Friday, January 30, 2009

I sure hope nobody saw me do that

Can anyone remember back to when they first learned to ride a bike? Maybe not, but hopefully your parents or siblings made it a fun safe experience with lots of people jumping up and down praising your excellent balance as you swerved down the sidewalk.

Can anyone remember the first time they dropped into aero bars?
I hope you do, because as an adult it is nothing short of exhilarating and life affirming. I had seen it done, I had cheered it on, but I had never tried it on. Did anyone see me do that? No, but I felt the same thrills.

Aero bars are not the same as drops – that was lesson #1. Lesson #2 was you get an up close and personal view of the front wheel spinning underneath you – it feels powerful. Lesson #3 was Specialized has put in hours to make my new bike super aero but had they considered my gapping mouth sucking in air – somehow my mouth just didn’t feel that aero, although most of the time it formed a broad grin. Lesson #4 was riding a new Specialized TT bike is about as much fun as riding your first bike as a child.

I love that bike! The first ride was amazing. I took my new Transition Pro bike out to Cherry Creek Reservoir (a quick 8 minutes drive from my house) and rode it around. Len had teased me about the challenge of riding in a straight line, but forgot to mention how to avoid the initial death grip on the aero bars.

I was wishing Len, Christy and Dash had been there for my first mile – they would have laughed, a supportive laugh of course, but a hardy one. It has probably been years since any of them had witnessed a first timer go onto the aero bars, but it was pretty exciting stuff from my end.

I hope I hold onto that first feeling. Now I need a few sessions with teammates Randy and Christy to teach me how to really ride that bike. Meanwhile I’ll be practicing my best Jan Ullrich snarled lip expression – maybe that will keep my mouth shut. I can’t wait.

  • The aero bar -- as we know it -- was invented by Boone Lennon. It first became apparent in our sport in 1987. Yes, it is true that a lay-down apparatus did appear in long-distance racing earlier in the decade on RAAM rider Jim Elliott's bike. Both Richard Bryne -- founder of Speedplay -- and RAAM winner Pete Pensyres were involved in that project. The main difference between that bike and the handlebars Lennon introduced was the concept of narrowness. Elliott's forearms were at brake-lever width, as opposed to the mock-downhill-skier position espoused by Lennon. Indeed, the bars were "Scott DH bars:" DH for downhill. The idea behind Elliott's position was comfort; the idea behind Lennon's bars was aerodynamics: precisely the position achieved by a downhill skier while tucked.
  • The aero bar was one of the most significant product innovations in the history of bicycling. The handlebar was strategically utilized by American Greg Lemond in his 1989 Tour de France win. Watch the famous video here: Paris 1989 TT
Specialized bikes

1 comment:

Julia M. Wieck TONIC said...

I learned to ride my sister Susan's gigantic blue Schwinn with the "girly seat" by trial and error surrounded by patches of green plush grass...much of which ended up in my mouth. Eventually I acquired my own yellow bike with a banana seat and learned the "look! no hands!" technique. Shortly thereafter I was sporting a home-made cast on my left arm which tempered my vanity...at least for little while. he he he