Robot’s Useless Reviews – The Wrong Bike for This Ride

I thought you said…oh…no…I didn’t read the rest of the text thread. I see. Well, sure, ok. We’re all here now. The date I brung? That seems like a weird and mildly offensive saying, but I take your point. Why are you saying “Smoke ’em if you got ’em” now? Are we just running through a list of outdated expressions? In that case, Pip! Pip! Who sat on the Scotch egg!!!?!

Platitudes are what people offer you when they have no clue what else to say, and/or when they have the right bike, and you have the one you have. Based on the deep and insightful comments I’ve received while sitting astride the wrong bike, apparently you just have to “make lemonade” or “a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” As an aside, the equivalent expression in Spanish is “Aunque la mona, se vista de seda, mona se queda,” which means basically, even if you dress the monkey in silk, he’s still a monkey.

I’m still a monkey.

Here’s what I can tell you, having shown up for plenty of rides with a knife when a gun would have been the more appropriate choice (because there is no end to the metaphors that sorta of apply in this situation). It’s best to assess what your bike is good at and then absolutely maximize it. For example, when you are on a gravel bike, and everyone else is fully suspended, you have to totally crush the flatter, easier sections of the route. In an instance like this, the political conventions of the group ride must be flung wholly out the window. You don’t wait for the others, just as they can’t/won’t wait for you during the shake, rattle and roll of the sort of single-track bashfest that requires a fully suspended mountain bike.

Every group ride has a collective pace, a rough average of the participants’ fitness and motivation. When you’re on the wrong bike for the ride, you screw with the math. My advice, sincerely, is screw with it as hard as you can. There are two reasons to this. The first is, if you play nice, you’ll get crushed, and that won’t be fun for you and it won’t really help your ride companions, who will be forced, out of politeness, to wait for you. Second, those people said a lot of smug bulls%*t back in the parking lot. You should hand them their ass if you can.

One thing you might learn from this experience is that, actually, there aren’t a lot of “wrong bikes” for any ride. Sure, strictly speaking a road bike isn’t going to be great for Enduro racing (that’s RoadDuro, which is a category I have now invented and thus own), but in most cases, if your bike is one category away from the one the ride was conceived for, you’re probably just fine. Whoever decided what the right bike was, and through some sort of odd, group ride spellcasting got everyone else to show up on that bike, isn’t the most clever person in the world.

Maybe they suck at bikes. Many people do.

I have been there, shifting from one foot to the other, uncomfortable in my obvious misperception of the group’s ride idea, the “odd man out” so to speak, and I have discovered that if you’re willing to go along and get along, you’ll do just fine. Over distance, most bikes are equally good. Or as a Vermonter once told me, regarding a leaky roof: “When it’s raining, you can’t fix your roof. And when it’s not raining, well your roof is good as anyone else’s.” So ride like it.

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  1. khal spencer says

    A chopper-banana seat bike. Excellent all-rounder. I did an impromptu Tour de Rochester, NY one summer as a kid, on my cousin’s banana seat Sting Ray, as my own bike was back in Buffalo. Of course I was not in a big rush. But to paraphrase a different discussion, the bike you have with you is better than the one you left at home.

    1. Emlyn Lewis says

      Khal – The backstory on that bike is that my friend Kirk built it, and he would ride it to work sometimes. I tried once to ride it around the parking lot and was, despite years of cycling experience, unable to keep the front wheel on the ground for more than a few pedal strokes.

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