I have long been a fan of two-wheeled machines. I learned to ride young and grew up hopping through parks in my hometown on a BMX bike. But I had never considered cycling for fitness or as a sport. It was just a method to get from Point A to Point B faster than walking.
When I left the nest I upgraded my ride to a Brodie hybrid. Whizzing through city streets on a quality commuter renewed my enjoyment for cycling. I started logging weekend kilometres beyond just completing errands. I began riding for fitness and for pleasure.
However, it was not until this year that I truly realized the magnificent potential of cycling. After reaching the limits of my three-speed Brodie, I scrounged up some funds to splurge on my first proper road bike.
After extensive window shopping and test riding, I opted for an Orbea, a company founded in Spain in 1840 which has been manufacturing bicycles for nearly a century. I selected a model from their Avant lineup, a range of endurance bicycles that balance the aggressive aerodynamics of a racing ride with cruising comfort.
I expected the Avant to be a noticeable upgrade. Even so, I misjudged. Indeed, after just one ride, the road bike fundamentally transformed my perception of cycling.
Here’s why I think you should buy a road bike—even if you already own a two-wheeler.
A road bike is faster than a cruiser, a mountain bike, or a commuter. This sounds obvious, as it should. But there is a significant distinction between describing the difference and experiencing it.
On a standard bike, you feel like you’re pedalling, and wheels are spinning, and you’re getting somewhere at a decent clip. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But on a road bike—especially when the conditions are just right—you can feel so much more: like you’re floating, almost flying; like you’re carving a line through the earth, leaving scorched asphalt in your wake; like the bike is not there because you are the bike, a melding of man and machine that is pure, raw, and organic.
Granted, these moments are often fleeting. Most of the time, you’ll probably just feel lactic acid burning up your quads. Damn it, though… even that feels better on a road bike! Why? It just does. It’s what they’re built for. And it shows.
Efficiency and Comfort
Beyond speed, a road bike is designed for efficiency. On a flat road, air is roughly 85% of the resistance you face while riding, and that percentage only climbs in a headwind or as you approach higher average speeds. The geometry of a road bike, from its narrow tires to how it positions the rider from saddle to handlebar, aims to minimize this wind resistance, allowing you to get further, faster with the same amount of force. They also weigh less, which helps us battle the other resistance—gravity—the pull of which we feel immediately on any uphill.
As for comfort? Well, a road bike is not designed for that, at least when compared to something as relaxed as a cruiser. But they’re not uncomfortable—especially endurance-focused builds.
During the first few weeks after purchasing my Avant, I rode it only on longer, faster rides, where I wanted to clock respectable numbers on Strava. I used my hybrid for leisurely seaside strolls or short slices through the city. Eventually I came to the conclusion that the difference in riding comfort was negligible; my road bike was just as pleasant to ride casually as my hybrid (which now mostly collects dust).
Cycling as a Sport
Most of us look at cycling from a perspective of either leisure (perhaps a monthly stroll around Stanley Park throughout summer) or function (an urban commute on fair-weather days). Or both. And a road bike can do these things—perhaps not always as well (purists would never weigh down their ride with fenders a basket, a bell, lights…), but certainly well enough. But what a road bike most saliently is open the door to cycling as a sport.
Cycling as a sport does not have to mean racing 152km from Vancouver to Whistler in the RBC Gran Fondo (although you’re welcome to try). In fact, you never have to participate in a single event. I simply mean that a road bike unshackles you from the limits of a cruiser or a commuter. The heavy frame, the lax geometry, the laggard gears—these are no longer barriers to performance. Now you are left to your own devices: your body and your mind. Now you may truly push yourself, building strength and conditioning in your legs, expanding the capacity of heart and lung, reaching new speeds and distances and heights.
Now you’re a cyclist.
And as I mentioned in an earlier post, cycling is an amazing way to improve your muscular conditioning and cardio without stressing any joints, which makes it a wonderful method to increase athletic performance, whether on its own or as part of a cross-training program to be better at your primary sport.
The Meaning of Life
As a wise man once said, “I do not know the meaning of life.” That wise man was me. I’m as lost and confused in this amazingly vast, incredibly tiny world as you are.
But I believe we can each attach our own meaning to our own lives—a broad pursuit that brings us happiness. For some, that may be raising a family. For others, becoming extravagantly wealthy. Maybe it’s making music. Maybe it’s making furniture.
For me, happiness hails from new experiences—from seeing new cities around the world, from exploring the nooks and crannies of my own backyard, and from observing the natural beauty of the world atop mountains. Cycling is one method through with to chase these precious moments. Across urban and natural settings, whether solo or with friends, that melding of man and machine through space and time generates for me the most importance currency of all: happiness.
It may extend a similar benefit to you.
After You Leave…
After you leave this article, you may want to learn more. So here are a few resources to get you started.
- The Global Cycling Network is a YouTube channel dedicated to all manner of cycling, but especially road cycling. With more than a million subscribers, this active channel posts new content daily, and offers a tremendous backlog of valuable information. There is also Park Tool, which provides a large library of accessible how-to guides for all things cycling.
- Bicycling Magazine is the gold standard for cycling magazines and offers both digital content and printed runs for reasonable subscription rates. Gran Fondo, meanwhile, professes to be “the most exciting cycling magazine.” (True or not, they consistently boast top-notch photography.)
- Your local bike ship probably hosts workshops and events, from learning how to properly maintain and repair your bike to meeting like-minded friends on paced routes. Best of all, many of these events are free and often have different options for various skill levels.
May your wheels stay true, friend.