It's been a week since I've made the transition from fixed gear to road, and the change has been eye-opening. From sweat-soaked struggle-fests to spin-happy sprints, my commute has changed completely. In today's post, I'll run through the biggest changes I've experienced in my day-to-day rides - so you can get a preview of what to expect if you make the shift to gears.
First and foremost, my knees are by far my new bike's biggest fans. Since a dislocation in high school, my knees have always been a bit finicky. On my fixed gear that meant finding the right ratio to keep starts and stops free from soreness, while also not being too spinny to keep up on the street. The end result was a moderate gear, 48 x 17, that was great for flat-land commutes, but ruled out any significant climbs before my leg-hinges would start to complain. It also led to the occasional issue mashing to catch a yellow light, skidding to a stop when I missed it, and generally exerting some serious wear and tear on my knees. But no more.
In a week I've gone from stressing changing traffic signals, to reveling them. I've gone from letting momentum rule my ride, to giving the power back to my legs. And my knees have nothing but happy things to say about that change.
Downshifting before stops so I can spin back up to speed on green without any extra effort, upshifting on the fly to squeeze out more speed without spinning out, now the bike's doing the work instead of my bod, and my knees are endlessly grateful.
And that brings me to my next big realization, riding my bike is easy now. Like, "I wonder how far I can ride today" easy, "I'll bet I can get to the top of that mountain" easy. I used to plan my routes like I was driving - what's the fastest/shortest way from A to B? Now I'm choosing the route that's the most fun instead.
Hills? Sure! Detour to cut through the park? Absolutely! It used to be I'd watch the roadies climbing the Hollywood hills with confusion and "why would they do that to themselves?" wonder. Now I get it. And I can't wait to see what summits I can top in the saddle.
And the last major difference I've noticed: I'm so much faster now! My Strava use fell by the wayside following a bout with a clogged charging port on my phone, but this new ride was just the cure for my statistical apathy of late. While I'm still waiting on the "official numbers" to take shape, I have noticed that I'm making it to work/the grocery store/the library 5-10 minutes faster. On the bike path, where I used to huff and puff to catch the draft of the e-bike riders, now I'm leading them out and making their 20mph limited motors whine to keep up. I'm sure that once I've got a few weeks of Strava in the books I'll realize the changes aren't sooo dramatic, but I sure feel faster now, and that's one of the best feelings in the world.
And who knows, maybe in a few months I'll be renewing my passport and tossing my hat into the ring for the Tour... probably not, but again, the feeling is phenomenal.
If you haven't had a chance to test a road bike yet, stop waiting. Hit up your local shop or swing by the showroom. Once you get a taste of the gears, you'll get it. And then we can hit the hills together.
See you up there.