Sunday, March 3, 2013

Cross Training- Part 1

Cross training is supposed to be good for you. The theory is that when you mix things up, the new exercise sort of shocks the system in a positive way. You work different muscle groups in different ways. The old muscle groups, which are probably tired, get an opportunity to relax and recover. With cross training, it's hailed as win-win.

I have not really done much cross training. See, I'm a douche triathlete. I've got enough of working in different sports as I'm gonna need. I get to relax from running by biking. I get to recover from a ride by going for a swim (not yet happened in 2013). I get to give my shoulders a break from the tension  by going for a run. It's a never ending circle of awesome that I don't need to do much else.

The BIL disagrees. My evidence: This email message, which arrived shortly before my trek to the middle of the toilet bowl Oklahoma.

I'll be renting you the same cyclocross bike that I have in the garage so that we can do something interesting while you are here.
This bike is called a "CycloCross" bike in OKC. I had heard about the existence of such bikes and event read about competitions involving these machines, but I had never witnessed one first hand. I was willing and ready to give it a try.

At the Bike Shop
The BIL has found a pretty good bike shop. Unlike several bike shops that I have experienced, this one was large, cozy, and staffed by blokes that actually ride. Exactly like pretty much all bikes shops I've been in, the shop is geared towards roadies with small cubbies dedicated to niche sports that just happen to involve a bike AKA triathlons.

While the BIL took care of some business, I checked out the sale racks in search of tri-gear. As expected, not much. I found the inventory of tri-bikes and saw that the shop was quite privy to Cervelo. Sigh, I guess Oklahoma people are just destined to be slow.

I brought in my bike shoes so that the blokes can match pedals. Just in case you didn't know, bike pedals have this technology inappropriately called 'clipless' pedals. You take a cycling shoe and attach a cleat to the bottom. You also have a special pedal that matches the cleat. When you ride, you 'clip-in' to your clipless pedals. (Makes sense, right?)

I own 2 different sets of bike shoes. Roadie bike shoes, which have a ratchet strap system designed to hold you foot in place. The ratchet adjusts tension to allow a snug feeling. Any slack in the shoe leads to an energy loss as you spin. Therefore, you want the shoe as tight as you can while retaining comfort. These shoes are slower to put on and take off. Hence the reason for my second pair of bike shoes, triathlon bike shoes. Tri-shoes are pretty much exactly the same in under carriage features and construction. The major exception is that the top of the shoe is laden in velcro. Velcro is very quick to adhere and you don't need to waste 4 seconds lifting your finger up-and-down to get that snug feel as with the roadie shoe. Plus, adjusting tension mid-ride is much easier.

As it turns out, I left my roadie shoes back in NY with my bike trainer. I was coming to Oklahoma to train for triathlon with triathletes. What I didn't count on was the bike shop being emburdened with roadies. That is a complete miscalculation on my part and I take full responsibility for my shortsightedness in bringing my velcro-strapped old triathlon shoes into the den of the road cyclists. When I showed them my shoes to match the pedals, the man did a quick up-and-down with his eyes and wrinkled his nose in disgust. The rift between the roadie and triathlete grows.

(Aside: In hindsight, I'm pretty sure now that the look was from the smell. Another major difference between roadies and triathletes is the wearing of socks. Roadies do. Triathletes don't. My shoes have been permeated with so much sweat, and umm, other stuff, that I'm sure they are in a state of perma-reek. Since I don't make a habit of sniffing my shoes, I just assumed that the bike shop guy was being a snob. It turns out that I probably deserved that look of disgust due to questionable foot hygiene. End Aside.)

The BIL and I left the shop for a quick lunch while the bike shop guys went to work on preparing my rental. When we came back, I got a chance to inspect the bike.

The Cyclocross Bike
Upon first appearance, the CC bike is very similar in appearance to a traditional road bike (which some people call the common 10-speed). They have the same:
  • bull-horn style handlebars
  • exposed cables
  • gear shifting system
  • frame geometry
  • lack of suspension
  • sperm-reducing seat
There are some glaring differences between this bike and what respectable people ride. For example, the CC bike has:
  • fat, studded tires
  • wheels with 8x the normal number of spokes
  • a funky braking system
  • low gear ratios
  • no aero-bars
  • 30 pounds of dark matter (At least, I think it was dark matter. The frame was, I believe, aluminum. However, it was remarkably heavy. If astrophysicists want conclusive evidence of the substance rumored to make up 80% of the universe, I suggest they rent one of these bad boys.)
The bike was possibly a smidgeon too large in the frame. The next size lower would have been obviously too small so we opted to modify the larger frame for comfort. I hopped on the bike in the shop with the intention of getting the seat adjusted. One dude held the front of the bike while another grabbed my hips from behind measured my knee angle at various stages of the pedal cycle. The fit seemed comfortable enough for an afternoon of cyclocrossing (whatever that meant).

I was ready to leave the bike shop but was left with a small warning:
Everything should be fine as long as you don't fall off.

The base bar was a little higher than common for a homunculus of my stature. Slipping forward could spell an end to the Banter's line of genetics.

In all of my years of riding, I have fallen off the bike exactly twice. The first time was on my very first ride with clipless pedals. My first set were adjusted so tightly that I couldn't remove them from the pedal at all. I had to bring the bike, with shoes still attached to the pedals, back to the bike shop for an adjustment. They ended up giving me new pedals. The second time was years later when I had to stop suddenly on a hill and didn't clip-out in time. Both falls were done at a speed of roughly 1-2 mph and no damage (other than that to my ego) was apparent. I was confident in my skills as a cyclist to be able to ride this bike and still bear children (should the need ever arise).

It is at this point that I would like to tell you that I did not waste all of that writing about bike falling and clipless pedals for nothing. There's some foreshadowing in the above and much more to the story. Come back in the very near future for part 2 of this exciting tale.

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