It is lovely to hear from fellow cyclists and to sometimes learn a little more about their own personal journey in life. This is Dave’s new Planet X bike and one that he’s rightly proud of and as I’ve learnt something of his journey, it is worth sharing.
First of all, the bicycle itself
I think Dave has invested in one of the Planet X Pro Carbon frame sets, all very nice and from the outset I do like the simplicity of it i.e. nothing too flash or pretentious. He loves the feel and handling, describing it as having sensitive handling and being stiff – this shows itself when powering hard uphill. I imagine this is partly due to the materials of the frame and also the short, tight wheelbase which would minimise any “crabbing”.
The original Chinese bottom bracket has been replaced twice through rusting; I would be seriously disappointed if that happened to me. Sensibly, Dave now has upgraded this to Shimano 105 which is a dependable choice. The brake levers are Record carbon (I guess Campagnolo) and are 15 years old and don’t look dated at all. Talking of Shimano 105, this is the same for the very effective brakes and nice looking chain set: these are all 2015 versions. Pedals are the Look Keo Max which have been selected instead of the Shimano equivalents.
After the frameset, most cyclists agree the next most important element of a bike are the wheels. Wheels can make a huge difference to the weight and performance of a bike in terms of acceleration, hill climbing and so forth. Also do take care in choosing the right tyres and you could transform the overall quality and feel of a bike. Dave has gone for Mavic Aksiums, a popular upgrade, and shod with Schwalbe Durano tyres. These tyres are new to me but Dave tells me that he found them to be harsh at the start and therefore ran them at a lower pressure of 75lbs p.s.i. until they were broken in and a little more supple.
One of the most obvious features are the lack of gears. Now this is an interesting step! I do not know where Dave lives or cycles but presume the terrain isn’t too hilly (?) but doing this makes some sense in terms of developing strength and fitness. By changing the rear sprocket Dave has had a 66 inch gear which means the bike will move forward by this amount for every complete turn of the pedals. He describes this as a little low and yet the alternative sprocket is 72 inches isn’t quite so nice.
Secondly and most importantly: Dave the cyclist
Dave is a classic example of regular cycling bringing some real health benefits. Twenty years ago he was diagnosed with a heart problem through a routine health check which was prompted by fatigue. Gradually the problem became worse until eventually he needed a replacement of the aortic valve; such serious surgery is not for the faint hearted.
One of the things which really helped Dave was being was pretty lean and fit when he went for the surgery. Dave tells me that his recover was “…way faster than normal and I’m fighting fit again”. Furthermore he had his first bike ride just 11 weeks after the operation and while he could have been back on the road sooner, Dave was wanting to maximise the healing in order to protect himself should he ever have had an accident. The last thing he would need, as he explains, is “busting open the sternum” should he crash and not be well healed.
One of the reasons why Dave seems so happy about cycling and having his new bike is that he was unable to ride in the year leading to his operation. Knowing that there wasn’t sufficient blood being pumped around his system must have been very frustrating, potentially dangerous and limiting. Furthermore he put on quite a bit of weight during that time but that’s all been burnt away now that he’s back in the saddle.
Getting his bike set up has been a key element of Dave’s recuperation. It has helped him regain his fitness and has certainly provided a focus while he was recovering. He also suggests it is the key to future fitness and health which I’m sure every regular cyclist will connect with. Myself I can understand why Dave says “knowing the [heart] problem existed I have lived my life to the full, and it’s been quite a ride”.
Health issues, whether we experience them ourselves or see others go through difficult times, really does bring life into perspective. I am grateful to Dave for sharing his journey.