After years of dissing and dismissing road biking, I got hooked this summer. These days I’m a full-fledged convert.
I’ve been a proud mountain biker since moving to Aspen. With all the sweet single-track trails around here, I always figured, why would you want to be on a road? Why chug along next to fume-spewing cars when you can play in the woods? And how can any self-respecting man wear spandex?
So it was with some disbelief that I found myself giddily cycling up to Maroon Bells and Ashcroft regularly this summer.
I’d had a few too many over-the-handlebars scares, and picked up a couple too many scars on my knees and elbows while mountain biking. I figured I’d mountain bike a little less, try to road bike a little more — trade in some time on the Hunter Creek loop for the famed scenic uphill road rides around the valley. I’d do a road triathlon over the summer. But I’d stay a mountain biker at heart.
As it played out, I only rode Hunter Creek a handful of times, and got to know Maroon Creek Road like the back of my hand. The uphills are nicer, I found — a handful of passing cars is a lot less annoying than dodging dogs and hikers on Smuggler Mountain Road, it turns out. The zooming downhills are a bigger rush, akin to bombing down Highland Bowl. And, if your equipment is in check and the road is smooth, you don’t have to make technical moves or crash the way I always seem to mountain biking.
I didn’t go all-in and buy a bike, though. I shared my wife’s — a dependable but slightly undersized Bianchi. I did two races and rented bikes for those — testing out some cycles and researching for the day I have the cash to buy one.
Earlier this month, I tested the Specialized Allez Expert in Fruita. With an aluminum frame and carbon fork, it’s light, fast and easy to maneuver, yet durable. From what I gather, serious road bikers think carbon is a lot lighter and faster, but maybe I’m not a serious road biker — the Allez suited me just fine.
For the most part, the Allez was a sweet ride. But the shifters gave me some grief — the chain fell off twice, once on the inside, where it got wedged and left me watching racers pass me for several minutes as I struggled to get it loose and back on the crank.
For now, I’ll keep testing bikes, saving up money and trying to accept the fact that I’m a road biker.