This is part three of a three-part series
If you’ve been reading about my new road bike, you know that I pretty much went all out. My new Trek 6-series Madone is one sweet bike, especially since I set it up through Trek’s Project One Web site. With the Madone built (including handlebars wrapped), I was ready to take it on its maiden ride. I don’t often ride as far as I would like, but my goal this year is to accomplish a number of 50-mile rides and maybe push a metric century (62 miles) near the end of the season. At any rate, I had a long Memorial Day weekend coming up, so I figured that I could get some base miles in, including a 50-mile ride.
As you’ll note, the title of this post states first rides (plural). This implies that I actually took the new bike out for more than one ride – in fact, I took it out for two long rides this past weekend. It also involves two friends named Josh: one used to work with me at a previous day job and the other worked with me at my part time job.
I picked up my new Madone on Thursday night and planned on riding the following morning (I had the day off from my day job). Seeing it built up was awesome. It felt amazingly light when I picked it up. And it even had that new bike smell. My goal for the next day was to see how it felt on one of my longer rides (for me, anything beyond 25 miles is long) and to dial in the fit and feel.
Josh, the one that used to work with me at a previous day job, agreed to meet at my place and head out for about a 35-mile ride on Friday morning – we had the day off. I warned him that there were some tough hills (he’s not as strong a rider as me), but he seemed okay with that. He didn’t know that I just got the new bike. He saw the old one and commented on how it was ready – I then pulled out the new one and said, “I’m going to take this one instead.” His jaw dropped; he then commented, “Well, now you’re really going to drop me.” I assured him that I wouldn’t, even though he was riding a Specialized (he rides an Allez). Before we rode out, I was clumsy and dropped the new bike in the garage. Fortunately, no serious damage other than a surface scratch. Still, better to do that early at home and get over worrying about such minor things than to have a significant crash on the road.
The forecast called for really warm temperatures later, so we took off shortly after 7:30. It was truly a beautiful morning – the wind was low and the temperature was just about perfect for a ride. As we headed out, I noticed that the bike felt just awesome. It maneuvered really well – the cornering felt really confident, and the ride was quite comfortable. Riding over the cobblestone crosswalk of my neighborhood, I didn’t notice the usual jarring that I feel with my Pilot.
As we continued to ride out, I feared that I might drop Josh, but I was also getting used to the new double compact. The gearing on the front is different: 50-34 vs. 53-39 on a standard double (or the two big rings on a triple). Also, the shifting was a bit off: at times I tried to shift up, but the chain would get stuck in upshift or downshift limbo. The only way to overcome that was to shift beyond and then back, which seemed to work most times. But once in gear, the Madone felt really good.
The first ride turned out to be just under 40 miles. The bike continued to feel extremely light, nimble, and comfortable. As we climbed some short ascents, I felt like I could get up them quickly. The big test was to see how well I did on some significant climbs.
The first major climb we hit was on a rural road with a little white church – passing the church is the point of no return to one of the most brutal climbs I have encountered so far. It’s steep and deceiving – once you think you’re near the top, it continues to climb at a less steep slope, but it’s still a climb. As in the past, this hill really pushed me. But I made it up, feeling pretty good with about an ounce of energy left – although exhausting it was a great feeling. I waited at the top for Josh, who also conquered the hill just shortly after me.
We encountered two more significant climbs that nearly took it out of me. The first of these two is nearly a mile long that never seems to end. But with the compact, I was able to climb it without dropping too low. The second of these climbs was shorter but steeper. I powered up this one and nearly beat myself up. But I had never spent the entire time climbing it out of the saddle until now, and that was something to be proud of. When all was said and done, Josh and I rode 40 miles. Not bad for a maiden ride.
My second ride was with another Josh. We agreed to ride just over 50 miles, heading north to a small town called Mazomanie and looping back. This route didn’t involve as much steep climbing, but it did mean spending much more time in the saddle. Unlike my other friend, this Josh was a strong rider, had the same model Madone as me (although he had faster wheels), and has competed in Ironman competitions in the past (and was training for one in Lake Tahoe). As we headed out, I felt pretty good about keeping up with him. The last time I rode with him, I was on the Pilot and fell behind him a number of times. This time, he didn’t drop me as often. Although we didn’t encounter as many tough hills, I did struggle up some climbs since Josh is still much stronger than me.
We hit one road, County Road Y, which seemed to take forever. Parts of it were pretty rough, and being on a new saddle didn’t help after about 30 miles (I’ve since played around with the height, horizontal position, and angle since and have it a bit more dialed in now). The ride through Roxbury wasn’t bad, but once past there, the ride to Mazomanie seemed to take forever. I was happy to hit “Mazo,” though, and we made a pit stop and “refueled” at one of the local gas stations. For me, a mini Clif Bar and a refill on water seemed to do the trick (I also had a second bottle filled with Hammer Nutrition Heed).
Once we got on the road again, I felt pretty good. We wound around a park and small lake after turning onto a major county road – winding through there was pretty exciting and reminded me of why I love riding. But once we hit the straightaway, I was also reminded that there is sometimes the voluminous and somewhat monotonous portions of riding as well.
We thought about stopping at the coffee shop in Cross Plains earlier, but neither of us felt the need. We soldiered on, and had a couple of other riders drop in. It was nice having more people riding. They hammered up the first big hill that we encountered since Mazo, as did Josh, and I worked hard to get up it as quickly as I could. Although my butt hurt, I welcomed feeling my legs burn while mashing up the hill out of the saddle a bit more than my tail aching.
At the second climb, Josh informed me that he was going to keep riding to his parents’ house, about 10 miles south of our location (we were about three miles west from where we started). I bid him “good ride” and headed home. As the map had suggested, I made it home with 56 miles on the trip computer. Despite a touch of rain along the way, it was another beautiful day, another beautiful ride, and I did it on my beautiful new bike.
My final thoughts on the new bike? I am really glad I bought it when I did. It has motivated me to keep riding, and I feel stronger when I do. Although I am keeping the Pilot as my commuter bike, the Madone feels extremely awesome. It is quick. It corners extremely confidently. It takes off rapidly. And it helps me power up hills with less effort. The fit is just right for me, now that I have it dialed in. The drivetrain is spot on when adjusted properly (although it is still in the break-in stage), and the brakes help me stop quickly. I expect that I will put on a few miles with the Madone this year – and for years to come.
Click here to read part two of this series.