A little scene happened on our Sunday club ride that I think lots of riders can relate to. (Names have been changed to protect the writer of this blog).
I sat down at one of the tables outside the Starbucks where we begin our rides. Two women came over to me.
“Hi,” said one. “I’m Lanie, and I’m going on the B ride today. This is my friend, Melanie.”
Melanie wore a jersey from a well-known bicycle training studio.
Lanie turned out to be the wife of one of our club’s A riders, Milt. But she hadn’t ridden much on her own. Melanie was there to lend moral support. The ride would be on a rural road with rolling hills. I welcomed them both, and promised that the ride would not be too fast for them.
As usual, the pack held together for the first few miles, and Lanie and Melanie did a nice job of hanging with it. Both were well ahead of me. But I caught up to them at a stoplight that everyone else had managed to miss. From there on out, we made a compact group, along with Brad, another B rider.
We reached the rollers. Lanie dropped off the pace. She had trouble climbing the hills. At one point, a sheriff’s patrol car caught up to us, passed me, and sat behind Lanie as she struggled up another hill. We were barely traveling at walking speed. I shifted down to my easiest gear to maintain my position behind the squad car. The deputy was very patient behind Lanie, and finally turned off on the first side road that we reached.
“I thought he was going to ticket you for riding too slow,” I joked.
“I know,” she exclaimed. “These hills are killing me.”
The rest of our ride — about a 30-mile round trip — went smoothly. Melanie showed she could leave us behind whenever she wanted, but mostly stayed back with Lanie. With only three miles to go, we had to negotiate two tough hills in a semi-suburban neighborhood. When I told Lanie we had just climbed the last hill, she didn’t believe me.
Back at Starbuck’s, Lanie talked about her riding.
“That was a hills route,” she said. “Milt told me it was mostly flat, with some easy rollers. If I’m going to keep riding routes like that, I need a new bike.”
“What kind do you have?” I asked. I hadn’t paid close attention to what she was riding. She did a double take.
“I don’t know,” she answered.
“What kind of drivetrain do you have?” I continued.
She stared at me. Melanie jumped up and went over to the bike. Lanie followed. In a minute, they were back.
“It’s a Specialized Dolce with a triple chainring, Shimano 105,” Melanie said.
“It’s got a carbon fork, and a carbon seatpost,” Lanie added.
“Well, that’s a decent bike,” I responded. “Your drivetrain is one level up from mine.”
“I’ve got about 250 miles on it,” said Lanie. “Milt says when I reach 1,000 miles, we can talk about a new bike.”
“You don’t need a new bike,” Melanie chimed in. “Just ride more. And ride more hills.”
“Ugh. I’m too old for that,” said Lanie. “This getting old is for the birds.” (She later admitted to mid-50s.)
The A riders started to arrive. When Milt pulled in and sat down, we told him about Lanie’s new bike strategy.
“That’s fine,” he said. “When you get 5,000 miles on it, we’ll talk about a new one.”
We all laughed, and Lanie grimaced. Melanie mentioned riding hills more again. I sipped my egg nog latte and mused about the common desire cyclists get after they’ve ridden awhile. A new bike will solve everything.
I don’t need a new bike. I’d like one, of course, but I don’t need one. We have better things to spend our money on now anyway. But I remembered that I’ve been in Lanie’s shoes before. Almost as soon as I started riding, I decided that with the “right” equipment, I could become pretty good. I pored through catalogs and bike company websites, drooling over carbon fiber wonder bikes that weighed a feather and sped like rockets. But I learned that it’s not the bike, it’s the engine.
I’m sure Lanie will get a new bike one of these days. She’ll take it out and ride the rollers with us again. And she’ll find that regardless of the level of equipment she has, the rollers are still hard.