Saturday, April 18, 2009

New Equipment, New Year, Same Me ?

Along with the new bike- new with just enough transplanted parts from my old bike to maintain a tenuous link backwards that brings a smile to my face because I am very fond of that first Elite- I got a new time time trial helmet for Easter, the Louis Garneau Superleggera Bike Helmet 2009.

I'm not much a gear guy. That is, I find something I like, and I wear/use/ride it until (or after) it is no longer serviceable and then I move on. I mean, a bike is one thing. I tested the Elite T-Class before I committed to buying one, spent time talking to Dave and other people who had Elites, but with helmets, like most of my gear, I want something light, easy to use, that doesn't require a lot of time to research, understand, set up, program, and so on.

Take shoes. I run in Mizunos. If I absolutely can't get something Mizuno, I'll try an Asics. I can no longer get Mizuno racing shoes, so I buy Asics or Brooks. If someone tells me I should try something else and I trust them, I'll try it. And usually then I'll go buy another pair of Mizunos (although I do like the Zoot TT or whatever it is called).

But this helmet, now that I look at it online, is a better helmet than anything I've previously had, and I've had two very high-end non-TT Specialized helmets.

I went out Wednesday and did a time-trial on the bike- two loops of the Hammerfest course. On Friday, I rode the bike to Madison and back. Both days, I used my race wheels and the time-trial helmet because I have races coming up and need to get used to the gear I'll use to race.

I'm heavy for a guy my size, and my bike has gotten quite a bit lighter. I have a high-cadence style of riding that's developed after a lot of time forcing myself not to grind. I find myself much better able to quickly recover from cadence work than grinding and because I'm a crotchety, someone old guy, am not likely to change my style again, not matter what I'm hearing is 'the new thinking'. The high-cadence though, does not feel as smooth for holding a sharp line. Hey, I never said I was any good on a bike...

I went out and found myself wearing a helmet that is an awesome, comfortable piece of headgear, on a bike that is light and scary-fast.

I also found myself on a much twitchier ride and somewhat unable to hear because my ears are covered.

The joy of flying down the road on the first bike I can ever really call truly my own- custom made to fit me, and even, not that it matters, custom-painted for me- was somewhat dampened by the nagging fear that was brought on by the combination of aural claustrophobia and an inability to to keep the bike right on the white line the way I like. The wind was blowing sideways and I was motoring, but also fighting the bike's urge to sail with the wind.

Make no mistake. This is not the flaw of the bike, or of the Zipp wheels, and certainly does not reflect any mistakes Dave Greenfield made. In fact, Dave's paid me a possibly undeserved compliment by putting me on a bike this good, setting it up as aggressively as he did- with my input.

I am not- yet - quite up to the bike.

I'm confident that this will pass though. For one thing, I've never wanted to feel 'safe' on a bike I'll be racing. I just don't want to feel unsafe.

For another, I remember feeling kind of the same way when I went headfirst over the handlebars of my Lightspeed and landed on my left eye last April (?). I'd already been taken out once at that point in time last year and suddenly I found myself-unsure. Unsure on a bike is not a place you want to be. I went through a month of that, including one race, during which it finally passed.

Or I can think about Lake Placid. Although I hate admitting it, those downhills going to Keene have at times scared me so badly I haven't been sure I want to race there. I'm over that, and after riding harder down those hills in the pouring rain than the people around me last year, I'm not sure I could muster up all of that fear if I tried.

It's April, and I'm outside, riding in the wind, not my basement. And everything is turned up a notch because I don't have the familiar weight of the bike to help me hold the line any more, because I need to attune my senses a little bit differently to hear. The T-Class was a fraction the weight of the larger Lightspeed, the Zipp race wheels a fraction of the weight of the training wheels I'd been racing on, my first TT helmet was a big adjustment from a typical helmet.

All of this has happened before, and in this case, I hope all of it happens again.

I just need some time. And maybe I'll even finally cultivate some genuine skill on the bike now. Anything is possible, but I won't hold my breath on that last part. I do know one thing.

This new bike is fun...

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