Tuesday, 8 February 2011

A Couple Of Inches Makes All The Difference...

Inspired by Rob Penn's book - and TV programme - about his ideal bike, I decided it was finally time to get my road bike sorted out.

To give a little background: after years of riding a mountain bike to commute to work, go off-road and tour, I decided a couple of years ago - as I was spending all my time cycling on the road - that it was about time I got a specialist road bike.  So I bought a carbon Trek Madone 5.2 - I'm embarrassed to say I didn't realise it was based on Lance Armstrong's Tour de France bike until after I'd bought it...!

My Trek Madone 5.2 - Note the hi-tech bike stand...

It's a great bike - very light and supple with a Shimano Ultegra groupset - I just needed to swap the plastic saddle for a Brooks Swallow.

But.  I've found that I don't ride it enough.  Despite doing what seemed like a thorough fit - try a couple of bikes, drop the saddle - it has never felt comfortable.  I always found myself wanting the bars to be a couple of inches closer and I found myself riding the touring bike.

I put it down to being chubby and not flexible enough - and that would change.  But it didn't.

So I took the bike into my local bike shop, Red Kite Cycles in the Birmingham suburb of Shirley.  They run a cycle team and offer a bike fitting service (although, at £250, it's not exactly cheap!).  I didn't quite need that, but it showed their expertise.

I was expecting to get a new headset, to bring the bars closer, with the compromise of more twitchy steering.  Instead, embarrassingly, within a couple of minutes the resident expert had moved the saddle forward on the rails an inch (I was sure I'd done that!), dropped the saddle and pointed out that the bars had rotated downwards and fixed that...

Embarrassing - but free!  So I bought a gilet as a thank you.

And the result?  It's a new bike - all the great feel I remember, but comfortable.  It's fantastic!

Now the only thing I need to do is replace the silly Bontrager wheels with something a little more solid and reliable, but only when these are beyond repair.

It's not my perfect bike - that will be a handmade frame with custom-picked components a la Rob Penn - but it will do me for the next few years!