By Kent Lewis
At the age of 6, I left my training wheels behind. Since then, I've had a bit of an obsession with bicycles. While women tend to watch their weight closely, men like me tend to watch the weight of our mechanical toys. With bicycles, every ounce counts and, similar to women's view of weight, less is more. In my quest to trim weight off of my bikes, I've learned a few things about life.
Weight Watchers Works
My first new bicycle was a Schwinn Scrambler. As a BMX model, it was poorly designed. It weighted as much as a LeCar, yet was less stylish. My first attempt at customization was not bad given my limited resources at age 10. By stripping off unnecessary items like the kickstand and reflectors and replacing the stock seat, I shaved off a solid half pound (making it only slightly lighter than a LeCar). While I was proud of my handiwork, as the bike still didn’t match up to those of my best friends, who had Diamondbacks and Mongoose race-ready BMX bikes.
But I learned that while not as light or fast as the bikes I pined for, my heavier ride had its advantages. One day, while riding around town with my dad, I was sideswiped by a city bus. The hearty bike stood up well, and protected me from the brunt of the crash.
The Bike Does Not Make the Man
In college, I purchased a sweet used Cannondale mountain bike. It was a looker to be sure, with a respectable reputation. On one particular afternoon I went out for a ride with a group of guys, one of whom I'd only just met that day. He was impressed with my bike, but by the end of our ride, I’d learned that he told my friend in confidence, "I thought he was a badass rider when I saw his bike, but that guy couldn’t hang." Since then, I’ve opted to ride bikes that match my skills.
The Technology Does Not Make the Bike
A few years back, I finally purchased a mountain bike I felt offered the ideal combination of lightweight components and a fair price. Unfortunately, with a growing family and business, I found I had virtually no time to ride it, leaving it to collect dust in the garage. Recently, I finally had a chance to put it through its paces. During a ride in Central Oregon, after a few miles down a rocky road, my handlebars worked themselves loose, giving me virtually no control. Winding back up the rocky road was a difficult and scary proposition, making me yearn for my old reliable Schwinn.
Know Your Limits
My city commuter (a converted ancient mountain bike) has served me well over the years. A few minor performance upgrades extended the life and provided additional safety. Over the years, I’ve learned the edge of the bike’s performance capabilities, as well as my own. Alas, a long period of riding without incident, meaning no bus crashes or loosened handlebars, tricked me into a false confidence. While commuting one morning a year ago, another cyclist cut me off, forcing me to hit my brakes hard. My upgraded brake pads did their job and I went flying over the handlebars, landing face first on the concrete.
I got a few stitches for that one. The slight bend in my nose is a constant reminder that a lighter bike may not be a better bike. If I was riding my heavy old Schwinn, I probably wouldn’t have gone over the bars. But then my wife probably wouldn’t have married me if I was still riding that BMX to work.