Today is May 1, 2o17. On April29, a scant 3 days ago I picked up a new mountain bike. This is notable for a few reasons. 1) I used to ride a lot. Like daily, even in winter (although I set my personal threshold at -25 celcius — be it actual air temperature, or “feels like” temp). That was 2003–2005. I haven’t ridden a lot, nor regularly since. 2) despite being a mountain biker, having tasted and enjoyed the sport first circa 1995, I haven’t purchased a new bike since…1995. All my other bikes between then and now have been used. 3) This is a multi-function purchase. Transportation, fitness/health, and hobby all rolled into one.
So what bike did I get? Before I get to that, I want to touch on the 3 things I considered before purchasing:
- A “Road Bike” or “racing bike”— when I was in high school, they were refered to as a “10 speed” although even the cheap ones available from a department store were starting to have 12 speeds. Anyway, I considered this briefly because it would be light and fairly fast. However, there are several negatives that rapidly eliminated it off my list. They tend to be more fragile then their off-road counterparts. They have no suspension whatsoever, and with a shoulder that still complains fairly regularly, I wasn’t sure if it would handle the shocks and jars that come with riding skinny, high pressure bike tires on pavement and the occasional unavoidable pothole. Also, since I plan on riding through as much of winter as I can, I wasn’t really thrilled about riding super-skinny tires on ice, and snow. Traction issues and all that….This leads to the last thing. Riding position on a road bike is much more hunched over, to increase aerodynamics, and to increase pedalling efficiency. While I liked the idea of a more efficient bike, I really hesitated to be putting that much weight and pressure on my shoulder. So, that led me into the 2nd general choice.
- Hybrid/Commuter. These are a newer style of bike. Typically they look like a mountain bike, with a more sturdy frame and suspension fork. Typically they are pretty much a mountain bike with the exception of wheels, which are the tall skinny “road bike” style, and on some models the drive train (especially the gear set) are from the road bike side, and such are geared taller for more speed Some other components may or may not also be from the road bikes, and such would be built for “light and fast” rather than more sturdy but heavier. Now we’re getting into something I was more interested in. Really what this came down to was budget. The bikes that were in my price bracket didn’t really have the features I wanted, and the ones that DID have the features I wanted were slightly out of my price bracket. Since these have the wider frame, I had considered using the skinny road tires and wheels in summer, and then buying and building a 2nd wheelset for winter that would have the wider and mores sturdy wheels and tires of a mountain bike. I think this would have been the best choice for me. It would have met my needs for a fast, sturdy commuter but would have allowed me to ride through winter with more traction, plus would have still been able to handle some light abuse that would bend/break a full on road bike. Cost was the biggest factor — if I had double the money (or slightly more then double) I think this would have been my choice.
- Mountain bike. This was a bit of a compromise. By design a mountain bike frame puts the rider more upright and in a slightly less efficiant pedalling position — trading sheer speed and efficiant riding position for mobility in and out of the saddle, ground clearance, and durability (among other things). As well, there seem to be more choices available in my price bracket for mountain bikes then there are for road bikes. I could get into why that is, but it is what it is and the “why” isn’t really relevant anyway. So I poked around and had the idea floating around in my mind. There were a few models I was keeping my eyes on, and on the weekend I noticed one of them that I was rather interested in was on sale — about 1/5 reduction in price — which was enough to offset the sales tax and then some.
So if you’re into bikes and you’re read this far, you’re probably STILL wondering what I got myself, right? (And if you’re not into bikes, well I’m surprised you got this far!) Anyway, I got myself a GT Aggressor Sport. Comfortable frame, decent component spec (for the price), larger 27.5″ diameter wheels (as opposed to the “standard” 26″ diameter wheels) and disc brakes. While the larger diameter wheel helps decrease rolling resistance, the disc brakes is what I was most interested in. Not only do they give better and more consistant stopping power, especially in wet weather, they also allow easier wheel changes, which is a huge factor when parking my bike outside and locking it up, and also for the inevitable flat tire — which reminds me, I’ll have to pick up a spare tube and tire pump. And who knows, maybe down the road I’ll build some tall/skinny wheels and tires, and leave the current wheel/tire combination for winter/trail riding.
Anyway, it feels wonderful (and slightly painful as my legs and bottom get used to riding) to be back in the saddle again. I can easily walk 10km during the course of my day (to, from, and at work) but cycling uses those muscles in a whole different fashion. The first 2 days my knees were a little sore — not so much the joint but all the connective tissues around it were just reminding me that last time I rode regularly I was in my late 20’s, instead of pushing 40.
If you’re a rider, drop me a line in the comments or on twitter. Not interested in arguing if roadies are better then MTBers, or who’s bike is better — just want to share a common interest of using a metal frame and wheels to get from A to B.