What happens when an experienced mountain biker gets to ride her first ever road bike? Adele Mitchell swaps singletrack and full suspension for the thrill of the open road on a top spec women’s road bike.
As a mountain biker, I have miles of swooping trails and root strewn climbs under my belt. I’ll drop off sheer ledges, roll up and down gulleys, attempt toe-curling narrow ledges and navigate mud filled puddles,
But I’ve never ridden a road bike. In fact, aside from the obvious ‘pedal and you go forward’ I have no idea how. Yes, I am fascinated by the lure of a feather light frame and a smooth road, but I’m used to the reassuring grip, grip and yet more grip of a mountain bike. I doubt I could even wobble a road bike round the first corner never mind brake properly or change gear.
I mentioned this in passing to the team at TotalWomensCycling.com and what happened next can only be described as a “Cinderella, you shall go to the ball!" moment.
Word came back that the lovely team at Specialized were willing to help me along the road (literally and metaphorically) to road cycling nirvana with the loan of a top spec carbon women’s road bike. All I had to do in return? Ride it, and write about it.
So, before you can say ‘pumpkin’ I am in the fitting room at the Specialized Concept Store in Kingston with a bike, a photographer and Specialized Body Geometry technician Luke Wallis.
First we need to establish which bike is best for the type of riding I want to do and the correct size. Then the bike will be ordered, I’ll ride it for a while to get used to the feel, and then return for a full Body Geometry fit.
Specialized do three bike ranges for women. Dolce is their weekend rider range, Amira is the lightest, stiffest range built for speed and the Ruby range is designed to offer women riders maximum control and comfort when covering greater distances.
Each range features different bikes of varying degrees of spec. All we have to do is choose the right one. How difficult can that be? We eventually settled on the Ruby Elite. I’ll spare you the details until next time, but if it hadn’t been for Luke and his expert advice I’d still be there now, scratching my head.
In the meantime there is the sizing issue. A combination of tape measures, questions and Luke’s experience later and there is a bike set up for me to try. It’s an ultra racy Amira that, reassuringly, is firmly attached to the ground via a turbo trainer. I may be indoors on a bike that can’t actually move forward, but at least I can finally sit on it and pedal.
I had never really appreciated the reassuring chunkiness of a mountain bike until there was nothing but an inch wide, smooth tyre and some very narrow handlebars in front of me. I have no idea where to put my hands, how to change gear, brake safely or steer round a corner. Luke spends a long time explaining as I pedal and flick various levers, silently wondering if I dare ask if my new bike will have stabilisers.
But then I begin to relax a little into my pedaling and Luke starts telling me about some of iconic road rides he has enjoyed in Europe, including the day he rode up Mont Ventoux three times. He even tells me about the best place there to have lunch.
Suddenly I can see beyond a skinny tyre and the walls of a bike fitting room in Kingston. I want to feel the sun on my back and smell the pines. I want to tick the iconic climb box. I feel the beginnings of a road bike itch coming on.
My new bike is ordered, now all I have to do is collect it and ride.