After years of denial I bought my first road bike. I thought of it only as a transportation mean to get to my office, a complement to my "big bike". After just couple of days, I like it almost as much and whole new world opened to me.
My new bike is based on a 20 years old Rozzo frame built in Czech Republic. Restored by guys at Urbanvelo unlimited it got it's second (or maybe third) chance to live again. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of modern race ready road bikes, but it sure is working fine and has some character. And it cost me 230eur.
On my first ride to work I was scared sh*tless riding it 50km/h down a 2km, ±10% steep bumpy road at full traffic. Suddenly there was no 170mm Marzocchi fork cushioning or Saint hydraulic brakes to slow me down. Just my arms, legs and a pair of skinny tires that would skid the moment I death griped the V-brakes.
After just 2 rides it became comfortable and I started wondering, why I haven't tried it before. After another week of riding, I got back on my big bike and I was in for a surprise.
This is a list of things I have learned fast and I will benefit from them for a while.
1. I climb out of a saddle more
Admit it, most of us are too weak or lazy to get out of a saddle every time we should in a forest. I pedal out of a saddle on a road bike much more because it's fun. There is not suspension to suck up my energy and almost all of it is transformed into acceleration. Also, it feels great to leave all the cars behind me at the lights.
2. My legs got stronger
I considered myself quite fit with strong legs as I ride 1x10 for a while and have no problem with climbing even really steep hills on a 160mm bike. But, my road bike came with 42/55 chain rings and 11-28t cassette. That means the lowest gear ratio of 1,5 on a 700x28c wheels. It can be hard to imagine how it feels to climb 150 vertical meters on 1.5km of road. It's not that easy. After a week, I cleared that climb using 42t chainring and 15t sprocket (gear ration of 2,8).
3. My core got stronger as well
Combination of higher gears and different riding position made my abs, lower back and core muscles work harder. I was surprised that my abs felt sore after the first days of riding.
4. I have improved my obstacle perception
With nothing there to correct my riding mistakes, I have to pay much more attention to what is happening in front of me. Bumps and holes I wouldn't have even noticed on my AM bike became serious threat to my wheels. I suddenly realized how many potholes and damaged water drains waiting to wreck my rims there are. This awareness has translated into my off-road riding as well.
5. I appreciate my big bike again
After 2 years of riding my all mountain bike exclusively I got used to it "too much". I felt there could be more suspension, it could be more sensitive etc. After just a week on a road bike only, it felt like a brand new bike. Everything was fresh again, there was plenty of suspension, nice wide handlebars, tons of grip and plenty of stopping power. I haven't enjoyed riding in a forest like this for a long time.
So, if you feel you might have plateau'd a bit and you're not getting the progress you would like, try to mix it up with a road bike. You don't have to wear spandex to enjoy it;) If you already have a road bike, post some pics in the comments.