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Dirtmonger Cleans Up

Dirtmonger Cleans Up

You might remember our roady colleague Michael taking out a mountain bike for the first time late last year. Now Tom Richards, our videographer and an avid mountain biker, has had a taste of road cycling and surprised himself by quite liking it! Here's what he had to say:

Up until roughly two weeks ago, the thought of riding a road bike was not one that had ever crossed my mind. Having grown up riding mountain bikes (proper bikes) since my early teens, road cycling was something that never interested me. My overall opinion of road cycling was that it was boring, the climbs were just unnecessary and lycra was just plain silly.

This way of thinking was confirmed for me after I spent my two summers of 2012 and 2013 living in Morzine in the French Alps for the duration of the riding season. The downhill mountain bike trails in the Portes du Soleil region are some of the best in the world, which make them well worth the thirteen hour drive at the start and end of the season. I wouldn't, however, make that journey to go ride a road bike, yet a large number of people do. I will admit to being guilty of heckling road riders struggling up the climbs whilst I was sat on the chairlift or in the van on the way to go riding. I just didn't get it.

So with that in mind, when it came to my time to choose my loan bike, the obvious choice was to go for another mountain bike. But I already have a mountain bike for every type of riding, so if I had gone for an On-One bike it wouldn't have been used that much. So instead I choose a road bike: a Planet X N2A. With its full-carbon aero frame and fork, Shimano Ultegra 6800 groupset and 60mm carbon clinchers, theres no denying its a very nice bike. Probably far too much bike for for my first road bike but that's one of the perks of the job! Upon collecting my bike I also sorted myself out with bib shorts, a road jersey, shoes and pedals. So there I was, all the gear and no idea, ready for my first road ride!

My first experience of road cycling was just a quick hour's ride from Hunters Bar to Stanage Edge and back again to see what it was all about. It was a terrifying moment as I stepped out my front door and onto the street wearing lycra for the first time in my life. It was even more daunting attempting to clip in - I run flat pedals on all my bikes including my XC bike, so having my feet attached to the pedals took some getting used to. Once I got out of the city and into the Peak District I quickly forgot about it all and just concentrated on the riding.

I was expecting the bike to be fast, but wasn't prepared for just how fast it is. The acceleration is unreal, and not just in the low speeds such as setting off from a set of traffic lights. Even when cruising at a decent pace, its just a case of putting in a few hard cranks and shifting a gear or two and your speed majorly increases. The N2A is stiff and responsive and the shifting from the Ultegra gears is quick and faultless every time, even under load. The climbs are also much easier than I anticipated. When I ride cross country, I like to push hard or get out of the saddle and go for it. Sitting and spinning a small gear gets boring - anybody can spin uphill with a 36 tooth cassette. I find myself approaching climbs on the road in the same way, preferring to push harder than to sit and take it easy.

Since the first ride I have been out a fair few times, either by myself for a quick 1-2 hours after work or bigger rides with a group of friends, many of whom I had never been able to ride with before I got a road bike. My most recent ride was another quick after-work ride with two of the guys from the Planet X Sheffield store. All three of us are fairly serious mountain bikers who have recently decided to give road riding a go. Although not as much fun as riding mountain bikes, we had a good laugh overtaking each other and pedalling hard trying to out-do one another on the climbs. It was, dare I say it… fun. We even managed to fit in a bit of mountain biking, messing around jumping the little grass mounds at the top of Stanage Edge. It was basically Road Bike Party 3, minus 99% of the skill required.

After having gone on enough rides to get a good feel for it, road riding will never take over mountain biking for me. The two simply cannot be compared and I am a mountain biker through and through. If I have the choice of dropping in the trails or going for a road ride, I will always choose the first option over the latter. However, for those occasions where mountain bikes are not an option or when I just want to go for a quick hour or so after work, I will continue to dress up in ridiculous lycra and take my N2A out into the hills. I will never shave my legs though. NEVER.

19 May 2014

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