Wednesday, 16 September 2009

I'm not riding with you on that monstrosity...

'I'm not riding with you on that monstrosity...'

Death sentence. For my budget Giant OCR2. I swear you could see it flinch.

Monstrosity? Cheap, yep. Harsh, yep. Fun to ride, er, nope. Not at all. In truth the OCR took to the Peak's pock-marked tarmac like a duck takes to, well, full contact karate. It hated the place.

On southern Spain's Botox-smooth, sinuous limestone roads, none of this mattered. But over here it felt like a low rent John Travolta clone trying to strut its stuff in a northern working men's club. More importantly, I hated riding it. Every other bike I own, well, I feel something for - warmth, fondness, whatever - but the Giant was a harsh, badly-fitting, wrist-cracking trial of patience at best and just painful at worst.

So it found itself on bike death row. Waiting. For something else to arrive and replace it.

And something turned out to be Planet X - Lynskey - Ti Race thing, a beautifully welded collection of matt-brushed titanium tubes recommended by a mate who ought to know as something that would have soul and smoothness in one. Speccing it was a step into the unknown, but it was built up with love and meandering procrastination - Campag Chorus 11 - 'it has to be Campag' - in a Spinal Tap stylee, FSA compact drops, USE finishing kit (free), Ksyrium SLs and, eventually, with help, gorgeous bar-tape from the lovely And no, not pink or with flowers on.

The best thing I ever bought.

There's a warmth to it that's hard to describe. It's supple, arrow fast, sharp but forgiving and next to a mountain bike, feels like a jet plane rushing down the runway for take-off. And every time I ride it, it makes me smile, which I never thought a road bike could or would.

Why? The speed. The liberating minimalism of riding without a pack. Sharp, synapse-shredding downs and leg-burning climbs and, above all, two other things: the sheer ability to cover distance at speed, 'we're where?' and being able to ride along chatting away with friends in a way you just can't on a mountain bike. Just lovely.

And it all started with what I thought was pure bike snobbery. And wasn't.

I'm never going to be a lithe, shaven-legged, graceful Tour wannabe. And I'll probably always feel a bit like a mountain biker on a road bike and look like one - no, there's no peak on my helmet - and I'm never going to be properly fast, too far gone and too slow for that, but who cares? Snap, click, go, pedal, straight out of the door. Every time, any time.

Road bikes are lovely. And lovely road bikes are the icing on the cake.