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