up long hills so my bike is lighter.

    (Joking…)

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