Friday, June 08, 2007

Heavy Metal

After two days on the road bike I was sick of the highway and ready to get back on the Cross-Check. I'd needed to ride rapid transit Wednesday because I had to get to a Zoning Board meeting (stupid civic involvement) and again on Thursday so I could put the supper casserole in the oven at a reasonable hour.

My road bike weighs about 21 pounds. That's incredibly portly by modern standards, but back when I started anything below 25 was decent. The Cross-Check weighs about 26-28. Actually, it's probably nudging 30 with the commuting load. So the tight, 21-pound road bike feels downright skittish by comparison.

After 17 years on the same commuting route, I have every line dialed. It even occurred to me that when I ride the fixed gear I probably make very nearly the exact same number of pedal strokes every time I ride the route. Start with the right pedal up, ride the exact line the exact distance...weird.

On the light bike I notice quicker acceleration and easier climbing. The low gear is 39-26, compared to the average low of 36-28 on the Surly, with a bailout to 30-28 on the walls. I never ride the 30 on the straight route into town, but I do use it on the nasty climbs in North Wolfeboro on the way home.

The Cross-Check is tight enough to sprint and corner well, but has long enough chainstays and slack enough angles to take the harshness out of it. And there's the weight.

In the corners, I can crawl from one end of it to the other without it changing its line. I just pour it into the groove and hang on. Not that I can't change lines if I need to. It just feels more like that big racing motorcycle with the rider hanging off the inside of it in the corner, compared to the twisted torso of a rider carving a line on a light road bike. I can carve with it, too. It just flows more than it snaps.

On the descents, I like to feel that mass run away with me. Gravity grabs us by the shirt-tails on the next climb, though. Shift smoothly through the gears as the bike slows rather than leap up and stomp yourself to exhaustion trying to preserve speed for another few yards.

I draw the line at the extravagant tonnage of bikes that revel in their girthiness. Too old, I guess. I've had my hernias, my creaky knees. But just as there's such a thing as too much weight, I swear there's such a thing as too little.

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