We arrived down at the start of the club spin and a tall young lad was milling about the lanes, I said hello and got nothing back. He is early in life, so you give this a pass.
The rest of the mid-week dawn spin arrived. A mix of older employed, older retired, someone possibly on the run and school kids on their summer break. Anyone who can possibly get a Wednesday morning free. All experienced cyclists and one had a new bike. Stunning machine. A Bianchi with an aero head tube and exhaust ports will give you 7 watts. Wheels with the manufacturer’s name in size 400 font, so the world knows you mean business – or business is good to afford the wheels. Either way, the big logos were a signal of intent.
One of the club riders who knows the young lad greeted him with warmth. They knew him enough to question his presence on a club racing spin on ‘that’ bike. A 20kg Mountain bike with massive tyres and a rear view mirror. I didn’t hear the answer but am delighted to see youth on bikes, any bike. But my brain shouted, He won’t get 10 kilometres down the road on that rolling gate. I didn’t tell anyone I thought that, as I think they think I’m nicer than that. I’m not. 10km max.
At 7 am in the summer, the sun is above the buildings and treetops to give warm air to the bare legs and short shadows. An hour earlier when I left home the sun was low and cold and empty. By 9am the group is spinning South at 33kph and changing at the front to share the wind. The memory of the kid on the MTB is long gone, 30km done, so he is probably back at home…until I rotate around beside him. I thought the burr of his tyres was some deep section carbon wheels behind me. And there was where my interrogation began and the results are in. Seventeen, enjoyed rugby, been cycling since February. He has a good bike in getting fixed so he took his dads. And there he pedalled. Gloriously undergeared and overyouthed. No concern in his runners, flat pedals and football shorts to the dress code we all uniformly adhered to, in the desire to belong.
He and he alone is why DuraAce is bullshit. We faff over watts gained and the comparison of 3D printed saddles.
I read just a single news article last week. And to my shame, it wasn’t about the war in Ukraine or someone commenting on the melting ice caps. No. Some pleb took vernier gauge and measured all the tyre widths on the pro cyclist’s bikes at the Tour de France. I eagerly read all 3,000 words. I also was present in a conversation that ‘the’ rider preferred his cycling shoes with one BOA rather than 2, as one dial was more aero. I didn’t know how ‘aero’ the young lad’s flip up plastic rear mudguard was, but it didn’t stop him one revolution. His mountain bike was an island of joy in a stormy sea of 6 and 7kg bikes.
Did anyone ever, ever, get dropped from not having DuraAce? NO. Is it nice? Yes, it’s lovely. We, en masse, have nearly convinced ourselves that it is needed. Shimano 105 works as well. Ultegra is nearly as light, so why do we insist on paying double? Because we can, and it is pretty. Every purchase most people make is a status move, Do I? can I ? see this? “For the discerning rider.” Are we discerning to win? not to get dropped ? or appear mighty?
None of it really matters. What matters is the ride. If a nice bike makes the ride better, get it. If you can afford the latest 34 speed internal gear system with AI controlled shifting connected directly to your cortex, get it.
Will it get you a win? No. Will it get you up the hill quicker?..No. We all know it.
The lad on the mountain bike wasn’t last up any hill on the way home. I have no words of comfort for the riders he passed, one of whom was on the new bike, with the 7 watt saving that Bianchi has made to the head tube. I wonder how many watts the lad could save taking the bell off the handlebars?
But he was there solely for the ride. Magnificently unconcerned about projected image or watts . The purest spin ever.