It’s a cold Sunday morning in late January. I’ve worked out indoors, and I’ve been relaxing and reading about cycling on the internet while my laundry spins away. I always find it fun to read product reviews and articles and watch videos about cycling, particularly the breathless sort where the latest and greatest things are aways exciting.
I don’t doubt for a moment that they’re exciting. They are. We love spending our hard earned money on new products. I’m not immune to such things. After all, my new bike frame will come in and be built up within a month or so if the estimates of my frame’s arrival are accurate. I have purchased a few things, such as a computer for the new bike and a seat pack and tools and tubes to put in that pack. I’m just as big a consumer as anyone else is.
Having said that… These “trends” are largely useless to someone like me. There. The hard truth is coming out. I’m an aging man who is reaching the point where he can’t buy speed.
I am not blessed with unlimited means. The best I can hope for by buying the best road cycling tech is not to be slowed down by age and physics as quickly as I already am. I already spend a lot on things for my bike(s). No question. I’m also single and have very few expenses. All cyclists spend a fair amount on cycling. Sometimes I think the more you have, the more you spend. I do this because I get health benefits, it’s a social thing, and everybody needs a hobby to take up their free time. Though days like this tell me why I shouldn’t take it all too seriously.
One of the things I’ve been reading about is aerodynamic bicycles. They’re fabulous. Until recently, aerodynamic shapes came with a weight penalty. That is changing, and “Aero” bikes are now becoming much lighter. Road bikes are constantly evolving, and with carbon fiber technology, the top tech is going full aero.
I know that my body isn’t aero. Not a bit. I was not built to do this efficiently. I’m more likely to be mistaken for a large marine mammal than a racing cyclist. That means I should be much less concerned about cycling aerodynamics than I should be that somewhere, out there, is a harpoon with my name on it. I’m not all that excited about aerodynamics. I just can’t help reading about it.
I have purchased a GPS bike computer which is waiting for the new bike. I’ve never owned one before. I’ve always gone with simple computers that include a display and a pickup that reads how often a magnet affixed to a spoke goes past it. That tech isn’t really accurate, nor does it offer a lot of features or data. What that tech offers is simplicity. I admire simple.
One of the selling points of my new GPS head unit is that it is “aerodynamic”. That has been tested independently. It’s true. It’s also so marginal that most people couldn’t possibly tell the difference. I chose it because I read reviews. It seems to have addressed the concerns that bedevil the industry giant in GPS bike computers. It is supposed to be easier to set up and use. Reviewers are more positive about the one I chose than they are about it’s competition. That was what decided me. Simplicity. Not the fact that on a 40 mile ride I might save a watt of energy over the competitor. I could stand to burn a few more calories per ride anyway.
I’ve also seen the new trend toward “gravel” or “adventure” bikes. They look like a lot of fun. I think that if you want to ride off road and go anywhere, you should probably have a mountain bike. I wish I had a mountain bike sometimes, just as a change of pace. If you ride on the roads like I do, you should own a road bike. They’re a lot of fun, and they’re efficient, and if you have the funds available, you can buy a technical marvel of a road bike (probably a very aerodynamic machine) that will cost you more than an inexpensive new car.
Now, if you want to ride on unpaved roads into the back country, you can get a gravel bike.
It’s hard to find any agreement on what a “gravel” bike really is. Some are more like mountain bikes, others are more like road bikes. Some people might confuse the gravel concept with a cyclocross bike. One thing that isn’t in dispute is that they aren’t as good on the road as a road bike, and they’re not as good off-road as a mountain bike. Another thing that you can’t dispute is that they’re cool. If you have a lot of gravel roads nearby, and you ride on them enough to justify spending the money, a gravel bike could be perfect. I probably won’t buy one though. If I spend too much time riding one on the road, I’m the kind of guy who will wonder why I’m not riding a road bike. If I spend too much time riding one off road, I’m the kind of guy who will wonder why I’m not riding a mountain bike.
There is no such thing as a bike that does everything well. On the other hand, there is no such thing as owning “too many bikes”. So I’m torn on the gravel bike concept. I’d own one if I had the money and I didn’t mind it sitting around unused most of the time.
I think of a gravel bike as the cycling equivalent of night vision goggles. Sure, you probably have no reason whatever to own expensive night vision tech that you likely won’t use very much. Most people would just buy a flashlight instead. You want night vision goggles for the “cool” factor!
A gravel bike might get you to go out and look for “gravel” rides and off road adventures that don’t demand a mountain bike. It’s a solution in search of a problem, though. At least where I live that’s true. If I find myself in a place where riding a gravel bike makes more sense, I’d probably rent one for a day just for the experience. If I ever move to a place that could be described as a gravel bike nirvana, I’d probably buy one within a week.
After having said all this, what I need to do is shut down the laptop and find something else to do. I’m getting far too serious about all this. Spring can’t come fast enough. When spring comes, I’ll be outside on a bike rather than inside on the computer.