Just Give Me the Dorky Helmet and I Will Be “That Guy”

In order not to bury the lede, I’m going to start with the big news: I put down a deposit on a new bike today, which I will pick up (hopefully) on Monday after a final fitting session. Here it is:

You should know a few things about my decision to get this bike:

  1. I have been saving money to buy a new bike at some point in the future ever since I bought my last bike in 2009.
  2. I hadn’t expected to buy a tri-bike after just one season.
  3. Lisa suggested, out of the blue, that I should get one. Merry Christmas from my sweetie (and my slush fund)!
  4. I’m deeply, deeply ambivalent about this bike for so many reasons.

A couple of my coworkers and I joke that “triathlon is a rich white person’s sport.” And while I’ve seen people riding all sorts of bikes and wearing all manner of kit during various triathlons, the joke is uncomfortably close to the truth. Even though swimmers can wear just about anything (although a wetsuit will give you some advantage) and running is running is running regardless of your income level, anything involving a bike—including triathlon—is going to start to seem like thoroughbred horse racing. Cycling is where all of the money is spent, often for diminishing returns

“$2,000 for an aero wheelset to save a couple of minutes over 112 miles? $500 to save 30 grams by switching pedals? Yes, those are just what I need to get me to Kona.” Um, right. It would be like most of us thinking we can buy our way to a Boston Qualifying time by getting better shoes. I’m not saying the advantages aren’t real or that people shouldn’t be able to spend their money in whatever race-legal way they want. It just seems that common sense goes out the window whenever our reptilian brains see anything associated with two wheels.

So how did I end up standing around in my bike shorts and jersey this afternoon at Landry’s bike store waiting to get fit for a super-aero time trial/triathlon bike? Believe me, I’ve been asking myself that question and second-guessing myself and looking deep inside my athlete’s soul for the answer.

I guess it’s the simple fact that tri-bikes are faster than the bike I have now. Not just a little bit faster. No. A lot faster. A couple years ago I was just a guy with diabetes on a bike, but after this past year I consider myself an athlete. I feel I can be competitive in several of the races on next year’s docket, and I’d like to see how far I can go by giving my potential just a bit of help. [1]

This is the big, up-front investment. While it’s true that you never really “just buy a bike,” I don’t plan on putting much additional loot into this one right away. I hope I’m more down-to-earth than that. After all, it’s “not about the bike.” There’s a whole lot of hard work for me to do to feel like I’m living up to the potential of this bike, and that’s a big motivator.

Of course, maybe I’m just making a big deal out of nothing at all. Why don’t I just get on with telling you about the bike fit process.

When I bought my road bike (at a different store) the fitting was really simple: “Sit on the bike on a trainer while I get out my calipers and protractor and we will adjust the saddle.”

Today was nothing like that. Over the better part of an hour I was videotaped riding a highly reconfigurable “bike.” A specially trained bike shop guy reviewed the video frame by frame, measuring various angles, reconfiguring, retaping, remeasuring, repeating, . . . He used a laser level to aid in making extremely accurate measurements throughout the process.

Having recorded myself swimming, it was interesting to have this applied to another event. (Now I just need someone to film me running and to analyze my stride, in order to complete my mini-series triathlon.) Turns out I have very long arms and legs and a rather short torso—which I already knew, since most of my clothes must be tailored in order to fit right. I also have very flexible hip, knee and lower back joints, so I can get into a pretty aggressive aero position. That was unexpected.

Forty-five minutes after stripping down to my bike clothes (which I was wearing under my regular clothes [2]) I was ready to get bike recommendations. Or rather one recommendation. “Can we at least pretend like I comparison shopped?” I asked; so we played that charade quite convincingly. If I got that less expensive bike I would need to spend more money in accessories to get the same fit as the “right” bike. Or I could spend twice as much for the same fit with better components (like aero-er wheels and lighter pedals and shit like that.)

And then, the soft sell: “Do you want to take it for a ride?” Without a helmet? “We can lend you a helmet.” Outdoors in the cold? “Do you want a jacket or something? [Seriously, man, HTFU.]” I can manage without one for a few minutes.

It wasn’t the same pure joy that I had when I first pedaled my road bike. That feeling of effortlessness and the fluidity was replaced by wobbliness as I got used to the equivalent of driving a Porsche with a go-kart’s steering wheel. Because I was in a residential neighborhood, I didn’t really get the chance to open it up; nevertheless I could feel the responsiveness of this almost weightless bike.

I can hardly wait to give it a try.

1 — 2011 really was the year when I became an athlete. I competed in nine different races, and I used a couple of training plans to prepare for them. I was actually a bit haphazard in the events I chose, and I’m trying to be a little more focused next year. Of course, I’m also trying to keep a lot of the spontaneity and love for what I’m doing, which is precisely why I rebel against most triathlon training programs. “Life is choices.” [Back . . ]

2 —  I put my new office gym membership to use for the first time today over lunch so that I could change clothes. OMG, those were some chatty guys in the locker-room with me. I thought we were genetically programmed to become mute and blind in the presence of other naked men. (It’s a mutation on the Y chromosome. That’s a fact. Look it up.) This is going to take some getting used to. [Back . . ]

This entry was posted in Cycling, Fodder for Techno-weenies, General, NaBloPoMo, NaBloPoMo 2011, Reluctant Triathlete. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Just Give Me the Dorky Helmet and I Will Be “That Guy”

  1. Scully says:

    That’s a pretty fucking sweet bike. wow.
    you are officially in “the club” Mr. Tri man!
    I’ve never seen a bike fit so technologically advanced. Makes me re-think getting fit for my bike (when i finally finish paying it off sometime in the next decade).

  2. Céline says:

    Wicked bike sir!! You’re going to be one of those guys who intimates me as soon as I see his bike aren’t you? Gawd!

    I’m impressed with your bike fitting experience. I’ve been toying with the idea of being properly fitted to mine because my shoulders and back ache within 40 minutes which makes long distance training for my half-ironman feel pretty intimidating *grin*. I’m hoping that a quick adjustment will make a world of difference to my poor shoulders.

    Happy Thanksgiving by the way!

  3. Jeff Mather says:

    Céline: I don’t want to intimidate anyone. I’m a friendly, approachable guy. I just hope I don’t crash!

    It sounds like you’ve actually decided to go for a half. That’s exciting! Me, too. I signed up yesterday for the Rev3 half-ironman in late August.

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