A while back I wrote about the difficulty I’ve been having at the competitive level in duathlons and triathlons getting good results in the bike segment. No matter how hard I rode on my Felt 4C, or how I managed to stay in “the drops,” I was still losing two to three minutes to my competitors.
And that did not make me happy.
So a couple weeks back something happened that stoked a move to upgrade my cycling situation. My daughter was cleaning out the Toyota Matrix I once owned and found a conversion stem that I’d purchased three years ago to fix the configuration on the Waterford racing bike my brother-in-law had bequeathed to me because he does not ride or race anymore.
It was a wonderful gift, to be sure. But I was a bit frozen on how to use it with respect. Right away there were several offers made for the bike. Real cyclists know that the steel framed Waterford line is beyond classic in feel, control and even speed. My brother-in-law raced that bike to a Category 3 level and rode 40K in under an hour. That’s 24mph if you don’t want to do the math.
So the bike is fast. Heavier than some carbon bikes today, for sure. But this Waterford was the pinnacle of racing machines at one point. Bikes like that never really go out of style.
I’d purchased the conversion stem and it somehow got wedged down in the fold between the seats and back and disappeared. Then life intervened in many ways and I was riding the Felt happily enough.
But I’d taken the Waterford up and down the street on many occasions and marvel at how smooth it rides. One of my best friends is a longtime cyclist who knows my brother-in-law and raced against him. My buddy is also a great bike mechanic. So I asked him if he’d be willing to work on the Waterford and turn it into an aero machine for my time trial efforts.
I meant this as a philosophical as well as mechanical question. One does not mess around with a Waterford without giving the issue some thought. But I’d had four years to think it through. What I want to do is race the bike in criteriums and also use it for time trials including those in the middle of triathlons and duathlons.
So for $130 I purchased a nice set of clamp-on triathlon bars that form a triangle off the front of the bike. Jack agreed this was a respectful (and respectable) way to use the Waterford for these purposes. The bars can always be taken off when I want to race in local criteriums. In fact that is a requirement. You can’t race crits with tri-bars on the bike.
I brought along a couple beers as Jack worked on my Felt a couple weeks back, which had a creak in the crank, so to speak, that needed attention. I paid him for that work and he smiled and said, “That’s enough to cover them both.” And I left the Waterford with him to install new bars, the aero setup and some new tape as well.
Returning a week later, it was a treat to see the bike setup.
With some experimentation on the fit I got comfortable in aero and took it out for a ride yesterday afternoon. The wind was blowing hard from the northwest, and I tucked down in aero and noticed right away a different sensation from riding on the hoods or drops on the Felt.
In fact I imagined myself competing in a time trial as they do in the Tour. Stay low. Push a decently big gear. Use the full pedal stroke.
And so it went. And then on the return trip there came a segment where last spring my companion Sue and I hit it hard to see how fast we could travel from Green Road to Bliss on Main Street in Batavia. We averaged a solid 25mph.
Yesterday I did nearly the same pace, missing my best time by only two seconds.
Aero works. I could feel the clean movement through the air. The classic spokes on the Waterford were whirring like a Ferris Wheel hopped up on coke. I was flying, in other words. I really felt like I was flying.
The bike fit was remarkably good. All that hurt was a spot on my shoulder after I got home and flopped on the couch to pet the dog. That was dumb, but I was so happy and satisfied it just felt good to stop and appreciate the moment. That was the first real thrill I’ve felt on the bike in a while.
So it feels like respect for the legacy of that bike. I’ve upgraded it to fit my needs while not whoring the thing up. The feel of those aero bars is cool as hell. And the fact that I averaged 19mph on a hilly course on a windy day is a good indicator that in race conditions I can average 22, 23 or 25 mph in a time trial. Maybe even faster depending on the course. I literally felt like there were no limits. That big ring delivers lots of power and the shifting is clean and crisp.
I am psyched.