I get up, put my cycling gear on and head out the door to work in Dublin. I do my work day, mostly in the office in the city centre and sometimes out and about around the country. At the end of the day, it’s back into the cycling gear, train home, make dinner, watch some TV and bed. Gym one or two evenings a week and I also venture out to the Dublin suburbs to stay with my Grandad one or two evenings too.
At weekends, I’m also pretty boring – long cycles around Kildare, Meath, Laois or out towards the Wicklow mountains. Then it’s food, meeting up with friends for coffee around Kildare or doing something nice with my cousin and my little goddaughter. I drink about 5 times a year and go out on the town even less than that. I love a good night out and getting my dance on, but the opportunities are few and far between these days with most of my friends (who I would do these things with!) having moved away or emigrated.
But I’m also the kind of person who is quite happy in myself and mostly content in my own company – reading, cooking, going to the cinema, following sports, whatever. I’ve always been good at keeping myself entertained and finding something to do.
I love my little world. It reassures me in many ways and I feel lucky to have somewhere I feel safe and somewhere I can call home.
But lately, I have started to feel like my world is too small and I have this itch to break out and blow it wide open – run in every direction and see where it takes me – let it tear me down, re-design me and build me back up, one foreign brick at a time.
I was lucky enough to be given a last minute opportunity at work to go to Scotland for a week to take part in a work-related course. I jumped at it – to my surprise more than anyone else’s… I am such a person of routine – I make the same things for dinners, for lunches and supper – I do much the same things every day of the week – but when given the opportunity to drop it all and have a whole week of newness and the unknown, I didn’t even hesitate.
I had a great week in Scotland, despite a wee bit of rain 😉
I met loads of great people with incredible experience, who were a joy to meet and get to know.
I saw a whole new country with stunningly beautiful scenery.
I felt free.
This trip reminded me of what life is about and what my soul really wants. I forget this. I forget because the day-to-day needs and foggery gets in the way, clouds my view and makes me forget. It forces my soul to submit, conform and behave.
But I don’t want to conform anymore.
I want to be bold, break out and live in the big, big world around me.
Tomrrow, I go to the south of France to see the Tour de France in person. First stop Biarritz, then on to Pau, Toulouse and Rodez. I can’t wait. Sun, tiny villages in the south of France, pro cyclists up close (and hopefully personal) and pure unadulterated freedom.
Freedom to roam, freedom to discover and freedom to just be me. Away from everything I know, all the crap and away from my little world into a much, much bigger one.
When I first started cycling (in any sort of meaningful way, as opposed to a 5 minute jaunt to the shop…) it was with the local triathlon club. I figured I was very new to all this lycra and metal malarky and could benefit from some guidance and experience around me. After all… unlike running, when you’re on a bike you’re typically going much faster and the potential for becoming entangled in metal or wiped off the road is much greater. So tips from the experienced… most welcome!
As I quickly learned, apart from things like road etiquette, what gear you should be riding in and general tips about how to actually ride your bike (who knew?) , there are also a particular number of certainties that go hand in hand with cycling, which unless you have already been initiated into this clandestine little world, you never would have put together.
(I didn’t know anything of this cycling decorum so lest you too end up looking like a confused, gormless gobshite – like me – I suggest you read on!)
Every cyclist’s best friend and unapologetic indulgence.
Before a ride, multiple times during a ride and always, always AFTER a ride.
If you’re out cycling with a club, group or a buddy, be prepared for a nice stop at a cafe along the way. Good chance for a break during a long spin and it can be a welcome rest before heading off again. The caffeine is a helpful boost too – just ask Floyd Landis who infamously downed 15 cappuccinos in one sitting 😉
If you think cyclists are a very serious lot, think again. For a lot of cyclists, the coffee stops are the best part of cycling. I was once out with a small group of cyclists and it was pissing rain so I tabled the idea of forgetting the cafe stop and just cycling straight through to the end.
“Then what’s the point in all of this then?” said four disgusted faces.
Yes, actual cake. Butter, sugar, flour, eggs, whipped together and slathered in icing.
You might be forgiven for assuming all cyclists starve themselves and probably stick to a bare americano or espresso on their coffee stops but no. Nearly every cyclist I’ve ever encountered will go for a pastry, slice of cake, scone, whatever – without hesitation.
Most reckoned they’ve burned the calories and need a few more to fuel the next part of the ride. Most would be right. Granted, I’ve never been out on a ride with a grand tour rider but I like to think they eat cake too 🙂
Similar to a cyclist’s feelings on coffee stops, I get the feeling that most view the cake situation along the lines of sure, what’s the point in a long spin if there’s no cake?
Nobody tells you about the wind. Nobody.
OMG, the friggin wind.
Before I started cycling, I ran. As a runner, I thought I was one with nature and the elements, frequently returning home from a run knowing exactly which way the wind was blowing and being in a position to compare wind strengths from day to day.
Now I look back and realise I knew nothing. Within the first 20 seconds of a ride, I’m immediately calculating which direction the wind is blowing from, estimating wind speeds and working out wind gusts. You feel the wind so much more when you’re seated up on a saddle and though I’m no expert, I expect the fact that you’re moving much faster on a bike than say, you would be while running means that there is a much greater wind resistance and it’s therefore a much greater factor.
The wind is huge in cycling and it can make your ride or… well, just make you want to dump the bike on the side of the road and curl up into a ball. No exaggeration.
4. Social Bunch
Cyclists are the best. One of the reasons I love being a cyclist now is that I feel like I’ve joined a some kind of very cool secret society.
You go out for a spin and you spot a cyclist coming in the other direction. Never met him, never even seen him before, but I look up, give him a little wave and a smile and he likewise, lifts a hand from the handlebars and waves back, giving a respectful nod of the head.
This happens all the time with nearly every cyclist I come across on the road offering a smile, wave, respectful nod and sometimes a few words of hello. Not to sound naff, but it’s really quite lovely. Particularly nice at those moments when you’re feeling tired, bored, soaked to the skin or just otherwise want to turn around and go home – an encouraging greeting from a fellow road warrior can give you a nice little lift and spur you on a bit further.
5. Chamois Cream and Underwear
I’ve saved the best till last.
What no one wants to talk about but what you MUST know about. Ignore this intell at your peril.
Most cyclists do not wear any underwear when they cycle. Two reasons – you can see the lining of the underwear under the lycra cycling shorts, which some find unfashionable/ unseemly. Secondly, wearing underwear can exacerbate the saddle sore situation…
When I first started cycling, I never had any problems with chafing or skin injuries anywhere on my body. Alas, when I started to crank up the frequency and duration of rides, I quickly became acquainted with what are commonly known as “saddle sores.”
Leg up, leg down, leg up, leg down… over and over and over again for 3+ hours, rubbing back and forth over the side of a saddle. Add a good splash of rain and sweat and you quickly have a recipe for skin abrasions. While on the saddle, you might feel a slight discomfort, but actually this is not the worst – what is worse is what comes afterwards.
Stand in a hot shower with fresh saddle sores and you’ll know all about it. Very similar to chafing injuries from running, except these ones are on your heiny and on the inside of the upper leg.
Because of the location of saddle sores, they can be very slow to heal because you cannot very well avoid sitting down completely. And if you’re like me, you’ll be back on the bike a day or two later again and more than likely end up re-aggravating the injuries once you start pedalling away again.
It’s a nasty circle, but the good news is that it can be avoided – mostly. Get yourself a jar of chamois cream, slather some around your shorts and may you never have saddle sores again!
I use Udderly Smooth Chamois Cream (with shea butter) which retails for about 10 euro (on wiggle.com). I only ever need to use a small amount owing to the coconut oil – like consistency, which means you get quite a lot of lubricating for quite a small amount.
I write this from a position from which I confess I may not be able to move from for quite some time. In a very supportive, yet comforting sitting room chair, sheltering from the biblical rains that continue to pummel down from an overwhelmingly pessimistic sky. To cut a long story short, I went for a long ride this morning and got soaked.
It rains a lot in Ireland.
This is not a new concept to me. I’m Irish, I get it. In fact, I’m quite sure my Irishness makes me part human, part rain. However, the last few weeks in Ireland have been nothing short of stunning with absolute clear blue skies and tear-inducing sunshine that occasionally shines on our fair green isle as a kind of tease, to remind us of the weather we could be having all the time, if it weren’t so prone to the wet stuff.
Take yesterday, for example. Hottest day of the year so far at a balmy 26 degrees celsius – beautiful. Today, not so much. This morning it was lightly raining, with the weather forecast lady promising “rains will clear”. No Lady, the rains did not clear. As I cycled my way up to Dunshaughlin, Ratoath and did a wee tour of Meath this morning, the rains in fact got significantly heavier and steadily worked their way up to being what I would class as an out-and-out solid downpour.
It’s almost as if the universe was having bit of craic with us today – See here now Irish people, a few days of sunshine and here ye were, getting all cocky and carried away with yourselves thinking ye be living the life of Reilly. Now, let’s be putting ye back in your place!
I was like Forrest Gump walking around Vietnam.
First, the rain came the front, like teeny darts to the face, despite the extra peaked cap I had added to my headwear this morning. Then the rain seemed to come from the side. And then, there were times when the rain seemed to jump up from the ground. Mushy socks and swimming pool shorts soon became the dress du jour.
Apologies, I don’t mean to moan.
Really, I don’t mind rain that much, as I said, I’m well used to it at this stage. And sure once you’re wet, you’re wet. What was a real kicker though, was when I picked up a puncture 50km from home and it was yes, still spilling down. It’s tricky enough to change a puncture by the side of the road, but when your hands are soaking and you’re trying to fiddle with little nuts and bolts, it’s not funny. And you just know the people driving by are thinking “Who is that crazy girl messing with her bike on a day like today?”
Irish summers are typically temperamental and utterly unpredictable. Once you reconcile yourself to this fact, you’ll never stress again over Irish weather. Me, I am at peace with this fact but I’m also an inherent optimist so despite my intimate acquaintance with the facts about Irish rain, I will always ALWAYS believe that maybe the weather forecast peeps have got it wrong and maybe the sun WILL come out tomorrow.
My country, I love you. But enough with the rain already.
In running, there are certain distances you become accustomed to. 5km, 10km, 10 mile, half marathon, marathon etc. These are milestones every runner grows to know intimately – you learn to recognise how you feel at certain distances and what to expect physically and mentally at different points, the result being that you develop a kind of mental store and psychological toughness that helps you be better the next time. But when you’ve ran enough races, you also learn to know how you can expect to feel at the end of certain distances. For example, even though I haven’t run for over a year, I can remember exactly how I would feel after a 5km parkrun Vs. how my body feels after a half-marathon race Vs. after a marathon.
With Cycling, I find it a lot less clear cut. I could cycle an 80km today and be in bits tomorrow. Or I might cycle 100km today and be up for cycling another 70km tomorrow, no bother. There have been some days recently when cycling 37km to work on back to back days has just knackered my legs. But where is the sense, I ask you?
Apart from being able to draw the obvious conclusion that the harder the ride and more effort you put in, the more it will take out of your body and the slower it will be to repair and refresh. And the hillier the cycle, the tougher it is – also going to tire you out more.
But generally for cycling Vs. running, there are no milestone distances to focus on – or maybe there are and I’m just out of the loop! Oh well…
Some cyclists seem to work with time, rather than distance. You cycle for an hour a few days during the week and then go for a three hour ride at the weekend, for example. I don’t work that way. I like to map out a ride beforehand and then see how long it takes me. Next time, I try do it faster. That’s what motivates me. I’m less good with a “three hour ride” because for me that’s just a licence to sit on my ass and flooter away three hours coasting along at my ease.
So I stick with distance. Up to this year, I’d never ridden over 100km, with the longest cycle I’d have competed being around 91km. So I cracked out mapmyride and mapped a few 100km -ish cycles and worked my way up to them. Then I did a race a few weeks ago which involved a 105km spin around Carlow and over Mount Leinster. I loved it.
Today I took a spin from Naas to Kilkenny, travelling through Athy, Carlow, lovely Leighlinbridge and Bagenalstown along the way. The weather was a bit crap to be honest with dark clouds, some rain and a headwind most of the way… but I was happy out just to find I could actually make it all the way to Kilkenny. Needless to say when I arrived in Kilkenny 3 hours 41 minutes later, I was delighted with life and Kilkenny was buzzing with people, despite the rain.
I had booked to get the train back from Kilkenny to Sallins and had a bit of time before my train was due. I knew exactly how to spend that time.
What is cycling, if not really good coffee and cake?
After all, it’s the worst kept secret in cycling that the only real reason cyclists actually cycle is for the coffee and cake. And it’s worth it every time 😀
After wandering around trying to find a coffee shop that I could safely leave my bike outside without fear of it being pinched, I came across the Pantry on Kieran St., which was exactly what I was looking for. Really good coffee and a good selection of homemade baked goods, as well as soup, sandwiches and hot lunch options too. I really just wanted somewhere to sit down and rest my weary bones for an hour, while indulging in a much looked-forward to pick me up.
The staff were lovely, the coffee was excellent and my cupcake was just grand. The bun could have been fresher and the icing was a bit over-sweet, but I was starvers so it tasted great anyway. Good spot and I’ll be back again.
Next Up. Now that I’ve gotten past the 100km mark, I’d like to build on that and be able for greater distances. There’s a clatter of 200km events in Ireland that look fab but I’m a long way from being able to remain upright for 200k. But it gives me something to aim for – oh, you know how it goes… citius, altius, fortius… better.
I’m an enthusiastic amateur cyclist and while I’ve a loooonnnggg way to go before I’m any kind of cycling expert, I’ve learned a few bits and pieces in my short career in the saddle. As things break down, become worn out or go wrong, situations arise where I need to fix or replace things on the bike.
Like it or not, I’ve had to learn a few things. Simply put, if you don’t fix it, you can’t ride it.
The most recent thing to go wrong with my bike was my chain snapping. I was out on a ride when suddenly my chain just vanished from my bike. Annoying and a wee bit tragic when I’d just finished all the hard parts of the ride and was just about to slip into the easy part of the ride home… but I lived to tell the tale so I cannot complain! 🙂
I brought my bike to a local bike shop and the nice chap there told me that the chain on my bike was not a very good one. He checked the tension in the chain with a special measuring tool and explained that while it’s okay for now, I’d probably need to replace the chain before the summer.
The bike fella explained to me that I should also replace the cassette on the bike at the same time because the chain and the cassette wear down at the same rate. All of this was new to me so I thought I’d do some research for any other novice cyclists out there and break it down for you all. Here’s what you need (or just might WANT to know – because who doesn’t love some useful trivia?!) :
The bike chain is the bit on the bike EVERYONE knows about. When you were a kid, your chain probably “came off” all the time so you probably regularly had to run Dad to ask him to put the chain back on. Or you learned to do it yourself. That was pretty much all I knew about bike mechanics until the last couple of years when I started into triathlon.
The bike chain is part of what’s called the “drivetrain” and is what links the whole thing together to make your bike go. The chain is how the rider transfers power to the wheels.When you pedal, you push the pedal down and cause the crank arm to rotate in a circular movement.
Most bicycle chains are made from alloy steel, but some are chrome plated or stainless steel to prevent rust, or simply for good looks.
The pedal your foot pushes is attached to the end of a “crank arm” and you push this around in a circle. This arm (at the other end) is fastened to a circular piece called the “chain ring” – this piece has metal teeth all around the outside and the chain sits on top of it. As you pedal, you push the arm around in the circle, this turns the chain ring, which then moves the chain.
Most bikes have two chain rings – one for higher gears and one for lower gears. When the going is tough, you switch down to the lower gears to make it easier on yourself. When your bombing down a hill, you up the gears to the higher level because it’s easier to pedal and you’re able to push a higher gear.
Still with me? Nearly done. Like I said, the chain sits on top of the chain ring which you’re pushing around with your foot – but to be able to rotate, the chain needs something else at the back to rotate around. Otherwise, how would it be able to move full circle? So at the rear of the bike, attached to the rear wheel, you have the “cassette” – a cluster of other metal toothed circles. Also known as “sprockets”. These metal toothed circles are all different sizes. The bigger ones feel easier for your legs to push, while those smaller ones are harder.
So the chain sits into the grooves of the cassette in the same way it sits into the grooves of the chain ring and when you push pedal around, you move the chain ring which moves the chain and the chain is able to spin around the cassette at the back in a circle.
The Rear Derailleur is just a part which the chain is fed through (see the diagram) and sits to the bottom of the cassette. This is the part responsible for changing gears. When you click your little lever to switch gear, the rear derailleur is the part that lifts the chain from one metal toothed circle at the back (or sprocket) to another.
Now you’re an expert! No actually you’re really not. But no one ever explains these things to you and I only recently learned these basics when I started to really look at my bike and how it all works. Most people don’t want to know or couldn’t care less but I’m a bit of nerd that way…
Wear and Tear:
As you ride and change gears, the chain, chainrings, cogs and derailleur wheels pull and rub on each other. You’re advised to apply lubricant to act as a barrier between these parts as they rub off each other but between washing and weather (rain washes it away and sun evaporates it away) metal-on-metal contact will happen (don’t blame yourself 🙂 ) When this happens, tiny shards of metal get stripped away and the parts get worn down and deformed out of their original shape. Grit flung up from the road also adds to wear. Think of the steps of an old building getting more and more worn with the pitter patter of footsteps over and over and over again.
How to Know When to Replace the Chain?
The chain is the most common part of the drivetrain to wear out and need replacing. You can buy a chain checker tool online or in most bike shops.
If the chain has stretched and is elongated past the recommended point, it is advised that you get a new chain and cassette (and potentially chain rings too) at the same time. If your drivetrain is noisy, hard to pedal, and, on derailleur systems, difficult to change between gears, then replacing these parts will invariably fix your problems.
Which to Buy?
The bike mechanic I spoke to recently recommended Sram chains and told me in no uncertain terms that he doesn’t even consider using any other chains as they’re just not good enough. Sram chains are compatible with Shimano cassettes so don’t fret, you don’t have to replace your entire drivetrain.
What you need to keep in mind when buying a new chain is that chains come in different “speeds” which have to match the cassette, ie an 11 speed cassette will need an 11 speed chain. Why? The distance in between the sprockets varies depending on whether there are 9, 10 or 11 of them. The gap will be wider on a 9 speed cassette than on an 11 speed one. Chains designed to fit a 9 speed bike are therefore wider in width and 11 speed chains are narrower.
Sram Red 22 – 45 euro – What Sram say…This chain features more heavily chamfered outer plates for improved shifting and quieter running. It boasts strength, incredible shifting efficiency, and light weight. It uses Sram’s PowerLock connector pin and weights in at 242g. Other features include a nickel silver finish on the inner and outer plates.
Sram Force 22 – 43.70 euro – Like, the Red 22 chain, this one also features nickel plated plates on inside as well as the outside. Weighs ever so slightly more at 256g.
Sram PC 1170 – 43 euro – Nickel silver outer and grey metal inner plates. Weighs 256g. Narrower chain.
Sram PC 1130 – 23 euro – This chain is recommended for use with Sram’s Rival groupset. It weighs 259g.
What’s the Difference Between them All?
Apart from the price… not a lot. The Red 22 and Force 22 chains have nickel plating on both sides of the plates which will help prevent corrosion and look prettier. The PC 1170 and 1130 chains do not have the inner nickel plating meaning they’re more susceptible to corrosion and likely to ware out quicker. There’s negligible difference in price between the Red 22 and Force 22 Vs. 1170 so I don’t know why you wouldn’t just go for the Red 22 or Force 22.
I researched these chains to death on the internet trying to find detailed information on any of them and what the differences are but I found hardly any information out there. Just people churning out the same blurb that Sram do about the “more heavily chamfered outer plates for improved shiftin….” blah blah blah. Not very helpful folks. What would be great would be if Sram could spell out the features and differences so buyers can understand. Or maybe that’s the idea – there are practically no differences but they don’t want you to know that and you being a twit buy the more expensive one because you assume it must be better. God damn it marketing. I am the worst offender here, for sure.
I think if you live in a wet area, like Ireland, you’re probably better off to go with the Red 22 or Force 22. It’s worth noting that you can usually buy these chains online at a significant discount on sites like wiggle or chain reaction cycles so why not go for them over the cheaper 1130 if you can get a bit longer out of them?
I hope you enjoyed that little lesson in bike basics and chains. Next up, I’ll be looking at cassettes – differences between them and which ones to buy.
All prices are intended as a guide and are approximate only -they will vary depending on where you buy them.
I like to cycle to and/or from work these days. Good because it wakes me up in the morning/ winds me down after work and it means I get to avoid traffic, buses and all that grossness. The downside of it is – well there is no downside, if you ask me.
That is, except for the incredibly rare occurrences of mechanical issues. And gross winds… but let’s shove those aside for now.
Punctures are a giant pain in the ass. I apologise for the vulgarity but there’s no real way to get around that point. Changing the tube of a bike tyre is challenging for me at the best of times but I have never got a puncture out on the road when it hasn’t been pouring rain or bloody freezing. Adding numb fingers or wet hands to the equation is just ridiculously unfair. But that’s life so you get on with it.
But actually, annoying as it may be at the time, a puncture is not the worst thing that can happen to you when you’re out on a long ride.
Your chain snapping on your way home from work is definitely worse. Particularly when you’re a solid 20km from home. In the countryside. With 10% phone battery.
The good news is that at least it wasn’t raining when it happened and it was also on the way home from work rather than on the way TO work. Now that would have been more crazy than my little head could take.
I’m not sure why the chain broke open in that moment. I’d just crested a long climb and was just starting into the descent, clicking up the gears when it went pop! It seems that the cotter pin (the pin that joins one end of the chain to the other to make it one complete loop) broke off. I initially thought the chain had just come off and thought no problem, I’ll just whizz down to the bottom of the hill and pop it back on. So I indeed whizzed all the way to the bottom of the hill and realised oh right, there’s actually no chain on my bike.
Dope that I am, I then walked all the way back up the hill to search for my lovely bike chain. Long story short, the bike dudes in the bike shop said that my bike chain actually isn’t very good and had a poor locking mechanism (pin) in place keeping it together. They put a new Sram Powerlock link onto my existing chain so it’s working fine again now. However, they said I’d probably need to get a new chain and cassette before the summer and recommended a Sram chain. Apparently, the chain and cassette wear down at the same rate. Who knew?
The bike shop dude was quite adamant that Sram were the only chains they sell/ install on bikes, although he said Shimano were okay too. Otherwise he said he didn’t rate any other bike chains.
I’m fairly new to all this cycling tech so I thought I’d see about doing some research and putting up here for discussion or to help anyone else out there wondering about the same wonderings.
Bicycle Chains – What You Need to Know and What Are the Differences?
I’m going to cover this as a standalone topic in in the next couple of weeks so check back shortly for a run down on everything you need to know on chains.
Bicycle Components – What You Need to Know and What Are the Differences?
You can spend a LOT of money on bike components but is there much difference between them?
The Basics – Sram and Shimano (and all other manufactuers!) have a tiered system when it comes to the different ranges of components available. I made you a chart just cuz I like you 😉
Essentially, as you move up the tiers, the quality increases, as does the price. Significantly.
At the bottom you have Shimano Tiagra which is an entry level groupset and retails for about 550 euro. Next up, you have Shimano 105 – more expensive than Tiagra at 660 euro (ish) but quite a difference in performance if you’re looking to improve on the Tiagra but are operating within a tight budget.
The next jump up is quite a jump in terms of price. Ultegra –This level is usually bought by cyclists who’ve gone past the stage of being a beginner and are looking for something significantly better but yet aren’t fully ready (or don’t have the funds) to go bananas and commit to buying the Dura Ace set. Ultegra brings a lighter weight and noticeably more refined system than the lower levels. This 11-speed group has the same design features as the range topping Dura-Ace and offers all the performance most riders will ever need, but is 258g heavier than Dura-Ace.
The Ultegra groupset retails at 1180 euro. The Ultegra Di2 groupset retails for 2361 euro.
At the tippy top of Shimano’s choices is the Dura Ace range. You have the Dura Act Di2, which incorporates electronic gear shifting or just Dura Ace, minus the Di2 electronic shifting. Many professional bike teams use Shimano’s Dura Ace Di2 system. But it comes at a very high price so you really need to be someone who can appreciate the subtleties of gear change and the finer points of bike mechanics to justify the splurge. Features superb design and lightweight materials such as high-grade alloys, carbon fibre, and titanium.
Shimano’s Dura Ace Groupset retails for 2200 euro (ish) and the Di2 Groupset retails at about 3658 euro.
Sram’s Entry level groupset is Apex, on a similar level to Shimano’s Tiagra. Next up and comparable to Shimano’s 105 range is Sram’s Rival 22 range. The Rival groupset will costs 303 euro (approx)
Going up in price to Ultegra-level, SRAM’s Force group uses lightweight materials such as high-grade alloys and carbon fibre to be a very competitive gear setup. The Force groupset retails for 1109 euro (approx)
Moving up again, SRAM’s Red range is on a level with Shimano’s Dura Ace and is also used by many pro bike teams. “E-tap” is as you might have guessed, electronic gear shifting – same idea as Shimano’s Di2.
Sram’s Red 22 groupset retails for 1300 euro (approx). The Red E-tap Groupset retails for 2500 euro (approx)
As you can see there’s quite a lot of difference in terms of price between the various different groupsets available. I have tried not to bamboozle you with too much detail in this post and just to keep it simple. I know myself that research and reading on this topic tends to lead to brain saturation and utter confusion.
It also carries the danger of the more your read, the greater the higher end gear sounds and the more convinced you become that you really do need Shimano’s Di2 set on your bike. But the truth is that I don’t and you probably don’t either.
Decide how much you want to spend or can afford to spend and then look at the options within that range. This gear is very, very expensive and unless you can really feel the differnce between a subtle gear change or are racing at the pinnacle of the peloton, then I really don’t think riding with Shimano’s Di2 range or Sram’s E-tap system is going to make any bit of difference to your ride. And given the jaw-dropping difference in price, my opinion is it’s that it’s far too much to spend and absolutely not worth it.
Now if I won the lotto tomorrow, the first thing I would to is install Sram’s Red E-tap system on my brand new bike. No doubt. But that’s all it is – a luxury when you have lots of extra money lying around looking for something to spend it on. Any in reality, who has that?
I’m going off to research and find out everything I need to know about Bike chains and cassettes and I’ll be posting on both components in the next couple of weeks.
When I first started this cycling in the winter malarky last November-ish, I was a little shell-shocked, I have no problem admitting. Before then, I’d only ever taken the bike out of the shed between the months of June-October on days in between running days to get in some light cross-training. Come the end of October, I’d typically have packed in the bike after running the Dublin Marathon until starting running training properly again in Spring.
Alas, times have changed. Having not been able to run since last April, I’ve been on the bike 3-4 times a week and have pedalled on through the winter months. It’s been cold, it’s been wet and yes, it’s been emotional.
Depending on how you just read that, it could sound bleak. It’s not. Heading out early on a winter Sunday morning into a winter fog, trees frozen white and the fields hugging a low white fog… it’s nothing short of religious. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to over-romanticise it either – those mornings also involve freezing fingers despite wearing two pairs of gloves and numb feet (particularly the left one for some reason…) And on particularly cold days, it has also meant a very cold head.
Cycling in the winter months undoubtedly makes you tougher and more resilient as a cyclist. You don’t look out the winter and think “Nah, it’s too wet/ cold/ windy”. You don’t decide to turn back home just because the wind is kicking your ass after the first hour and you still have 2 more hours to go. If you can be soaked to the skin (wearing 2 jackets…), the wind blowing you backwards and take ANOTHER wrong turn and STILL keep going forward, that’s progress.
It might not feel like it at the time – in fact, it really doesn’t feel like it at the time – but that’s how you grow as a cyclist. It’s a lot like running that way – it’s all in your head. Your mentality is everything both in running and in cycling. Mental toughness is at least half of what makes up the essential ingredients for success.
Cycling this winter has been a revelation for me and also a kind consolation for not being able to run. It’s given me something to do when I couldn’t pop on my running shoes like I normally would every day. It’s given me the head space and time out I need on a daily basis. And it’s given me something fun to play around with while I wait for my feet to heal.
Having said that… I’m looking forward to the days getting longer and warmer, when I can head up into the Wicklow mountains without any fear of wet roads and, dear God, for those days when I don’t have to wear 3 layers of clothes on the bike! I can’t believe I used to just wear a short-sleeve cycling jersey, shorts and one pair of light socks… shocking.
The professional cycling season is about to get underway in earnest in next few months with the roll out of the Spring classics and I’m genuinely excited to see how it’s going to unfold. I may not be as tough as those guys, but cycling through these recent winter months, I could at least pretend to be for a few hours 😉