The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.
David was clearly not a road cyclist.
Road cycling is about three or four things, near as I can tell. It’s about riding like a lazy dog most of the time, then riding like the very hounds of hell are chasing you, and you are dripping au jus. It’s about having a basically psychotic relationship with food, saying, “Hello, Clarice…” to pizza and hating it and wanting to kill it while simultaneously having a sick nearly sexual obsession with it. It’s about acting in ways that would make bitchy supermodels recoil and think you indecent and uncivil, not to mention depressingly skinny. But most of all, it’s about upgrading your shit.
Nothing is ever good enough. No matter what you have, it’s not a closer. It’s not getting’ it done. It’s mailin’ it in. Think of a euphemism for Epic Fail, and that’s what your equipment is, no matter how nice it is.
It doesn’t start out that way. It starts out being gold plated cherries on top of a diabetic nightmare of a 7 scoop banana split of bicycling joy. You love that stuff, it's the best ever, it's the tits, you're going to ride it forever, your friends are goddang sick of hearing you talk about it but you don't even care...
Then as soon as you see the ad copy, or a spy photo, or a rumor in Pez (the paragon of the Naaah, I Wouldn’t Shit You, Brah School of Journalism) your old gear is as wanted as a hemorrhoid on a rural
You want to get rid of that old shit so fast and replace it with new stuff that you practically ache.
Take Zipp 404s. They have been the shiznit for a long time. They aren’t the most expensive carbon hoops – nobody puts Campy in a corner on that one – but they are the gold standard. But then they come out with Zipps with dimples that save point-oh-three watts at VO2 power levels, so the old Zipps – truly wonderful wheels, and revolutionary – are suddenly about as desirable as running into an ex-wife’s divorce lawyer in the sauna at the gym. Just not good.
So then you upgrade to the must-have Zipps with dimples, ad the next year, you find the upgrade version is faster in ways that are only detectable to Steven Hawking, and even his theory is being contested by that Asian dude on the Science Channel, but the new design also features dimples that are actually patterned after Shirley Temple’s face. Not only are they fifty percent more kukamungorious than previous sets of Zipps, but if you buy them you will actually get to meet the Lollipop Kids and be appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Everybody will love you. You simply must have them.
You see how it goes, right?
So what kind of sick, twisted traitor to all that is good in road cycling am I, to say that I don’t have a must-have upgrade? I really don’t.
For reasons I’ve gone on ad infinitum here, I happen to really like Ultegra gruppos. I’ve got a 10 on my road bike, a 9 on the cross bike and I’m even thinking about downgrading to an 8 or 7 if it will get me a stronger chain that doesn’t snap two or three times a season in cross races when I stomp on it. It's good stuff, reasonably priced for the high level of performance it gives, and just the ticket for a working man racer. You don't need better; nothing is a must have compared to Ultegra. Other gruppos are only 'would like to haves.'
I like my Giro helmet. It’s wonderfully comfortable. When it gets too skanky to wear (unlikely given my low hygiene standards) or when I destroy it in a headfirst crash (quite likely) I’ll maybe upgrade to the next higher level of Giro… but a new one isn’t a must upgrade. I'm not even thinking about it.
I recently upgraded my cycling shoes, so I can’t write about them – went for the Sidi Carbon 5.5 Pro something or other. They’re nice, but not a lust object must get. In fact I can tell already they’re too soft, I just got them because they are wider and the too-soft leather which was probably made from the scrotums of select fetal harp seals, feels lovely on my feet, including the achy post-surgical one.
And it goes on. I’ve found a lot of products, mostly high midrange stuff, that works really well. I like to stick to it. The marginal performance improvement of most upgrades to my current position is not worth the gobsmack that comes with the marginal cost.
Sheldon Brown is my shepherd. I shall not want.
Well, sort of.
Brothers and sisters, I have to confess to struggling with lust.
I do have one thing I’d upgrade if I could get away with it. My bike frame.
I love my Giant TCR. I really do. And I can’t possibly justify getting rid of it and getting a new bike right now. Trying to refi the house, needing to do some home improvement, we’ve got a few other things going on that require cash on hand. I need to hold off. That’s what a responsible guy would do. Besides, it's a wonderful bike and I'm not capable of riding to its limits.
But I have to admit, I’ve fallen quite in love with a couple of the new carbon road bikes.
The Giant TCR Advanced SL is one. It’s a beautiful bike and to all accounts rides nicer than my regular old TCR Advanced.
How could you not like this?
The only thing that could make that thing hotter is if Tyra Banks was sitting on it. And don’t get me started about the BMCs. They are basically Borg to the aesthetic centers of my brain – resistance is futile. So we’re talking about must-haves that are in the delayed gratification inbox of my brain… I’ll get to them, but I'm kind of dreading it.
But it gets worse. I also have a bit of a craving for cold steel, actually an Independent Fabrication Crown Jewel. It’s steel. It’s not the lightest bike in the world, though it’s pretty light and rides nice by all accounts. More importantly, it just looks right. It’s how a bike should look. I’d even get it painted white with some cow spots on it. Yeah, I’ve got some major lust for Indy Fab bikes. That’s my must have upgrade, right there. It's the one I really want. A Crown Jewel.
But I’m here in the valley of evil, talking this way, right?
I’m the Contented Cyclist. The Lord provides my draft, I shall not want? Right? These aren’t must haves, there’s no such thing as a must have.
I mean, that’s what I tell myself. I won’t want. Can’t afford it right now. What I have is good enough.
So that’s how I found myself riding home today, on my perfectly lovely carbon fiber bike, wondering if it couldn’t do me a favor and just break. Y’know, nothing major, just a busted chainstay. Or a crack in the top tube – my aluminum Giant did that for me. Hell, I’d settle for cracks around the braze-ons. I thought about riding over some of the big rocks on the Georgetown Branch or trying to do some MTB stunts in and out of the new concrete ditch, hoping to bust up the seat tube, or crack the bottom bracket...
Anything to give me an excuse. Pleeeeeese.
I’m thinking about going to church and offering a novena to the Blessed Virgin – in her incarnation as the Madonna di Ghisallo – asking her to intercede with whichever archangel governs the modulus and failure levels of carbon fiber, just to get a break here. She’s the patron of cyclists. Surely she’d understand that this bit of covetousness isn’t sin, it’s a sickness, and the only cure is more cowbell in the form of a sweeeeet new ride. I shouldn’t want, but I do.
Blessed Mary... couldja hook a brother up?
Is that wrong? Am I a bad person?
I’m telling you, King David was not a road cyclist.
That, or that whole book of Psalms about how he was content and cool with things despite riding through the valley of death was just him trying to talk himself out of getting a new bike.