flirting with (and hopefully not joining) the dark side

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  • flirting with (and hopefully not joining) the dark side
  • geetee1972

    Welcome to the slippery slope. Here’s what may well happen.

    Riding more by commuting longer distances will improve your fitness no end. As you get fitter you will start to enjoy road riding even more and may well even start to develop a competitive streak 😀 if you haven’t already.

    I’m talking as a dyed in the wool mountain biker who has in the last two years gone over to the dark side (or rather gone back from where I started 30 years ago).

    1) I don’t think there is much difference between a road and CX bike other than tyres and brakes and once disc brakes do finally catch on (and I am sure they will) there will be even less. There are sometimes geometry differences but they are pretty marginal where they do exist.
    2) I would watch out for cheap aluminium alloy frames which can be really uncomfortable and harsh although they will be lighter than an equivalent steel. Hub geared bikes also tend to be significantly heavier.
    3) When I started back on the road I rode in baggies and an MTB helmet for the first six months. If you move away from that to lycra so be it! The greater sin is hairy legs and lycra shorts in my view.
    4)Honestly, even as a dyed in the wool mtber, I love my road bike and road riding now. There is a zen like quality to it and the feeling of speed and moving along in a fast and smooth way is a lot like riding a great ribbon of single track.

    look at it this way, it’s all two wheels, it’s all good. I get the fear of being seduced but life’s too short to worry about whether you should be a roadie or a mountain biker.

    Triathlon though is a whole other evil and can never be condoned in any way unless you’re trying out for the Third Reich and want to be a member of the master race.

    5)There was a great response to drinking beer in Cyclist last month. In short, all good roadies drink beer.

    Have fun and enjoy yourself.

    Premier Icon adsh

    On the roads you describe and which I commute on they aren’t that much faster than a well sorted HT with hard tyres and aggresive position. I’m about 5-10mins faster on the road bike on my 18m commute on minor lanes, cycle lanes and bridleways and prefer the comfort and wet weather braking of the HT. So I’d try the MTB first. What distance are you talking about?

    1) My oppinion is that riding a CX bike on road has 2 drawbacks. One, CX tyres corner horribly on tarmac (about as badly as 25mm slicks on mud and roots). Two, they’re a bit like riding an ‘enduro’ bike on an ‘XC’ ride, it feels a bit dull and uninvolving and not quite as quick.

    2) Ditto cheep and nasty aluminium. Get a 2nd hand CAAD-X or similar rather than a cheep new bike. All CX bikes are nasty and harsh though, they’re built for a 1 hour race, not comfort. If you want comfort look at what used to be toruing bikes, now marketed as ‘CX’ bikes to commuters.

    3) No, but you may end up with a similarly sore arse to spending a nght in the cells with Big Bubba who wants a cuddle.

    4) Its riding a bike. It’s miserable on main roads in winter, lovely on quiet lanes in the summer.

    5) Beer is fine, just not mid group ride unless you never want to be invited back. Ditto a heavy curry the night before.

    Premier Icon dangeourbrain

    I’m shortly going to be moving house and my commute will as a result, be leaving the sensible mtb distance and entering the skiny tyres and canti brakes distance instead so I need some advice.

    I’ve done the hard work and convinced she who must be obeyed that new house = new bike, or more to the point another new bike, so I now have questions about the easy part.

    1) other than tires is there actually a difference between cyclocross and road bikes? I’m on a budget that cyclocross bikes largely don’t seem to fall into but my new commute on dryer days is much more direct with a few rooty but tame bridal ways cutting out swathes of tarmac.

    2) is there something I should be careful of at the budget end, lots of lower priced bikes have ?x8 setups and I’ve a sneaking suspicion that the free hubs are different somehow meaning new wheels as well as transition should I wish to upgrade at some point.

    3) will I be arrested for riding a road bike whilst not wearing lycra?

    4) is road cycling in anyway enjoyable and thus likely to insidiously convert me to the dark side by virtue of exposure or is it as dull as I expect and likely to remain a means to an end and leave me to enjoy my hairy legged and epo free life?

    5) I don’t like cappuccinos or lattes and but I do like beer. Am I going to suck at riding a road bike?

    Any advice will be greatly received.

    Premier Icon dangeourbrain

    I’m fairly safe from tri I think, used to swim like a fish but several years of noir swimming my more recent attempts left me suitably embarrassed at my attempts that I doubt I shall try again unless I’m on something that sinks. Oh and running is horrible.

    Thanks for the pointers on cheap alu, was leaving towards steel anyhow.

    New commute will be around 20 miles on the shorter route, two or three miles longer for the all tarmac route and verging on 30 four the “os says there is a bridal way over there” route I’ll doubtless manage on occasional summer evenings if I bring the mtb.

    The big reason for not trying it on a mountain bike for the tarmac is that I no longer own a hard tail – my clown bike was supposed to be a rigid but ended up not being so getting one now would mean her indoors thinking I was wrong (this is very bad) in building a full suss instead and also in her being able to recognise that I have bought another mountain bike, the distinct risk here being I will be expected to sell one of my existing pair.

    To clarify the not owning a hard tail before I’m pilloried for it, I sold my p7 to my brother, who doesn’t use it and allows me to borrow it, fine for odd times I want a hard tail but not practical for daily commute.

    My main concern with actually finding it enjoyable is I’ll be heading out into the rather flatter part of Yorkshire and will give it more convenient to ride a road bike from my door than to go somewhere with my mountain bike, if I find it quite hateful I’ll be safe from my own laziness.


    Riding from my door is the reason I started back on the road. It started as a way of getting in more actual riding after having a family made it harder to justify 3.5 hours for a 2 hour ride (because I had to drive to the hills).

    That was two years ago and now I’m up to about 250km a week and am 20kg lighter.


    My commute is done on a V brake CX bike.

    I find Smart Sams to be a great compromise that allows me to ride on the South Downs when its dry and the road when its not.

    When there is a period of wet weather or in the winter I tend to avoid the off road commute and pop some wide road tyres on and stick to the road.

    Premier Icon dangeourbrain

    Much along my lines of thinking cyclistm.

    The practicalities of commuting off road in winter for me are nil, too much cleaning to do of both bike and I when I arrive at work to keep me passable for a day in the office and the bike serviceable for any length of time without chewing through consumables at a rate of knots. Road muck is bad enough but I can at least gt the drive train etc when I get to work without needing to de mud everything.


    On that point Dangeourbrain, it’s well worth getting a bike with full mudguards for commuting. It makes a big difference to how wet you get!

    Premier Icon funkrodent

    1) Proper Cyclo-Cross bikes are designed to race on. They are very rigid and very harsh. This means they accelerate very quickly, but are uncomfortable on long rides (not just sore arse, also numb hands from vibrations etc). Road bikes are differentiated by out and out racers at one end, to slack, slow tourers at the other end. For commuting purposes you want the moon on a stick, ie something that is fast and responsive, is also comfortable and is flexible in that it will take big tyres (usually up to 28mm) with mudguards and will also take a rack if you need one. Any versatile roadbike with decent tyres will be fine on gentle offroad. I’ve ridden my Kinesis from Manchester to Liverpool and back on the Trans Pennine trail (primarily smooth trail, but with lots of stony and rooty bits, not to mention glassy bits where it cuts through estates outside Runcorn) with 25mm Conti Gatorskins without a puncture.

    2) Depends on what you mean by budget. Certainly you want to steer clear from anything with the workds Apollo on it 😀 . I’d recommend having a look at Kinesis. Excellent aluminium frames. Complete build with Tiagra x10 is about £1,100, or you can buy frame and forks for about £380 and then get the (old) full build kit off Chain Reaction for £330. This is what I did. It’s 9 speed Tiagra, but in truth, unless you’re planning to do ridiculous miles and/or ridiculous hills it’s as many gears as you will ever need. The Kinesis frames are that good that you can then up the spec over time.

    3) Nope. But over time you will come to realise that the aerodynamic benefits of not lugging baggy shorts/top round with you are sufficient to help you get over the embarrassment. By that time you will hopefully have lost enough weight that you won’t look like a brightly coloured whale on two wheels (not that I’m suggesting for a minute that you need to lose weight like 😉 )

    4) Good mate of mine who thought nothing of doing the Mary Townley loop on his own for fun on the Saturday before hitting the hills on Sunday for some downhill action – every weekend – bought a roadbike for commuting/fitness purposes. He still mountain bikes a lot but is just as likely to be swooping around Yorkshire on the road bike. In fact I should probably put you guys in touch! Fact of the matter is that road biking has its own magic. When you’re gliding along fast on a smooth country lane and powering up (in my case small) climbs, prior to going hell for leather down the other side, it is both peaceful and exhilarating. As mentioned above, there is also something quite zen about mile after mile of tarmac flowing smoothly underneath you. Also, because of the constant pedalling nature of roadbiking (unlike stop/start of lots of mountain biking) as long as you’re going at a reasonable lick, weight will drop off in no time. If I had to choose one I’d choose mountain biking for sure, but it’d be a pretty close call..
    5) The more you ride a road bike, the more beer you can drink without it having a negative impact on your wasitline 8) I see it as a win/win scenario..


    5) I don’t like cappuccinos or lattes and but I do like beer. Am I going to suck at riding a road bike?

    Proper roadies don’t drink cappuccino or latte. Beer or espresso and you’ll be fine.

    Premier Icon dangeourbrain

    Espresso and beer you say? Now I’m sold, sounds like my ideal daily liquid intake.

    I’m going to stay away from the self build option I think, mainly because I can’t be trusted to resist the “oh that dura-ace group is so much shinier than this…” vice inside my head and I’ll end up with a very flash sub 9kg commuter that cost twelve times my initial budget.

    Premier Icon dangeourbrain

    Also weight loss worries me, I know how this works for me and where that weight will be lost – I end up with limbs like a daddy long legs, man boobs a belly that sticks put under my emaciated ribs and bones visible through my pale skin.

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