Q: Nearly everyone shows up for our group rides on the latest equipment — light bikes, fancy wheels, team jerseys. But one guy, a former U.S. pro rider, has a steel frame from the ’80s with exposed brake cables and down-tube shifters. He even uses toe clips and straps! His bike must weigh six pounds more than the others.
But here’s the catch: He hangs in on all the climbs and deals out punishment on the flats. In a headwind, he’s a monster. What’s his secret? — Malcolm P.
COACH FRED: I hate to tell you, Malcolm, but it’s not about the bike.
Excellent fitness trumps light and expensive gear any day. Of course, if your retro friend were in a race against riders with equal ability but lighter equipment, he’d get dropped. Six pounds is significant. But against recreational riders who probably have less genetic talent, he does quite well.
Don’t get me wrong. I like light bikes and I’ve been happy to bid exposed brake cables a fond farewell. But I often train on a bike that weighs 24 pounds. I do group rides on it in the winter, too. I have to work a bit harder on the climbs than my friends on lightweight wonder bikes, but that’s okay.
As for why the ex-pro does so well in headwinds, he obviously generates more power than the rest of you. That’s also why he can stick with you on climbs while lugging a heavier bike. On the flats in a gale, weight doesn’t matter. He can use his superior wattage to put you in distress.