I crashed my Kona Rove a couple of weeks ago and am in the process of building up a new one. The Rove is a gravel grinder, but I call it my road bike. I run relatively wide tires on it so that I can handle potholes and some of the other challenges that vehicular cycling throws at me but it’s still my “go fast” bike.
Since the Rove has been out of commission, I’ve been riding my Surly Instigator all over town and back. I don’t go nearly as fast on this bike as I do on the Kona, but that’s okay because everywhere I go people want me to stop and talk with them. They’re drawn to this bike, and I’ve made a lot of new friends while out on it.
The Instigator isn’t really a fat bike but the tires are bigger than traditional mountain bike tires and so when people see it they assume it is. It’s a pretty versatile riding machine that will go just about anywhere you point it. I like that I can transition from city streets to mountain singletrack without giving it a second thought. It’s nice not having to worry about being perpendicular to railroad tracks before crossing. Road cracks? What road cracks? It’s an absolute hoot to ride over curbs, logs and other things that would cause roadie me to dismount. I even took it down some stairs. OK, it was just two stairs, but still…
And so I was intrigued when a story came across my desk from the mountain biking website Singletracks that tried to answer the question of how much more work it is to mountain bike than road bike. One of the factors was tire width. Fatter tires are typically run at lower pressure and that creates significantly more rolling resistance which, in turn, requires more effort on the part of the cyclist.
As I read the article I realized it simply does not matter to me. I’ve never thought of cycling as work…not once. I’m not training for the Tour so it’s not about VO2 max, optimal cadence and PEDs. It’s about riding down stairs with this big old goofy grin on my face. It’s about feeling great instead of being all stressed out. To me, being on a bike is about as good a time as someone can have without ending up in jail. Jail is messy and expensive…at least that’s what I’ve been told. Cycling is just plain fun and it doesn’t seem to much matter how wide the tires are.
In fact, I’m starting to think of the Instigator as my new Jeep Wrangler. Jan and I had a Wrangler years ago when we lived in Colorado. It was loads of fun but stuff kept breaking on it and every time something broke it cost another $349 more or less to get it fixed. I quickly came to discover that this was a big part of “The Jeep Experience” and one of the reasons that many Jeepers (not all) drink Keystone Light instead of craft beer.
A Jeep Wrangler will go just about anywhere, but most people keep theirs on the road most of the time and we did, too. Given that, it makes perfect sense to cruise around town on the Instigator. I can still take the long way home if I want to.
It’s starting to occur to me that maybe fat tires are a better choice for vehicular cycling than their skinnier cousins. They’re more forgiving of road hazards. They’re more stable. They don’t seem to go flat (kiss of death, I know) as often. I think they look tough and maybe that sends a subtle message to motorists not to mess with the old man…especially if the old man is not wearing lycra.
Maybe not, too. It doesn’t matter. Either way is fine. The best bike is the one that’s the most fun to ride, and right now I’m having the time of my life riding the bike with the big tires all over town. I feel like a kid again. It almost makes me feel sorry for all those stressed out motorists in their $50,000 vehicles waiting for their $40 emissions test.