Yesterday I went on the weekly Bike Breaks ride and my cycling buddy Mike said I had ‘mad descending skills’. Previously my descending had been a continuous source of embarrassment. I’m used to rolling down hills in last position, over-braking in, around and out of every corner; spending the descent with my heart in my mouth and eyeballing every pothole and damp patch; imagining a rouge goat around every corner and picturing the aftermath of hitting it and going off course. Needless to say, this mindset made me very, very slow (albeit very, very safe!)
So, what’s changed?! I’ll tell you what’s changed. I’m now riding my gorgeous new team bike, the Aprire Vincenza. I’ve christened her Felicia (as inspired by the film Pricilla Queen of the Desert for those who know it) She’s a chrome-clad beauty that sticks to the road with no suggestion of an imminent wipe-out.
On team camp last week in Calpe I was actually holding wheels around corners and carrying speed out of them. Shock horror, sometimes I avoided braking altogether. I knew my trusty old training bike wasn’t exactly helping my handling but this was a drastic change.
So, how can one bike be so incredibly different from another? Here are some ideas:
- Position – on my training bike my weight is all over the front end; when cornering I have to shift my body over the back end to try and even things up. On Felicia, I’m already further back and lower over the front. With a gentle application of pressure on the opposite arm and leg around corners and the whole bike feels super stable.
- Fork construction – so this wasn’t an obvious one to my non-technical brain, but when I asked Phil (founder, chief designer of Aprire Bicycles and my new team manager) why this bike felt so awesome, he explained that the fork had been designed to have a certain amount of lateral flex, so the bike works with the road and sticks to it instead of skimming precariously over the surface (as is the feel with my training bike)
- It just looks badass. When a bike looks this good, it’s impossible to ride it like a muppet.
So, speedy days on the bike are ahead and a whole new world of high end carbon race bike is unfolding before me. Lee had better watch out – after a winter of dying on his wheel aboard my aluminium clunker I’m going to have a crack at riding poker face next to him up and down Els Angels. BOOM. Now that’s a pretty ultimate test. (I would actually feel like the world champ if I managed that) (I’ll keep you posted on any progress on that).
My little beaut is designed in Surrey, assembled in Surrey and manufactured in Italy. It’s an epic all-rounder of a bike. It accelerates fast, climbs beautifully, descends beautifully, spins along the flats beautifully and sprinting on it is FUN. On top of all this, the 48cm model I’m riding actually gets me in a pretty racy position (usually impossible on other bikes without 650cc wheels) (I’m a proper midget). The only downside is there are no excuses left not to win races. It’s all about the rider as the bike takes care of everything else.
Bring on the next race!!
PPS. Thanks to my teamies Agata (for the photo) and Lucy (for modelling)