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Our fast-paced culture’s fascination with the newest technology has begun to spread to all walks of life. This facet of American society can be best seen in the world of professional sports. It’s a known fact that if it wasn’t for the advertisement industry the majority of professional sports would cease to exist. Every commercial break and stadium backdrop highlights dozens of commercial products every minute. The United States has been famous for this for decades but only recently did European sports follow in our footsteps. Activities that we associate as European such as rugby, soccer, and cricket have all jumped on the bandwagon.

These displays of materialism have even invaded my preferred sport of cycling. Never was this more apparent than when I was watching this year’s Tour de France. Every section of a stage, from the sprint points to the climbs’ summits, was sponsored by some organization trying to sell their product. After those three weeks of intense media coverage, I felt like every piece of gear I owned was completely inadequate. With the majority of high end bikes now weighing under a kilogram and ride computers I swear can do more than my cell phone, how is the average guy supposed to keep up?

In general, fascination with the best gear is unique among the other endurance sports. Swimmers and runners have only so much equipment they need, and I don’t see the evolution of running shorts taking off any time soon.

I learned a while ago that the longer you aim to go on bicycle the less important having the best gear becomes. Sure there are physical and physiological advantages to using high-end equipment like expending less energy to accomplish the same task as well as thinking you’re faster and stronger, but the great thing about endurance sports is that it levels the playing field for everyone. These sports don’t require special skills or a fat bank account to be competitive, only the drive to win.

Undoubtedly, running a hundred miles, swimming across the England Channel, or seeing how many miles you can cycle in 24 hours are extremely difficult challenges. And when you’re competing in one of these events, with all the sweat and blood that goes into your effort all the superficial layers of your personality fades away. That’s why I think everything that doesn’t prepare you for that experience is just a distraction.

For example, about a year ago I switched from a pair of drop handlebars to a bullhorn-style pair. The main reason I switched is because I find drop handlebars awkward. Your forearms are too close to the bars, the brakes are located too far up, and when I go to steer I feel I don’t have adequate control. Sure there are some downsides to using bullhorns: there’s a limited number of hand positions (actually only one if you have aerobars) and your wrists are bent at uncomfortable angles. But when I’m trying to cycle 200 miles I don’t want to spend any mental energy worrying about where to put my hands. Going into a race I know my hands are going to go numb and halfway through pain will begin to shoot up my forearms. But 50 miles from the starting line I begin to enter a zone of stillness within my mind, a place where the pain is almost translucent. The air rushing past my ears registers like the static of a nearby television set. Houses, trees, and cars wash by in a fusion of colors, and all I’m focusing on is that white line that seems to stretch on for an eternity. It is both an uplifting and dulling experience at once, and the farthest thing from my mind is making slight adjustments on the saddle or constantly switching my hand position.

Every athlete who’s pushed beyond the normal boundaries of human endurance is familiar with these feelings. And I bet most of them would rather stick to equipment and gear that they like rather than something newer and supposedly “better”.

While one of the goals endurance athletes is to lessen the amount of suffering we experience during an upcoming event, worrying about too many variables takes away not only from the quality of our training but also our ability to focus. Instead of spending all your time searching for the lightest and fastest parts just concentrate on the task in front of you. Besides, a couple grams won’t make much difference over 12 hours of pedaling.

Kyle Beck
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passionispain.com
 

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Two skinny J's
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What a timely post!
 

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Great post Kyle!

Last week I broke down and installed a good set of wheels and tires on my bike and the guys at work were all like, "What's next? What else are you going to buy? Carbon fiber handle bars? What???". I told them that the bike was complete. It needs nothing... except for one thing. It needs the idiot that pedals the bike to work harder at building itself. When it all boils down to it, it's all about the engine.
 

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retromike3
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handle bars and speed

there is a point that if you have similar physical fitness but one has a better aerodynamic position the one with the arrow will win. Case in point was the 1989 Tour de france with Greg Lemond.

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyvwtOQYQ-E]1989 Tour de France Final Time Trial - YouTube[/ame]

Granted that if you put a FRED equipped with the best money can by against Alberto Conitdor on a 1972 varsity Alberto would destroy him, and there is a point with technology of diminishing returns But, at some point the stuff does seem to work. P.S. drop bars if used correctly do keep your hands from falling asleep. That's why they came up with bar ends for mountain bikes, so you can have a different place to put your hands.



mike
 

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Hell most of us would have trouble keeping up with Contador hanging on to a rope attached to his seat post. Technology only does so much. Frankly I wish I could control a stage race for a couple of weeks. Instead of the typical stage race, Id want to see who was the best overall cyclist in every discipline. One day would be a crit on any bike you wanted. The next day would be on a track bike using fixies. The next would be a day doing down hills on 29ers. Then a trail ride on the mountain bike of your choice. No support cars. If it breaks you fix it or your out. No domestics. You don't get flunkies to do stuff that you don't want to do yourself. No team managers. Riders make their own decisions. If some jerk starts running along side you in a climb, riders get a time bonus for a swift kick in the butt to the runner. Double the time bonus if your foot finds the butt of a fat guy in spandex. That to me sounds like a race
 

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Two skinny J's
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I guess it all goes back to what Mr. LeMond said! "It never gets easier, you just go faster"
 

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Kind of a bike pentathalon? Not a bad idea at all Pbm! How good a biker under any conditions as opposed to how good a biker under a tremendously narrow set of controlled and protected conditions.... apples and oranges!

I like the idea of not having to have the professional version of everything, but I reserve the right to lust after that stuff anyhow! I love my crappy ol' Fuji, but I've always got a next bike in mind... the one I'd like to be able to afford to step up to.
 

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YAY BAIKS!
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I'm not a racer. I never will be a racer. I care nothing for racing. I count time in hours not milliseconds. When you break down the cost to make a bike faster cycling is extremely expensive. I have better things to spend my money on.
 

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retromike3
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ya Nigal !

I used to tell people that I retired to the home for the perpetually slow. I like going fast, but I just don't have the genetics to be a good racer(short legs, long arms). I do like going fast though and I seem to do it lately by crawling up steep hills in super low gears so I can bomb down them. If you have some arrow bars it does help. Arrow components and seatposts and down tubes aren't worth it I.M.H.O. though.

mike
 

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Yesterday tired old man, Today retired old man
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I am rideing with a tired old engin, woren out, it just keeps getting slower and slower. I hope it just keeps going 20 more years at least.
 

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Fancy gear may not make you any faster, but it could make someone else make another decision. When they see you coming down the road do they think 1. Now there is a rider 2. Poser 3. start looking for Doris or Fred. 4. Laughing 5 all but option 1.
 
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