If you read my entry about the Wilderness Campaign, then you know I had some noise issues which got pretty bad during the ride. During my clean-up and replacing of the chain (my first suspect), I noticed excessive play in the guide jockey. So I replaced both jockey wheels. The cassette had ~3500 miles on it. I’m not exactly sure since it had been swapped in and out over the course of 5000 miles. Regardless, I had been riding on it with a worn out chain and opted to replace it. As I continued to clean, I noticed a few gashes and bubbles in the sidewalls of my relatively new Bontrager Race All-Weather Hard-Case tires (less than 1000 miles). The tires seemed sort of slow anyway; plus, I never really felt I needed rain tires in the past. Additionally, I read this article and the following discussions about how higher thread-count tires are more supple and roll faster, up to 20% faster… TWENTY PERCENT. As a result, I left a tire with 60 threads per inch (tpi) and switched to a tire with 330-tpi, a set of Continental Grand Prix 4-Season tires in 700×28.
I took the bike out for its first ride with the new drivetrain and tires. Being naturally skeptical, I wasn’t looking for any miracles. I was just hoping to have a noise-free ride. After my riding partner finished admiring the brass plated chain (okay, I was still admiring it, too), we hit the road for a 27 mile route we normally ride two days a week during the summer. I wasn’t even out of the parking lot or doing more than 10-mph when I felt the difference! “This can’t possibly be! I can already feel the nicer ride!” The bike always feels more responsive after removing the large handlebar bag: left, right, left, right, zip, zip, weeeeee! But there was more to this new sensation! We were cruising at 19-mph in no time. We rode between 19 and 21 mph along a lot of the stretches. We pushed along at 24 for a spell, too. I had a little more in me. But I held back since I’m still out of shape.
After months of struggling to hold 15-mph and writing it off to “winter fitness,” I think it’s safe to say that I finally found my speed somewhere between the new drivetrain, new tires (5x the tpi and 6-oz less per tire), and losing the 6-lb handlebar bag. I’ll not get ahead of myself. There are still a few tests of speed I can and will do. One is riding with a B+ group which left me behind a couple of weeks ago. The other is to see what happens on my next 200-km permanent. My rolling average during the last three 200-km rides was 13-mph. I’ll feel pretty good if I can manage better than that; and even better if I can finish with the group! 🙂