After almost 3 months, I finally paid off and got my bike out of lay-away. I bought a Specialized Allez Elite Compact (50/34 compact crank). After putzing around with it on the wind trainer for over a day, I took it out for its maiden voyage this morning before work. I took it on my standard 49-mile training route that incorporates some hills, rolling hills, and some prairie on the way back to town. Here are some pictures.
The the dam behind the Colorado State University football statium, located near my house. A short hill, but is a rude awakening when I'm just getting started at 5:45 AM.
A picture from beside the dam, looking at Horsetooth Lake and side-view of the rock formation that gave it its name.
My new bike at the parking lot for the hiking trail that goes up to Horestooth Rock (nice, clean bathrooms at the top of a steady 2-mile climb).
Flag-stone quarry that is the namesake for this little town of Masonville, Colorado.
One of the last cherry orchards left around Masonville. The whole valley used to be full of cherry orchards.
Heading back onto the prairie, there is this little ridge called the Devil's Backbone in Loveland, Colorado.
Looking back towards town and the Rocky Mountains, from a few miles out on the prairie, on the way back to town.
The compact crank is taking a little time to get used to. My older bike is a 52/42 in the front, with six 14-28 cogs in the rear. I'm not used to having 9 speeds in the back yet. It is a lot easier to maintain an easier-on-the-legs cadence with all of those extra gears. The difference between the front two chainrings is also much greater, and I can tell that I'll be using the smaller chainring on hills a lot more often than I used to on my older bike (switch over in the middle of the cassette, rather than using it only like a bail-out gear).
I forgot to add that it is a real kick in the pants! It springs forward faster, stops better, has more comfortable hood-covers for my hands, has a much easier bail-out gear for steep sections, and goes faster downhill. The smaller cogs in the back allow me to go faster than I used to downhill. I used to spin-out at about 30-32 mph on my old bike, depeneding on how my legs felt (spin out faster at lower cadence and speed when tired after a hill, etc.), but the new bike allows me to propel the bike forward upwards of 36-37 mph. Also, I just flick my finger, and it switches gears. No more paying extra-close attention to the road to make sure that I don't swerve when changing gears on uneven pavement in traffic. I like it a lot!
Have fun out there, people!