When you rely on bike and body to get to work it’s handy to have a backup for any unforeseen problems. I don’t own a car and have been cycle-commuting for almost six months. Touch wood, I haven’t had any injury serious enough to prevent me from riding. I have however had a few problems with the commuter bike. Recently the rear wheel has been showing its age – I’ve taken the insides apart to clean and grease them on numerous occasions but it only ever seems to be a short term solution. Last night on my ride home I heard the nasty sound of a snapped spoke – the third time it’s happened to my rear wheel. For the last 20 minutes I limped home with the wheel gently rubbing the brake pad on each of its revolutions. Enough’s enough, I thought. It’s time for a new wheel.
This puts my commuter bike out of action. Fortunately I own a second bike usually reserved for ‘Sunday Best’, but last night I prepared the show-pony for some work-horse duties. It’s a bit like driving a Ford Fiesta every day, but having a Porsche in the garage – you’re not going to be too distraught if the Fiesta breaks down.
In 2 weeks’ time I will be riding my first ever competitive race – a 20km time-trial. For this occasion I bought myself a set of TT extension bars which were already attached to the bike. Rather than remove the cow-horns I decided to put them and myself to the test and participate in a personal commuter grand-prix this morning.
I have been riding my current route to work for about 2 months. My average time on the commuter bike is typically around 55 minutes, although I had managed to beat the 50 minute mark on one occasion about 3 weeks ago, requiring such a monumental effort that I hadn’t attempted to better it since.
This morning I set off motivated to conquer the 16 mile route. Recently I have been trying to pedal with a more efficient technique, however ten minutes in I realised that my over-exuberance was putting me in danger of stomping the pedals to smithereens and ripping the TT extensions off the handlebars. For the next couple of minutes I was exhausted and so decided to try and regulate my effort levels more evenly for the rest of the ride. I ended up completing the route in a time of 45 minutes and 15 seconds at an average speed of 34.1kph (21.3mph). This is another massive improvement and gives me good confidence going into my first time-trial in a couple of weeks. It’s also reassuring to see the big difference in performance between my two bikes. It will however probably be at least another 3 weeks before I try to beat the 45 minute mark …