Because it involves bicycles, I have some broad interest in competitive cycling. However, I have never mounted a bike for the purpose of trying to go fast, or at least faster than another person. Well, I used to race my daughters the last block of our ride home from school, and I always lost.
The competitive cycling scene drives much of the consumer interest in light-weight parts and materials. I have nothing against lightweight stuff, but it is pretty low on my list of priorities. For instance, I'm puzzled by the notion of replacing a perfectly good steel fork with a carbon fork. A good steel fork weighs about 6 to 12 ounces more than the average carbon fork. Most riders are toting more weight in their bladders.
For me the best part of bicycles is riding, so why would I want to go fast and get it over with sooner? I’d rather savor my time in the saddle. A wise man once said to me, “I ride because I enjoy it, and to stay fit. The way I figure it, with a lighter bike my ride ends sooner AND I get less exercise.” I could not agree more.
Loaded touring, commuting and social rides were my introduction to cycling. I took up cycling for practical reasons; it was simple, inexpensive and a terrific method to experience travel. After a couple of fully-loaded tours around the countryside (all the gear… panniers, sleeping bag, tent, etc.), I fell in love with bicycle travel. And there is nothing quite like the comfort and stable feel of a fully loaded bicycle. It seems counterintuitive, but it’s true. I've talked with other loaded touring cyclists and there seems to be a consensus.
Now, I have heard it said, by the casual observer, that loaded bicycle touring looks like an unpleasant endeavor, particularly compared to the sleek, speed-obsessed road cyclist astride their beautifully molded plastic steeds. The touring cyclist, by contrast, has all the visual appeal of a refugee escape. The sunburnt rider with worldly possessions bagged, tethered and hooked to a sturdy, if not fatigued, bicycle. Nonetheless, I think it's fun and it's where I began my relationship with cycling; and, like a well-suited marriage, my love and respect for cycling and bicycles has been repaid with much happiness.
Ride well and have fun!