Bike Noob is pleased to introduce our readers to Jeff Hemmel. Jeff started biking on a hybrid, and like many of us, recently made the switch to a road bike. Also like many of us, he’s now wrapped up in our sport. Jeff is a magazine writer by trade, and I’m looking forward to more contributions from him in the future.
How I became a bike nerd…and the gear that made it possible.
Looking back, I’m not sure when I transitioned from a recreational rider to a more serious biking enthusiast. Perhaps it started after a problematic ACL reconstruction. Frustrated by my lack of progress in physical therapy, I got on my bike, a Giant Sedona DX hybrid. At first, a mere two-mile ride seemed like an accomplishment. But somewhere along the way that two-mile ride became five, that five-mile ride became 15, and suddenly, a few years later, I was cranking out 30 miles at a clip. At the first charity ride I attended, most of the recreational riders on similar bikes hung near the back of the pack. Me? I was pedaling a furious cadence in an attempt to keep up with the roadies, my surf shorts and t-shirts a stark contrast to their sleek, form-fitting kits.
In hindsight, I probably knew I was hooked long before that first organized ride. I found myself looking for excuses to wander into the local bike shops around town, going through the doors on the premise of buying one more spare tube, but ending up looking at (okay, maybe even fondling on occasion) the latest and greatest road bikes. I also noticed my Giant, and my gear, showing a subtle transformation. The upgrades are worth sharing, because they not only made the best out of my current investment, but they also served as a sort of litmus test on whether this was a passing phase, or the beginnings of a legitimate obsession.
A cycling friend suggested the first simple upgrade — trading in my sneakers for a pair of sneaker-style, mountain-bike shoes. I could still walk around in comfort, but on the bike, the shoes stiffer soles made the most out of each crank of the pedals. Once I had the shoes, it seemed only natural to step up to Upgrade #2 — clipless mountain-bike pedals. My shoes could accommodate the cleats, and I was ready to feel the added power and efficiency that would be the result of having my feet attached to the pedals. Yes, I fell over twice within the first two days, both times within full view of the commuting workforce. The worst bruising, however, was limited to my pride. I quickly got the hang of it, my riding improved, and suddenly those roadies seemed one step closer.
My final swap was to toss the knobbies aside for a pair of slick road tires. They looked ridiculously skinny at first, but for the first time I could see a tangible result on my speedo, an increase in speed that probably forever sealed the deal. My mileage increased, my legs grew stronger, and suddenly an ad for a Trek Madone seemed on par with a Playboy centerfold.
I never actually made the jump. My wife did it for me, placing a Trek 2.1 under the tree this past Christmas. On that bike I’ve completed my transformation, to the point where I now log over 500 miles a month, and get a little crazy if something upsets my ride routine. Somewhere along the way I even ditched the surf shorts and t-shirts for, yes, some skintight jerseys and cycling shorts.
Now, if I could just get up the nerve to shave those legs…
about the leg shaving – you’ll be there in no time at all, probably faster then you got from the 2 mile rides to over 500 per month! Welcome to the road!
I’ve noticed most guys who shave their legs don’t also shave their arms, which are just as furry. Won’t hairy arms cause wind resistance, too?
it’s not about wind resistance (thats just the official statement) – it is ALL about showing off your leg muscles 🙂
I have had a similar journey, including starting with a Hybrid, and the recent move to clipless pedals. I just finished a series of articles about clipless pedals on my blog. They make a huge difference.
I have also finally surrendered to biker shorts. They really do make a comfort difference, especially on a firm road bike saddle.
I’ve been riding a real road bike lately, so I haven’t put slicks on my mountain bike yet, but that change probably won’t be too far off.
I’ve enjoyed your blog, and offer a welcome to Jeff.
I liked this part the best, “…and get a little crazy if something upsets my ride routine.” Pretty funny…I know THAT feeling all to well.
Ray, thanks for bringing Jeff aboard…welcome Jeff.
Don’t be too swayed about leg shaving. I’m a serious roadie going on 6 years now, and it’s a non-starter. Function > Form
P.S. – Great post!
I’ve always said that I’ll shave my legs when I know that my leg hair is the biggest thing keeping me from going faster.
That hasn’t happened yet.
Thanks for the welcome and all the positive comments. Ray’s got a great blog here, and I’m happy to be contributing to it.
And at least as of this morning, the legs are still as nature intended…
I guess everyone gets into cycling in a different way. In 1989 I was hauling my little girl around the neighborhood on a Kmart “mountian bike” with a kid seat on the back. We stopped to talk to a neighbor who had always wanted one like it to ride his little boy around on. When I left he had the Kmart bike and I had a Raleigh 4300 road bike that had been hanging in his garage for years. 20 years later, 6 bikes, 10’s of thousands of miles, shoes, shorts, jerseys, computers, pedals, who know how many tires and tubes, I’m still riding road bikes.
Sine Botchen says
The first time you shave your legs you’ll think “omg, what have I done to myself?” and it will feel really weird when you wear slacks/jeans and you’ll be really, really self conscious when out in public. After that it becomes normal and you won’t give it a second thought. There’s lots of reasons for shaving: massages are easier, rashes heal faster, bandages won’t stick, etc. But we all know the real reason is peer pressure (and it does make the muscle definition/tone of your legs really noticeable too.) Somehow all that sounds sacreligious coming from a mountain biker, but I too am transitioning. Now, about procuring that road bike.. I do have a paypal account if anyone wants to help, lol.. ;-p