Look for it.
Those not smitten with the bicycle are oblivious. I’ve studied them and find them quite a curious lot. They seem to regard a spin on a two-wheeler like most folks regard a picnic. It’s something pleasant enough, done when the weather is grand or if one is in need of spending an excess of leisure time. Otherwise, out-of-mind. Take it, or not…either way is just as fine. Is this not an odd way to view life?
We bicyclists, thankfully, are enlightened. If it were not so, I fear we would perish. Riding the bicycle is sustenance. It is food, water,…a breath of air. When a harsh alignment of circumstances keeps us off the bike for a few days, we wither. Backed into a corner, our survival instinct lashes out. Our family and friends fear us. It’s desperation and perseveration until the blizzard passes. Then, after a spirited gallop through the countryside on a finely tuned machine, peace returns.
Only a few short days ago, I posted an account of a bicycle commute into work. It was about one of those lucky situations that just happen. Fortunately, we sometimes are able to recognize our blessings and pause to count them.
This post is also about a bicycle commute to work, but the circumstances are quite different. For one thing, the days have grown longer and this ride included the benefit of more sunlight. This trip also included the excitement of a brand new bicycle. Weather conditions, so liberally praised the last time, were a bit more adversarial this time. Even the purpose of this post is different from the one previous.
While celebration was the intent last time, the purpose of this post is to document research. There is a curious phenomenon called New Bike Syndrome (NBS) that has been reported by cyclists. For the uninitiated, NBS is an alleged performance increase experienced during those first few hours on the new bicycle. It is common to hear riders describe this. They might say something like, “Now that I’ve got my new XYZ, I’ve increased the average speed on my 12-mile loop by 0.6 mph” or “I’ve never been able to stay with the lead group on our club rides, but last Saturday with my new XYZ, I finally did it!”
With a 20-mile commute into a 20-mph (gusts to 30-mph) headwind, I was hoping for a little NBS to kick in. I wasn’t looking to set any speed records, or even any personal best times. I just wanted to arrive at work on time and still be able to walk. Well, to be honest, I wanted the NBS to make it EASY to ride into a direct 20-30 mph headwind. So did it work?
I am happy to report that I did experience NBS. New bikes are clean and their drivetrains are quiet. A brand new chain running on brand new chain rings, rear cogs, and derailleur pulleys makes a soft, mechanical whirring sound that stirs the bicyclists’ soul. The new Rivendell also fits very well and handles delightfully. I’m not sure why, but the AHH is noticeably smoother than the Kogswell. Both have the same comfy 650B tires. Both have a similar wheelbase and similar length chainstays. The point is that the ride quality was a joy and I was grateful to take Homer for a ride longer than a 5-minute, post-build test ride. Still, I had a tinge of dissatisfaction.
I am very sorry to report that NBS did not make it easy to ride into that headwind. I did arrive at work on time. I was even able to walk, although not easily. Even with the new, shiny, bike. Even with the whirring, stirring chain. Even with the multitude of gears. Riding into a 20-30 mph headwind is HARD. I suppose I could have geared-down dramatically, but arriving at work on time was a pretty major objective.
I have concluded, therefore, based on exhaustive (exhausting?) research, that (1) NBS is real and an experience I recommend for all my cycling buddies, and (2) the NBS experience does have its limits. Oh yeah, one more thing…(3) riding into a 20-30-mph headwind is still more fun than driving a car (at least with a good dose of NBS, it is).
Just after sunrise on Saturday morning, I walked into the kitchen for breakfast. Looking over to where I store my bikes (living room, of course), I noticed the light pouring in through the window. It was a pair o’ country bikes ready for service; one fixed wheel Kogswell P/R for simplicity and connectedness, and one Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen with more than enough low gears for hauling stuff over topographic humps. It was a lovely, heart warming sight.
They were ready, but I was not. My already excessive work week spilled over into the weekend. Before the weekend is over, I’ll be flying out of town for a few days. I’ll give you a hint, the travel is not for a bicycle tour. No riding for me for awhile. When I do have time to ride, it will feel like a fitness start-over…again. Until then, it will be simple frustration and perseveration.
Ironic, isn’t it? That which enables me to own this delightful pair o’ country bikes is the very thing that doesn’t allow me to enjoy them. They say that “time is money”. Well, I’m here to tell you that “money is not always time”.