Switching Between Bikes

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I’ve been switching between a bunch of bikes recently and they all feel sort of foreign.  I don’t think that is a good sign.

I’ve been riding two different MTB bikes, a rigid Eriksen and then a dual suspension.  They both feel like alright,  a little slow, depending on how low I ride the pressure, but alright.

Then the two cross bikes I rode most of last weekend.  The bikes aren’t exact.  One is Di2 and feels great.  The other is mechanical 10 speed, and it feels a little off.  The reach and seat heights are the same, but maybe the shift levers being different throws me off a little.  Whatever the reason, I need to get them feeling closer to each other.

Then my road bike.  After riding these other 4 bikes the last two weeks, I got on my road bike. The seat felt too low and the reach felt pretty long.  My road bike is my go-to bike and now it feels the most foreign.  I wonder why that is?

It doesn’t take that long to get used to a different bike.  A couple times, at big races, I’ve switched onto bikes that weren’t even close to mine and after not to long, they feel fine.

The first time was at the World Road Championships in Giavera del Montello, Italy.  I was in pretty good form and thought I was prepared.  I had just finished the Coor’s Classic, at altitude, flew to New Bedford, MA and won a big criterium there and then directly to Italy.

My bike was perfect.  I told the USAC mechanics to not touch a thing.  I woke up the morning of the Worlds and went to get my bike.  I realized immediately that everything had been touched.  I asked one of the mechanics and they told me that the Japanese Shimano guys had come in the evening and put all new parts on my bike.  I didn’t understand it at all.

Anyway, I was racing, maybe 50 miles into the race, climbing, when my chain snapped.  I didn’t fall, but stopped, of course.  The Campy car following the race had a whole rack of bikes on their roof, but the mechanic was in no hurry.  He was smoking and just looked at me, trying to figure out the right size.

Luckily for me, an US rider that had done the TTT, was standing a little bit up the road.  His name was Tony Palmer.  Tony had his bike and jumped over the barriers and road it down to me.  Tony was a tall guy, maybe 4 inches taller than me and his seat was much higher.  I got on the bike and started chasing.

Since I was climbing, I just stood.  But when I sat, it was a long stretch.  The seat was so high.  I thought I’d get to the pit and they would have my bike fixed, but when I got there, no bike.  I had caught back on and wasn’t feeling all that comfortable.

I rode another lap, which was maybe 10 miles, and finally my bike.  I switched bikes and instantly thought, “Why did they lower my seat?”  The seat height on my bike felt so low, like it wasn’t even my bike.  I think I got dropped that lap, maybe the next.  If I had to do it all over again, I would have just stayed on Tony’s bike.

Nearly the same thing happened a few years later at the Pro Road Championships in Philly.  I was racing MTB full-time and just flew out there for the one day.  I had a aluminum Prism frame.  I don’t even know where I got that bike now.

About 30 miles into the race, my bike started feeling really weird.  I glanced down and the downtube was cracked all the way around where the shifters were.  I was riding STI levers by then, so the shifter bosses just held the cable routing.

Anyway, I realized it was super dangerous and dropped back into the caravan to get a new bike.  Mavic was the support then and they only had a 52 cm frame that had my pedals.  They did have a MTB seatpost, with quick release, so I could get the seat up.

I caught back on and it felt like I was riding a kids bike.  The reach was so short I’d hit my knees on the bars every time I stood.  Plus, I was having a hard time remembering where to shift.  I first tried the brake levers, then reached for a plug shifter, and finally the downtube shifters.

Eventually I got the shifting down, but I kept hitting my knees into the bars for the next hour or so.

I thought I’d ride maybe another 30 miles or so on the small frame, but I rode the whole 156 miles.  I was in the field at the end and finished somewhere in the top 20, which was okay money back then.

After the race, the bike felt just like it was mine.  So it took maybe 4 hours of racing to get comfortable on a really small frame.

I’m thinking about just riding my cross bike the rest of the fall.  The position is shorter and it feels right now.  I don’t really have any more road racing on the horizon.   It is better for gravel, obviously, plus it just feels better for now.

Stack of bikes in my garage. Everything is always in disarray after returning from a messy cross weekend.

Stack of bikes in my garage. Everything is always in disarray after returning from a messy cross weekend.

Tucker is trying to get me to take him out romping. He is so focused, he doesn't realize that he has a cat stalking him.

Tucker is trying to get me to take him out romping. He is so focused, he doesn’t realize that he has a cat stalking him.

21 thoughts on “Switching Between Bikes

  1. Glenn Sanders

    Funny about Giavera. I remembered that everyone but me seemed to have rotten luck with crashes and mechanicals, but I don’t think I ever even knew about having had to take Tony Palmer’s bike. Must’ve been awful.
    In hindsight, I think we were all in terrific form and collectively we absolutely were good enough to have left a real mark on that race. The issue was, apart from terrible luck, grotesque underconfidence and a tremendous lack of team unity. The team was put together almost as an afterthought, and we just didn’t know. Eddy’s style never did address that particular lack, and I can’t help but wonder how much more we could have done if Eddy had been able to consistently partner with a charismatic and inspirational coach whom we respected.

  2. shano92107

    I’m chalking it up to short term muscle memory. I’m experiencing same ‘fit’ issues now that I’m mainly on the cross bike for Fall. CX bike feels awesome – like I’m “in it” rather than “on it” so now my other bikes all feel a little off. But like you said then you ride for a while and they feel fine

  3. Jeff LaBauve

    Saddle shells stretch and sag. I have the same issue. My backup bike always feels like the saddle height is a little high because I have more miles on the primary bike (saddle).

  4. numbnuts

    that an aluminum frame? I’ve busted so many aluminum frames now, its no longer funny…
    check out the fatigue limits on AL – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatigue_limit

    Did it crack around the weld? if so, that should be a warranty job, I think what happens there is they scrwed up on the weld, take the heat away took quickly and it wicks some of the metal away (about 1/2 inch or so) where the weld is made, poor workmanship perhaps?

    anyhow, I used to race with Ti. Its a tough metal to break.
    Like steel as well.
    Train on aluminum.
    Caution of carbon as the process can vary greatly.

    Having worked for big companies like Lockheed and such, talking to the metal experts (engineers) on this, I don’t ride aluminum all that much anymore. Much prefer steel (cyclocross ride).

    Busted a lot of aluminum frames and carbon parts (ie cranks and such)

    stuff is made to break now a days I suspect…

  5. KrakatoaEastofJava

    I wish you guys would talk more about Eddie B’s coaching style. The most I’ve ever heard are the stories of those who didn’t quite make it into his favor. Obviously he changed training techniques quite a bit, but what about race strategy? Clearly the 84 Olympic road race did not go according to plan (despite the successful outcome). More stories!

  6. James Stout

    man, i get this all the time with review bikes. It has reached a point where i’m no longer really comfortable on anything. I think i am actually going to have to pay for a bike to keep for a few years here soon!

  7. Dude Ron

    Good thing you didn’t borrow one of Danny Chews bikes in Philly he used to race on cracked Cannondales there. Good job Tony on getting you his bike in Italy. Steel is Still Real I just crashed my Columbus NewRon Steel Gilmour and after straightening my saddle n handlebars it Still rode like New and still in alignment. Carbon prolly woulda snapped like a twig. Oh and Good Luck Danny if You read this!

  8. sillypuddy

    Hey ST, did u confront those guys from Shimano who Pearl Harbored your bike? They weren’t to big were they? Lol. Thanks for the free stuff, but i think I’d rather have prius.
    Sillypuddy OUT!

  9. euro

    Eddie B’s style is “inject your rider with whatever drugs you know about”. Repeat day after day after day…

  10. Glenn Sanders

    No. Eddy wasn’t overtly warm and fuzzy (he comes from a remarkably stoic time and culture) but he genuinely cared about rider’s well-being. In general, the drugs of the time were regarded as dangerous and there was very little use of them in the United States. In the six years I rode for the national team, I was offered no drugs, saw no needles, and heard no rumors of anyone using anything other than caffeine, which was legal. Later, I learned of a few who dabbled in chemical enhancement, but that was on their own and usually in the context of criteriums that offered relatively large purses.
    Most of us regarded drug use as filthy and unhealthy and antithetical to the aesthetic sense that brought us to a high level in such an obscure and beautiful sport.

  11. KrakatoaEastofJava

    Euro… No, it really wasn’t. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

    Eddie B. was coaching director during a really big transitional period in endurance sports. That upon which people discovered the REAL boosts in human performance. Eddie is from Poland, not East Germany. The Poles knew how to train. So did pretty much anyone involved in European coaching. Eddie B knew how to vary the workouts, how to incorporate rest, how to use periodization, etc. Before Eddie B, take a guess what everyone did. They rode a ton of miles, chased a few road signs here and there, and ate spaghetti the night before a race. That’s it.

    The fact that Eddie was from Poland (behind the iron curtain) didn’t mean he was from (or part of) any kind of systemic “cheating machine”. Poland was not East Germany. And even if they were, ask anyone: Those East Germans might have doped like crazy, but take away the dope, and you were still left with the most dedicated and committed athletes on the planet. The Russians and East Germans would have been the best, dope or none. They worked that hard.

    Yeah, Americans were always really good at assuming that every communist nation was “Russian”. We were pretty dumb in making that assumption. Just watch the film “Bridge of Spies” to straighten that out.

    1984: Scientists had long been exploring. And now they were finding stuff. Prior to this, performance gains from ANYTHING new were always marginal at best. So when you found something, you tried it. Once you tried it, you then thought a bit harder about what exactly you’d found.

    When I first heard of Conconi and the work he did with Francesco Moser in his hour record attempt (in conjunction with disc wheels, etc), I mixed it all together in my head as “wow, this is totally friggin wild”. As in COOL. And so did most everyone else (at the time). I don’t think we even knew what to make of it yet. Taking one’s own blood cells and “boosting” them was just so friggin “outer-space” (at least for a little while).

    So here they are. They knew Conconi had done blood boosting with Moser, and they knew that the Finnish Olympic XC ski team had also employed the technique, and they for DAMN SURE knew the Italians were gonna be doing it at the games… So they tried it. By “they” I mean the USCF and the coaching staff. Looking back, you can see that it was not a good idea. But hindsight is 20/20. We have no idea how many riders started the 84 games with extra RBCs in their veins, but we can be sure that the USA was not the only team to have tried it.

    The Rolling Stone article that Fall (I think) helped us take a serious look at what line we’d crossed. I think that right then – that was the beginning of the “real” boundary with PEDs.

    I think it’s a lot easier for people who weren’t alive back then to cast judgement than it is for people who actually lived through the times. I might not agree with all of Eddie’s choices, but I do think that he truly loved what he was doing, and he had his heart in the right place. The dude never had an easy life.

  12. KrakatoaEastofJava

    And (I hope I’m assuming correctly), the 84 “blood boosting scandal” was already out in the open by the time you were on the national team, correct? The “line” had become pretty clear to most, right?

  13. Glenn Sanders

    Really nicely written and a terrific summary of the training landscape of the time. Yes, Eddy and his methods were a revelation for us.
    BTW, he lives just a few miles away from me right now, on huge ranch, with goats, chickens, cows. I think I saw him relaxed for the first time. He was sitting watching his pigeons swoop above their cote. “So beautiful”, he murmured, as he watched. It was good to see – he earned it.

  14. Glenn Sanders

    I joined the national team in 1983.
    I think the comment on having realized a line was crossed is absolutely correct, but think it pre-dated the Rolling Stone article by a couple of months. A rider had more or less openly blood-doped for one of the track events at the Olympic Trials. Rather than disqualify the rider, the Federation and coaching staff embraced the then-legal technique. I still feel that this was a profound and unnecessary ethical shortcoming on the part of the Federation that disgraced us all. I actually judge Eddie less harshly on this – he knew more or less first-hand about the practices of European and East European national teams, and was from a background where ethics and fairness were regularly trumped by ruthlessness. All ugly for sure, monumentally stupid and risky, but I think it was up to the leadership from our culture, not Eddie’s, to provide guidance, and they failed spectacularly.

  15. KrakatoaEastofJava

    Thank you Glenn. I didn’t know you were on the national team then. I do know that we had a pretty deep pool to draw from a far as talent in 1984. The US team had been talked-up quite a bit by the media in the few years leading up. I think gold medals were not just desired, there were (to some extent) expected.

    I do remember that the issue of (and decisions regarding) blood doping came about VERY quickly that year. I don’t remember which rider at the trials had embarked on this path, but I believe it was one of the pursuit hopefuls (but not Hegg). For some reason, the USCF seemed to be deeply involved and interested in the track team, but pretty much let Eddie B alone in regards to road.

    Dave Grylls explained to our club that during one meeting (just before the games) that if you didn’t get on board (and fast) – you would NOT ride. He told them “no way” and was only allowed to hop on a bike after Brent Emery crashed. I don’t know how many of those who “did” ride… participated. That group has remained fairly tight-lipped on the issue. I do know that at least one of the riders got really damn sick, and despite his being a widely accepted medal-favorite, he did quite poorly.

    I do know that for those who agreed, it was a sleazy affair, going down in something like the motel six across from CSU Dominguez Hills in Carson.

    The games came and went, and then the Rolling Stone article came about. And the angle was “Can you believe they did this?”.

    But I wonder, had it been an article in “Time”, publicizing the new “high tech” advancements in sports science, and approached from an angle of celebration, would there still have been the same outcry? What if the USCF had done a very “clinical” and calm, cool, professional self-transfusion thing (and had been completely open and forthcoming about it). Would it have been received as badly? I honestly don’t know. Clearly there was division within the team membership, as some embraced it, some were disgusted by it, and some were simply passive about it. I think it still would have been eventually banned, but probably in a way that didn’t demonize everyone associated with it.

    Another thing: Eddie B had access to a MUCH bigger toolkit to draw from than he EVER chose to use. He had ethics, and he used them. He did it clean.

  16. Larry T

    Geez, where you guys been? http://velorooms.com/index.php?topic=1700.0 Blood transfusions are an old, old trick. Conconi and Moser certainly didn’t invent or discover them.
    On the swapping bikes, it’s great to read how pros soon can’t tell much difference after taking a spare bike in a world full of punters who go on about how THEY can tell the difference between 172.5 mm and 175 mm cranks or feel tiny differences in bike weights. As they say…shut up and ride!

  17. redzinger

    This is an excellent conversation. I just cracked open Eddy’s seminal “Bicycle Road Racing” again this past year and have actually been borrowing some information from it again. He was so ahead of his time, and indeed, the preface to the book explains from whence he came. As Glenn says, it was not a pretty place, and human athletes were treated brutally in most of the Eastern Bloc, although Poland did seem to be somewhat of an exception. The guy also just loved/loves America and it bleeds through in every page. I would assume that he feels the same way these days after those dreary early years in the Soviet Bloc.

    I get the feeling he really cared about his athletes because of one distinct attribute that comes through in all the writing in the book: he cared about recovery. Recovery was the mantra of the book, above all else, twinned with lots of hard work. It took the National Team very far in the 80s.

    I used the book with some success in both the late 1980s as a junior and as a Senior in the mid 1990s. There are many gems in it stil today, and much of the advice about tactics is generally superb. Eddy B., because of this book, inarguably was my first “coach” in cycling.


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