I have a dirty little secret…..
Look what I found on eBay recently:
It’s a 2016 Specialized Tarmac Expert in phenomenal condition, practically brand new. I got this used for a great price. The wheels aren’t the highest spec, they’re fine for now, but the rest of the bike is top notch – FACT 10r carbon and full Ultegra groupset – and I think next year I may get a set of Hunt wheels to finish it off.
There is a back story to this – I have been missing the ability to go out in group rides and sit in the peloton during sportives etc. The recumbent dynamic means you spend most of your time on your own as you yo-yo back and forward depending on whether you are climbing or descending. I’m not strong enough to be out the front all the time so it’s a bit funny when you keep overtaking people and then seeing them pass you 5 minutes later again. Don’t get me wrong, I like the loner dynamic too (I am by nature quite an introverted person who likes his own company) and I think recumbents are always going to fill the vast majority of my riding time as it is just so much more comfortable and enjoyable, but I also quite fancy getting back into a bit of racing which I have been missing for over 25 years.
My back has been hurting for nearly all those years, and I knew it was going to be a challenge getting back on an ‘ass hatchet’. The last time I raced on a bike like this I was an immortal teenager with no concept of body care. I destroyed my knees and gave myself long term back problems in the process. I swithered about getting an endurance type bike like my wife’s Synapse or maybe an older Roubaix without the future shock, but I reasoned that I already had the perfect endurance bike – the Fuego – so why waste money on another. I figured if I was going to go down the ‘cricked neck and sore butt’ route, I might as well go all the way and get something that is as fast as possible, so here we are. I also figured if it doesn’t work out I can sell it on for minimal loss.
I’ve been out on a few rides so far, the longest being 3 hours. It will definitely require some work on my flexibility and core strength to ride ‘comfortably’, as it’s quite a stretched out position and I can feel it in my lower back, but it’s not as bad as I had feared it might be. The comfort level is terrible compared to the recumbents and you don’t see anything other than the road, but my goodness, you don’t need to clatter through potholes with the full weight of your body on the bike and I am reacquainting myself with the amazing maneuverability of the diamond frame design – so much easier to control than a recumbent, especially at low speed.
What has been most interesting is the transference of my ‘bent legs’ back on to an upright bike. I assumed I would be quite slow and weak having not cycled in that position for a long time, but in fact I went out in the first week and put in some very respectable climbing times, in one case faster than any of the other full time roadie locals. I’ve blown all my climbing PRs set on the M5 already by a big margin, which isn’t surprising given the weight difference and the ability to use your whole body instead of just the legs. I haven’t done an FTP test on the bike yet but it feels like pretty much all the recumbent training transfers very nicely to the upright. What you don’t get on the recumbent is the ability to stand up and mash up hills, but it would appear that the fitness transfers quite nicely. Big surprise!
So my plan is to train on both platforms over the winter, and see how it goes. I’m going to target a few events on the recumbent in the first half of 2019 and possibly try a few on the Tarmac in the second half.
Don’t tell the emperor that I have partially betrayed the dark side!