Yesterday I was riding my Bontrager Race Lite with the Marzocchi Bomber shock and XT components and I got smoked going up a hill by a guy on a creaky K-Wal-Mart-R-Us bike with a battered white basket on the front. And when I was riding home, he passed me again in the same neighborhood.
So this morning, as I rode in, I was thinking about specialized gear and technology. If it was the case that the bike wins the race, anybody with $10,000 could win the Tour de France. But somebody has to actually ride the bike, and who that person is makes all the difference.
But there still is a difference between bikes. Some are definitely easier to use for certain functions. My commuter bike, for example, is a converted mountain bike, which is built to give a softer ride, which is nice for all of the bumps and jolts I ride over. For longer rides, however, I prefer my road bike, which is built to be efficient, which makes it a bit less forgiving.
And then there’s the bike itself, which is a highly specialized and yet versatile tool. I don’t imagine that it would be possible for anyone to run 100 miles a day for 21 days in a row, but bikers in the Tour de France (and Giro and Vuelta) do that–along with all of the other races they ride in a season.
And in many places, people take advantage of the same efficiencies racers do and use bikes to perform a variety of tasks. Just having wheels that can support 100 or more times their own weight is a remarkable tool. Joining those to a strong frame geometry, gears and levers makes them more versatile.
The guy who smoked me looked like he was riding from job site to job site, which he probably does all day. Is his bike the best for that kind of riding? Maybe not, but any bike is excellent for his transportation needs: cheap, easy to park and quick–over short distances, he’s easily as fast as a car in traffic and much faster than a pedestrian.
It was a good reminder that sometimes we spend too long looking for the perfect tool, when all we really need is a tool. 3B reminded us of that on Easter Eve, when we were dying eggs. Turns out there’s no need for that little dipper wand that comes with the egg dye when you’ve got 10 working digits.