The autopsy by my bike mechanic is complete. My Felt 4C is officially a wall ornament.
It happened as a result of a long ride under poor physical conditions. I’d been feeling sick during the Pumpkin Ride last October on a cold, windy day. Driving home, I just wanted to be done with the whole cycling thing for the fall. The year had presented plenty of joys; long rides in Wisconsin, a couple duathlons and a triathlon. But now it felt like it was time to hang up the bike for the season.
As I pulled into the driveway in early October and hit the button for the garage door opener, I’d forgotten one thing. The Felt 4C was perched up on the roof rack. I don’t always carry it up there. It’s much easier to throw it in the back of the Subaru and get where I’m going that way.
When I’m alone, that’s what I do. But my girlfriend’s brand new Specialized was in the back earlier that morning because we had not had time to adjust the roof rack for her ride and I wasn’t about to pile my bike on top of hers in the back.
You may recall she encountered her own tarsnake in terms of a bike frame. She needed to buy a new bike in advance of her Ironman this fall because toward the end of a long ride in preparation for the race, a distracted driver turned in front of her lane causing Sue to dump the bike. It cracked the struts on the back end, making the bike unsafe to ride.
Up on the roof
So I had put my Felt 4C up there in its favorite spot. In a moment of absent-minded dopiness on my part, I drove into the garage and heard the thump above my car as the bike struck the gutters. Fortunately, my reflexes were quick and I hit the brakes pretty quickly.
Right away I saw the bike was bent and likely ruined. The front fork was pushed back and the seat was all turned on its end. I just took the thing down and set it in my garage for a few weeks. Riding season was over anyway, except for a couple jaunts on my Waterford on nice days.
It turns out there are hairline cracks in the front of the bike frame. Cracked carbon fiber is no friend to cyclists. Right now my mechanic is stripping off the nice components from the Felt 4c: the newish Specialized carbon seat stem, Dura Ace derailleur and Shimano crank, chain and shifters are all good parts to keep around.
So it’s with some sadness that my Felt 4C will be forcefully retired. It was the road bike I purchased back in 2005 when I converted from the Trek 400 steel frame bike I’d been schlepping around for a couple years.
I raced that Felt 4C in many criteriums. Climbed many hills. Struggled through the Illinois wind and enjoyed slamming through rain storms on summer days.
It has been a good bike even for getting into duathlons and triathlons. But road bikes have their limits in those types of races. Against aero bikes you really don’t stand a chance of competing.
Invested in the bike
Amortized over 10 years, it has cost me just $170 per year. That’s less than two pairs of running shoes these days. In other words, the 4C turned out to be a good long-term investment. Of course, I’ve aged ten years in that time as well. It’s a little harder to amortize that fact.
Can’t say that I’ve ever been perfectly comfortable on the Felt, however. Even through the original fitting and a more intense fit a couple years ago with new handlebars, seat stem and other tweaks (a new seat) the Felt still wore thin after 80 miles or so.
Last summer my mechanic let me ride his Trek Madone for a bit and that felt far more smooth and comfortable than my Felt.
So perhaps this is God’s way of moving me on. It wouldn’t be the first time in life that events of destruction or loss pushed me onto a new path. It pays to be resolute and honest with yourself in all such situations. Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
I’ve been to the bike shop several times to look at a new Felt B14 carbon fiber aero bike. My needs and priorities in cycling have changed a bit over the years. Last summer was the first time I did not race a single criterium. But if I choose to do that, I still have the Waterford and with some tweaking that can be my road bike forever.
But racing in a duathlon or triathlon almost demands an aero bike in terms of geometry, tri-bars, shifters and aero form. Not sure I totally want the pumped up look of a Specialized Shiv, and the Felt B14 comes with some good components. It slots as a compromise between a road bike and a true aero knife with wheels.
My mechanic warned me, “It’s not going to be a good cornering bike,” but I could never ride that machine in a criterium anyway. The rules won’t allow it.
We’ll see what transpires. I want to do some indoor riding this winter to build my thighs into shape before the season begins outdoors. I can always do that on the Waterford for now. But the experiment with tri-bars on that bike did not turn out that well. So off they come.
In the meantime, I’ll sing a quiet requiem for the Felt 4C and never forget that first liberating ride. The feel of a carbon bike under my seat and the speeds achieved compared to the old Trek I’d been riding were revelatory. The Felt 4C opened up new worlds and I’m grateful for that.
Of course, that bike delivered quite a bit of pain and suffering too. But I’ll cherish this photo of us cresting the last climb at Horribly Hill last summer.
That’s cycling. Along with the two crashes, the Felt 4C and I have been through some real experiences together. It’s just a bike, but it has accompanied me through 10 years of life. During that time I’ve lost my mother, my father, my father-in-law and my late wife. We’re all a little bent from those experiences.
But I plan to keep on riding. That’s what we all need to do. Get back on the bike and ride. Life beckons us to do so.