I have recently started bicycling to work. Very recently. This week in fact. I feel great and am having fun. Its been a long time since I did a lot of riding. Back in college I’d do 15 miles 3 times a week and a longer weekend ride.
Back then I had a quality road bike, steel to be sure as I was a starving college kid, but the components were decent and as steel went it was on the lighter end. I’d run at about 14 miles per hour average by the middle thru the end of the season.
That was 20 years ago and my main reason for bicycling was “its fun”. Excercise and such were secondary. Once again I ride for fun but I have a pricey mountain bike.
Where I am riding now in suburbia, near a college town, there are two, ok three kinds of cyclists.
The first set are like me, they are using a bicycle to go to work, go to class, go for more beer, things like that. You can tell these cyclists because they dress like normal people, often have a backpack, and seem at peace with the world. Most of them though ride cheaper bikes than me.
The second set are “serious cyclists”. These you can spot because the look like a walking catalog from Cycling Magazine. This crowd firmly believes that to ride you need special hats, special glasses, special electronics, special pedals, special shoes special pants, special food, so on and so forth. All of the above in order to eek every last ounce of performance out. Their bike often are the same price range as mine or higher.
The third set is the Jehovas Witnesses. They usually have decent bikes, ride in dress pants and white shirts with ties, meticulously follow all the traffic laws etc. Its a free country and everyone needs to do what they think is right, they are sincere and decent people. The thing about these cyclists that gives me the most pause is riding a mountain bike with leather soled dress shoes. But as I said to each their own, viva America.
Many people who decide to start riding again in middle age do so “to get in shape”. They sit at desks all day, are fatter than they want to be etc. and decide they need to get in shape. A noble goal. This set is the most prone to looking like the “Serious Cyclist” as they have disposable income and ride for no purpose except excercise. They have fancy bike racks to take their bike to a good spot to ride it whereas the rest of us just ride our bikes to get somewhere.
The thing that gives me pause in all of this, “Why do you need to be super effecient if your goal is excercise ?”
If you want to excercise, make your body work, a good heavy old steel bike will accomplish that quite well. Buy a seat for your bike with padding on it, instead of a hard seat that is so much more effecient due to no wasted energy and then turning right around and buying pants with the padding sewn in as if the padding tied to your buttocks is better than padding tied to the seat. Wear a good nice flappy shirt, and baggy shorts as this will increase your wind resistance and get your more excercise than ever. Truthfully the drag from clothes is pretty close to nil. Drafting with another cyclist to block wind will give you a big benefit whereas spandex shorts don’t give you much speed just a chance to show off your nuts.
A man on a heavy old bike will get more excercise going 15 miles than a man on an aluminum expensive lightweight one. He may even be slower and thus will get more excercise time in during that 15 miles.
Its the slower speed of the man on the heavy bike that bothers most. We are fixated on speed. The goal of speed drives the whole cycling industry. But who starts cycling to get from point a to point b quickly ?
Relax, ride whatever bike you have, ride it mainly to enjoy the day and the outdoors, save your money and do something nice with it, like buy a bum a nice bottle of wine.