May 25, 2012

An Introduction

Papillon, camping in the Cévennes

Regular readers know this: I love to tour ... longer rides, away from home (ok, ok, in southern France) solo.

Here is a photo of my beautiful, perfect, touring bike, Papillon. We travel together very happily, uphill and down, mile after mile, across mountains, next to seas, loaded with whatever I need (she needs very little) and have a blast. I can't wait for our next trip, hopefully in September.

Papillon, climbing in the Pyrenees
We have a comfortable, safe, reliable ride  over pavement, gravel and dirt, through village, town and city, staying in campgrounds, b&bs, or hotels, sometimes moving long distances on planes and trains. I depend totally on Papillon to take me pretty much wherever I want to go. My friend Abby famously told a crowd at a dinner that I have an emotional relationship with my bike. Most everybody thought that was funny. I just thought it accurate, like ....duh, yeah, of course, so what?

Regular readers also know that I decided to make some goals closer to home, to try riding some group events here, and so have ridden three metric centuries this spring. Last week, I also joined a local group ride of about 25 or 30 riders. I have enjoyed all those experiences, they are fun, challenging, and keep me grounded in the present, usually a good thing.

Also, although some of you say you don't believe me, you know that I am totally slow, and get dropped, dropped fast, climbing hills, when I then feel like a boulder rolling downhill. Downhill backwards, the wrong way. It doesn't seem so slow climbing when I'm happily touring solo, well it seems slow, but doesn't change the experience so much.

In groups, and group events here it does change the experience.  No matter how I train, how many hill repeats I do, I am always near the very back. Now, I know my demographics are against me, and I can't change that,  but more experienced riders keep telling me..."You won't be able to keep up unless you are on a road bike." They tell me the geometry is so different, and the resistance from the tires, and that the weight will be much lighter.

Pinarello, me, and unplanted garden beds
Let me introduce my new bike, a road bike, pictured here. We've only had three rides, and she doesn't yet have a name...but wow, it is a totally different experience. Fast, responsive, quick, light, built for the road. A completely and totally different ride. A Pinarello FP3.  Yes indeed, the geometry of a road bike is totally different than that of a touring bike, and the riding is a totally different experience altogether. I rode with the same group yesterday ... and kept up just fine. It's true, the route was flatter and come the next really hilly route I'm sure I'll be dropped. But not the same way. Fun!

Pinarello and dinged up car
By the way, yesterday another rider (who was really skilled, probably very fast, and certainly very generous) started teaching me how to draft. Very cool!

I'll put a few more pictures up soon, this is all I have just now. So, Gerry, you got it right away!

Well, there were three paragraphs ending in exclamation points. I am glad to learn that it's ok to ride different kinds of bikes. Aren't those two beautiful bikes! Four paragraphs.


  1. Congratulations! That's a very handsome (or perhaps pretty - you didn't specify its gender) machine!

    Good luck with the road bike. Drafting is an amazing experience - you save about 30% of your energy when doing so. The drawback is you spend your time looking at the butt and rear wheel of the person in front of you. You look at the surrounding scenery at your own peril.

    1. Hi Steve,

      Thanks! I must admit your reports on your new Madone were among the many influences that helped me to decide to jump for a road bike. She is indeed beautiful, and today brought me up the nearest big hill with far less effort than I've ever climbed it before.

      I doubt that drafting or paceline riding will ever become my major style of riding, but it is fun, and good to learn.

      Happy pedalling! Suze

  2. Awesome! She is a beauty! I've never ridden a touring bike but can imagine it rolls with much more lethargy than a true road bike. You are about to have a great summer of riding. Now you will need a new car to go with the new bike.

    1. Hi Ellen,

      Thanks! Great to hear from you! You are exactly on the mark when you say lethargy ... it often felt like I was working so hard, and moving so slowly. Just different rides, that slow pace never much concerns me touring.

      As far as a new car goes... almost surely not. Something else always feels more important to my quality of life ... say, a new bike or a ticket to France. Pau, this time, I hope. So I drive my dinged up car without resentment!

      And yes, I am looking forward to a summer of road riding here.

      Enjoy the left coast,


  3. I've recently got back onto my road bike after years on my mountain bike and it's taking some getting used to. But it makes for much better cycling. We needed the mountain bikes for the roads in Ireland and for lugging kids around on child seats and trailer bikes, but no longer, hooray!

    1. Hi Steph,
      Have fun on that bike ... probably feels a bit like new. Actually, have fun on both bikes. Don't know exactly where you are, I imagine you north and perhaps a bit west of the Cévennes, but I've read there is some super mountain biking in France. Very different experiences, I imagine.

  4. A little note on drafting: John and I were climbing yesterday side by side and our HRs were about the same, then he took the lead (because I couldn't..) and his jumped up 150 BPM or so, while mine stayed the same (he was pulling harder, obviously, but I didn't have to expend any more energy to profit from the extra speed). And that's on a climb!

    1. Makes sense, and I've read that it can be a 30% saving, but actually experiencing the effect was still amazing. I know you are talking about climbing and drafting, but also I rode two "good" local climbs here this weekend, and can absolutely feel the difference in heart rate between riding the two bikes. Way lower on the Pinarello.

    2. Make that '15 BPM or so'...

    3. 15 BPM would work great in my world. I'm wondering how the "30% energy savings" that I read about is measured or estimated, maybe in power output or calories, or some other technical thing.

  5. Suze, you won't be surprised to hear how glad I am that you got yourself some speed! It IS a completely different experience, isn't it? AND you got an Italian bike - Bravo!

    1. Thanks, and nope, I'm not surprised! Your descriptions of your Bianchi, like Steve's of his Madone, played their roles in influencing me. And yeah, a few years ago I never would have guessed I'd jump for this beautiful Italian bike, which is fast and fits me noticeably better than anything else I tried. Some day, it will have to take me for a spin in Italy!


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