Monday, August 13, 2012

When We Have Nothing Left To Lose.


That's what I would be yelling at you from across the proverbial room if a) I had watched the race and b) mountain bike racing was good.

Given my incredibly lax journalistic style, a lot of you probably already guessed the former.  As for the latter, well, it's more of a general rule that no one really wants to face up to.  What I can guarantee is that the three blokes who did watch the race (probably all together) almost certainly fell into a 29er/650b/26 inch debate directly after the completion of the race.  That is, assuming of course, that all three gentleman got through the eighty three hour race without succumbing to cardiac arrest brought on by sudden and violent boredom.

Therein ends my analysis of the race.  You want more?  Go read cycling news or something.

Today, instead, I am going to talk about tubulars.

I have long since come to terms with the fact that I am, without hyperbole, probably the second or third worst bike racer in the entire world.  Unsure of how to deal with this uncomfortable truth, I started searching around for more cool shit I could stick on my bike to make myself feel better.  As is the case with most of the excellent decisions I make, Sean the Man got in my ear re. tubular wheels.

His offer was this: I could borrow his Ambrosio tubulars, laced to Dura-Ace hubs (perhaps the sweetest hub ever) with Sapim bladed spokes.  I could ride them as much as I wanted.  I could race on them.  I could even train on them.

As backstory, these wheels are down around the 1300gram mark.  They are stiff as hell.  Riding them feels a bit like flying.

I had my doubts.  Wasn't this a bit of a wank?  Tubulars for training?  What if I got a puncture?  (The new vernacular is punny, btw).  The idea of me knee deep in shellac out Whittlesea way with no ability to get home didn't appeal.  Sean stuck a spare tub under my saddle with a pedal strap, told me to stop worrying, and go ride.

So I did.

It is about a month later and I can report back that riding tubulars on high quality tyres is indeed one of the best things you can do to improve your life.  Sean described it as running through a field with a strawberry blonde girl, laughing your troubles away.  This is probably the closest I can come to describing the experience of riding tubs.

Training on tubs belongs to the small sub-category of 'so dumb it's awesome'.  When other cyclists see the tell-tale spare tubular under the saddle, tucked away, they can immediately infer two things.  Firstly, this rider is an idiot.  Secondly, this rider is a mad dog.  It's a bit like smoking, only cheaper.  Going through this cyclists head are the conflicting images of me getting a punny, and me cornering much better than him because of my sweet supple tyres.  It troubles and haunts this other cyclist.  He kinda pats his spare tube lovingly, but also kinda wishes he could spend an afternoon sinking beers glueing a single tubular.  It's not efficient, but damn it's classy as hell.  Kinda like smoking.

I'm now in the awkward position where I don't want to give these wheels back.  I look at my Dura-Ace race wheels, my Mavic Ksyrium training wheels, and am filled with despair.  All I can think about is harsh riding, terrible cornering, and quick and easy tube changes.  There's none of the risk, the stupidity, the god damn classiness of riding tubs.  It's just so pedestrian.  With clinchers, I'm just another hack.  On tubulars, I am the ubermensch.

I don't think I can go back.


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