I recently posted a story about riding the Bon Ton Roulet bicycle tour of the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York with my friend, Bob Hines.
Besides the beautiful country and lakes, I think the bikes we used were also interesting.
This time, we rode very different bikes than we have during previous extended rides in different parts of the country.
When Bob and I took off for the Bicycle Tour of Colorado for our first multi-day ride, we had just bought road bikes. While there’s really a big difference, to the casual observer, our then-new bikes look a lot like cycles the “big boys” ride in races like the Tour de France.
They have dropped handlebars with the big brake levers that also serve as gear shifters. While they’re several pounds heavier than the pro bikes, our cycles’ half-carbon-fiber, half-aluminum frames are much lighter than any other bike either of us had ever owned.
We’d owned our road bikes for just a few months before we took off for Colorado and might have considered having them modified, but we were too attached to our new toys to ever contemplate using other bikes on our first multi-day tour.
We paid for it.
You see most road bikes have only two front gears.
Being two older “flatlanders” from Minnesota, there were times when we were riding up mountains that we could have used a third gear, a granny gear.
It wasn’t that we would have definitely made it over the highest pass of the tour, even with a granny gear – thin air and lack of experience still would have made that unlikely. But, instead of getting halfway up the mountain before looking for a ride on a support truck, we might have made it another mile or half mile.
On another day when walked part of the way up a mountain, maybe we could have ridden all or most of that distance.
But we were determined to take our new road bikes on the tour.
We were older, wiser and more familiar with our road bikes when preparing for this year’s tour.
In other words, our toys weren’t new anymore and we could admit to ourselves that there might be better options for the Bon Ton Roulet.
I was determined to get a new bike.
My wife, Sofia, thought that was a really bad idea.
Guess who prevailed in that difference of opinion.
In the meantime, Bob realized that he needed a different kind of bike if he was going successfully ride the hilly terrain around the Finger Lakes.
But he didn’t want to buy another bike.
“Why don’t you just put skinny tires on your mountain bike?” I asked him. It has three front gears and its gearing is designed for – of all things – mountains.
Since we’d be riding paved roads, I pointed out to Bob, the fat tires mountain bikes are usually equipped with for dirt trails and gravel roads would just be extra weight and drag.
That’s what he did … and some upgrades and repairs.
Actually, Bob had quite a few upgrades and repairs done.
And, after my difference of opinion with Sofia, I also took my mountain bike to the shop for quite a few upgrades and repairs.
But, when we took our newly modified mountain bikes out on a few rides, I realized I’d created a monster.
Bob was leaving me in his dust.
Now neither of us are speed demons. We’re no threat to Lance Armstrong or any current pro cyclist, with or without performance-enhancing drugs.
We’re just a couple of old guys who enjoying bike riding.
But, on our road bikes, we were pretty evenly matched.
Something about the combination of Bob and that old Schwinn Moab of his equaled my seeing the back of him from at least several dozen yards if not a quarter mile or so.
I gave up my modified mountain bike for my first serious bike, a Schwinn Super Sport. It has three front gears and road bike tires, which are slightly bigger in diameter and significantly skinnier than the tires on Bob’s Moab.
While riding together here the Willmar area, I could keep pace with Bob.
I was sure I had the right bike for the Bon Ton.
In Upstate New York, however, I was usually chasing him once again.
One day that actually proved to be a good thing when, after chasing him for half an hour, I was closing in on him as he missed a turn we were supposed to take.
I may be slow, but I’m sure.