I’ve been hovering around the endurance world for more than a couple decades, so it no longer comes as a surprise when I make new friends during my travels or run into old ones. Not long ago, I stumbled across a childhood sidekick who was making a first try at ‘tri.’ It wasn’t long before the comment, “I want to get faster; everyone tells me I need a new bike.”
I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been sucked into the marketing tactics of all the manufacturers. To my family’s dismay, there are now six rigs in the basement; too many parts to count; a spare this and a spare that. But I’m also smart enough to know, none of that equipment buys me a single second if there’s no engine inside my 47-year-old skin. I’ve received awards after plenty of races and I’ve fallen off the back at others because I wasn’t race ready. The bike I was riding never got the credit or the blame.
Of course no one, from newbie to ‘old-bie’ wants to hear that. They just want to roll up to the next race with the priciest cockpit, the latest wheelset, and the trendiest paint scheme. Results? Whatever.
The Burrito Union 10-hour Triathlon has become a personal favorite. Nestled in Northern Wisconsin’s Pattison State Park, the race pits each entrant against cold lake water, a demanding cycling course and a TOUGH trail run… over and over and over, all day long.
What better place to NOT take my Cervelo, but instead a $500 single-speed bicycle… fixed gear to be exact. No aero bars, no disc, no teardrop helmet and no freewheel. My fellow racers and traveling companions thought my choice was idiotic. Maybe they were right, but it was off to the north woods to find out.
Long story short, I covered roughly the same amount of ground (and water) at ‘Burrito’ as I had the year before. Yes, not being able to coast on the descents or turn a huge gear on the flats had me questioning my choice, and repeating the climb into transition, unable to shift-n-spin started to hurt by triathlon lap 4, but I also spent more time thinking about pacing than I would have otherwise, and I always saved a little in the tank to catch up with friends and competitors on the swim and run. I raced smart.
In the end, I got beat by some folks and passed others; solo racers and teams. I missed my age-group podium by a couple slots. I also realized you-know-who was right; it’s NOT about the bike. It’s about the heart, lungs and legs you brought on race day, whether you have one gear or 20.
What I told my old friend was right after all: Clean up the bike that you already own and get on it. You don’t need the latest, you just need your greatest effort. Put down the parts catalog and stop shopping on the Web. Get outside to ride.
See you next year at ‘Burrito’… I’ll be the one on the P3 .