Despite those innocent-looking cherry blossoms, Marianne is gradually turning into a lean, mean, cycling machine - albeit in the loveliest way possible.
My upside-down Albatross bars are considerably lower than my saddle, which I hope will gradually prepare me for the drop bars on my (soon to be ready!) Sam Hillborne. I want to make sure that by the time I get the drop bars, I am able to use them properly (with my hands either in the drops or on the hoods of the brake levers, but not on the straight top portion of the bars).
But I guess the big question here is "why?". Why the desire for speed and aggressive riding positions, why this sudden appearance of shorts? Well, because I like it - Not instead of relaxed cycling on a nice heavy loop frame - but in parallel to it. It's like someone enjoying both strolling and jogging - but not at the same time and not wearing the same clothes. I have discovered that I like pedaling fast and traveling far, I like learning how to maneuver a road-bike, and I like using those muscles in the back of the upper thighs that only get engaged when riding in this position. I am a remarkably un-athletic person with some long-standing health problems, and yet I can handle cycling. So I suppose I want to see how far I might go if I put my mind to it. Can someone as "frail" as me really hope to do century rides? Multi-day touring? Race at the velodrome? I guess we shall see!
Meanwhile, meet my latest addition to Marianne's fearsome accoutrements: these vintage Atom 700 French road pedals. Harris Cyclery had some used ones in the shop, and now they are mine!
To describe these pedals in an uneducated manner: The metal surface is toothy and grippy, more so than that of touring pedals I've tried. In addition, there is a raised notch on the side, that keeps your foot in place - At least I am guessing that this is what it is for, since that is the effect it has on my foot.
See the raised notch? Once the shoe is firmly placed on the pedal, the toothy surface and the outer notch make it feel glued in place. It is the closest thing to a foot retention system I have been able to handle so far. The benefit of feeling your foot "attached" to the pedal became clear to me once I switched Marianne's previous pedals to these, and returned to the rolling hills of Concord. I know that there are conflicting opinions regarding whether retention systems are useful, so I speak solely for myself: These pedals made a difference to me when cycling long-distance, especially on hills.
The downside, is that these are a pain to use in the city where one has to make frequent stops and starts. Unlike other pedals, there is a "right" and a "wrong" side to them: The correct side has the grippy surface and the outer notches. The wrong side is slippery and pretty much impossible to keep your foot on. The problem is that the pedals naturally want to hang wrong-side up when left alone, and so, when starting from a stop, you first plant your foot correctly onto the starting pedal, then push off and begin searching with your other foot (without looking at your toe! - remember, you're in traffic) for the correct side of the other pedal. Sounds horrifying, but actually it's not so bad once I got used to it. I've got the toe-searching down to only a few seconds now. For long sporty rides, it is worth it. I will keep cycling with these as they are for a while, and add "half-clips" when I feel ready... I need to get myself used to foot retention systems gradually if I plan to try cycling at the velodrome in the future!