Thursday, February 22, 2007

I'm 'bent NOT broken...

I have had a few people ask me what injury I suffered that made me buy a recumbent bike for long distance rides. The fact is I am perfectly healthy - no back, shoulder or neck issues to speak of. I did/do have a bit of RSI in my right elbow, but a change to my computer workstation ergonomics and a tennis elbow brace sorted that out. I can ride a DF bike for 100kms without any problems, but soon after that I start to feel a lot of discomfort.

I have several DF bikes and I keep working on my riding position to improve my smile-factor. It would be great to be able to ride these bikes farther and longer comfortably, but realistically even a 100% improvement would only get me to 200K and the shortest brevet. I use my DF bikes for most of my riding so I am heavily invested in making them as fun to ride as possible so I'll keep putting energy into my DF ergonomics. I am at the point where I can ride my touring bikes all day comfortably, but I am generally only shooting for 100K per day on tour. If I ever get to the point where I can ride the 200K+ brevets happily on a DF bike I'll probably switch back, but for the time being I don't see that happening.

I am not a recumbent zealot. I see lots of downsides to bents in general and particularly for brevets, but the fact is if you want to successfully complete long distance rides you have to stay on your bike for extended periods of time. Personally I am not willing to suffer extreme discomfort and possibly injury in order to finish a bike ride. Reading brevet reports it is not uncommon to hear of riders with numb finger, toes & genitals, severe saddle sores, soft tissue injuries, neck & wrist problems. Some of this damage ends up being medium to long term. In MY analysis of MY situation the only logical choice for ME is to ride a recumbent.

To be honest I'd rather be riding a "normal" bike. It would climb easier, be able to stay with the majority of DF riders and enjoy some benefits of a paceline. Frankly I'd just "fit in" better. When you are starting up a challenging new activity its nice to be part of the group - showing up at the start of a brevet with a bent pretty much assures that I'll be a group of one.

I guess that is one of the appeals of being a randonnuer. You can't fake anything for 1200kms. If you are not happy on your bike you'll fail. You have to be honest about your own personal strengths/weaknesses and ride your own ride accordingly.


Anonymous said...

Vik, did you check out the results at the Sebring 12/24 hour bicycle race? The results show that the df's have a hard time keeping up with the Bacchetta's.


Vik said...

Yes, but at Sebring there is no climbing and the DFs can't paceline together.

If you take away the climbing and paceline aspects of long distance events bents will win every time simply because they are more aero.

In real world conditions of brevets DFs aren't at the same disadvantage.