First, great news! There is a new, shorter link for the fundraiser! Check out http://web.alsa.org/goto/CowboysAgainstALS and donate what you can. So far, I am $75 closer to my goal of $1,000.
I am posting this on Saturday rather than Sunday because tomorrow is my warm-up triathlon, the Marble Falls Tri (The One with the Hills). The mileage is an Olympic distance, 27.5 miles, so a three mile warm up in the morning makes it a perfect way to get those 30 miles.
Week 4: Mon- 1,000yd swim, 20 mile bike
Tue- 1,000yd swim, 4 mile run
Wed- 20 mile bike
Thu- 1000 yard swim, 4 mile run
Sat- 5 mile run
Sun- 30 miles- Marble Falls Tri!
Total: 84.5 miles
Total mileage so far: 358. Equal to driving from Austin almost to Post, TX.
Whew! This week and last week involved ramping up mileage on the bike a bit, and I've gone further than I have before cycling. The good news is, my body can't seem to tell the difference between 25 and 35 miles- it's all the same amount of soreness after a certain distance, I guess!
On that note, I want to talk about bikes and getting in to cycling. Before starting traithlons, I had a decent straight-bar hybrid bike I used to commute back and forth to work when I rode the train in to Austin. I didn't know a lot about bikes (still don't!) and got it from REI on clearance. It worked great, but obviously I needed something a little more hard core for doing endurance races, as my shoulders and hands were on fire after as little as 12 miles on the hybrid because of the full aluminum frame.
If you are thinking about buying your first road bike, be prepared. Going to bike shops is a great idea, because they are the pros when it comes to fitting you to the correct frame and handlebar size. However, a shop is a shop, and there is a lot of upselling that's going on. I don't blame them, they're just doing their jobs. However, you can't let their overwhelming amount of information about every possible accessory talk you in to going over your budget when you don't need to!
It's important to know what you need and what is just nice to have when shopping for a beginner racing bike. Below is just my opinion, but I think it's a good way to frame your decisions so you don't feel obligated to go over your budget. In the spring time, bikes from the year before go on sale to make way for new models- jump on it! I got my $1200 bike for $800! It's the Fuji Newest 1.0- a man's bike, but fits me because I'm taller with longer legs and broader shoulders. There is a link to it if you click the picture and you want to read the specs.
- Worth it: A carbon fork! The major issue I had with my hybrid was the road vibration. It would make my hands hurt bad enough that I'd need to stop and let go of the handlebars for a while. I have ridden as far as 38 miles on my new bike, and have never noticed even a tingling in my fingers. It's also a bit of a help with the weight of the bike.
- Not worth it: An all carbon frame. If you get to a highly competitive level where weight is super important, then yes, by all means, spend several grand and get a great bike. However, carbon is not as durable as an aluminum frame. It does not dent or ding, it cracks and breaks. They are significantly more expensive, and I have not noticed a difference between the carbon frame bikes I have borrowed (except that I got blown around in the wind more!) and my aluminum frame bike.
- Worth it: An excellent gear system, the most important aspect being the type of shifters it comes with. The Shimano series is the most common, and the lower level ones have a dinky, annoying thumb toggle that shifts the gears. If you go Tiagra and above, not only do you get more gears- usually 30, which is great for hilly places like Austin- but also there is a full shifter paddle you can access from any hand position, making shifting infinitely easier.
- Not worth it: The fanciest rims and cassettes money can buy. Now, a nicer set of derailers, gears, etc. IS worth the money down the road, and they are usually higher quality and will be more durable. However, for your first bike, don't sweat the system your bike came with. Most bike shops offer free lifetime tune-ups to adjust loosening cables and that sort of thing, and you want to make sure cycling is something you really love before dropping dough on the extras like that.
- Worth it: Cute and comfy bar wrap! My bike came with a decent wrap, but it was white and got so dirty the first time I used it. I got on Amazon and found some pink gel wrap and wrapped my bars myself (very easy, just YouTube it! HERE is a great example) It doesn't show dirt as bad, you can wash and rewrap the tape, and it helps make my man's bike look a bit girlier. I love it.
- Worth it: Aero bars for any distance riders over 20 miles. I especially needed them because my bike is a man's frame, and therefore had men's handlebars, which are too wide for me. The aerobars not only help increase my speed, but give me a ton of relief for my shoulders. I have the Profile Jammer GTs, and really like them. Profile is a good buy, they're not the most expensive, but they are well made and will last. Definitely have them fitted by a professional, they will be able to level them and adjust them perfectly. When you pick bars, pick some that are adjustable in as many ways as possible, because it makes a difference in your comfort.
- Not worth it: Carbon everything. Again, unless you are at a high level of competition, a few grams is not going to make or break your race time by that much.
- Worth it: Some accessories! Get a small seat bag to hold tubes, tire levers, CO2 cartridges, patches, etc. Make sure you have these things- there is nothing worse than getting a flat 10 miles from home and being stuck with it. Go to a clinic, they're free, and learn how to change a flat. Get a stand pump that is well made with a gague on it and check your tires every time you start a ride. Road tires lose air overnight, and riding on low tires makes things harder.
I hope you found this list helpful! Please leave questions, topic suggestions, or other ideas in the comment section.