Profile: Alan Cunningham
Editor's note: The following profile is of my personal "wrench" at Mathieu's Cycle & Fitness in Farmingdale, Maine.
Name: Alan L. Cunningham
Residence (town): Winslow, Maine
Raised/grew up (town): Belfast, Maine
What is it you enjoy about riding a bicycle?
Riding a bike is a magical experience. It’s not only about the health and fitness benefits, but also the self gratification of maybe completing your first 20-mile ride or maybe your first century. You may have completed your first ride and averaged over 20 mph. Even the first group ride you did or maybe your first race. No matter how difficult the ride was, it is always the satisfaction you get just finishing.
Do you remember your first bike?
I believe it was a Schwinn with a three-speed internal hub. I was probably 12 or 13, and had raised enough money to buy it by raking blueberries.
How many bikes do you now own? Your go-to bike and why?
I presently have eight bikes and my wife has three. My favorite bike is my SWorks Tarmac, as it is the lightest and fastest. I have to admit that my (Specialized) Crux ranks a close second and is a great bike for spring road conditions or maybe that ride on some back gravel roads.
Do you have a favorite ride?
The Cadillac Challenge is a fantastic ride, not only a challenge with the distance and amount of elevation gain, but it is also one of the most scenic rides you can find. Ride part of it or all of it, but a great bucket list ride.
In your role as a mechanic, what would be your top tip for bicycle riders?
Keep you bike clean and properly lubricated. Clean bikes mean a smoother running bike. For the average cyclist, a yearly tune-up will help keep your bike running great.
Disc vs. rim brakes — which are better?
Disc brakes are stronger brakes and can be applied more smoothly. BUT, there are pro’s and con’s. Disc brakes have a tendency to be a little heavier than rim brakes, so if you’re a weight weenie, rim brakes for you. Mountain bikers get a disc brake. More and more bikes are now manufactured with disc brakes, allowing for wider tire sizes and a bike more capable of riding on a variety of road surfaces. Still a personal choice.
What does the future hold for bike technology?
So many changes in the last few years, with many changes geared toward a better ride. Vibration dampening/suspension introduced on different models has allowed the rider to go longer distances with less fatigue. Adventure biking, bikes with wider tires, disc brakes, mounts for fenders and racks, and a more comfortable ride, allowing the cyclist more options on where they ride. E-bikes are also becoming popular, making a great commuter choice and allowing the older rider to still go out and ride with younger friends.
How much time should someone spend on a bicycle? Any guidance?
Spend enough time on your bike so that it is a comfortable ride and not painful and a becomes a chore. As recreation, 2-3 days a week. More adventurous rider and racer, 5-plus days a week, totaling 100-plus miles per week. Make it fun and not a job. Most people do not get paid to ride a bike.