Since I started teaching, I've tried to bike to work as often as I can. This means that for most of the fall, and a good chunk of the spring I cycle about 80 km per week. Not a huge amount for serious cyclists, but decent. Last week I was especially proud when I noticed that I had worn through my rear tire.
It's funny, because wearing through that tire (and needing to buy a new set) was part of a startling revelation for me. You see, I have a 15 speed mountain bike, it's a solid, fairly basic machine. No shocks or anything fancy, a bit on the heavy side with big tires on 26" wheels. It's not really the best bike for suburban commuting, but not the worst either.
On my rides I frequently encounter more serious cyclists. You know, road bikes, pedal clips, spandex everything. I was always amazed, and frustrated, as they appeared to effortlessly sail passed me, no matter how hard I was (or thought I was working). This got me thinking about getting a new bicycle, but a decent bike runs for somewhere north of $700, so I needed to give it some consideration.
Once my tire wore out, I decided to replace my 2" tires with more road-friendly 1.5" tires. I figured that this would make a HUGE difference in my speed. I put the tires on this morning and headed off to work. Sure enough, the ride was stiffer, and it felt like I was going faster with the same effort. Here's the kicker though, two "serious" cyclists whizzed past me, just like before. To add insult to injury, they were old.
I was pissed. Clearly, my 26" wheels were too small, and my bike frame was too heavy. This bike would never cut it - I had to get a new one.
As the two drew ahead of me, I had two startling realizations:
1. These guys had giant, like GIANT calf muscles and more importantly,
2. THEY WERE PEDALING MUCH FASTER THAN I WAS.
Holy crap. It's not the bike. It's ME. I'm the reason that I'm slower than those guys. I forced myself to match their pedaling rhythm, and lo and behold - I was able to stay much closer to them.
Now don't get me wrong. I know that a lightweight 21 speed bike with skinny tires on 29" wheels will go faster than a heavy bike with smaller wheels and wider tires. But those guys would have kicked my ass if they were riding tricycles.
All this to say, when you're bitching about things not going your way - because you don't have the right job, or the right gear or the right tools or the right whatever - double check and make sure that the problem isn't YOU.