I am not embarrassed to admit that I purchased my first road bike as a result of a bike crush. That, and a need for speed. When I first started doing triathlons, I did them on my old Trek Hybrid 700, which was fine, until the year I decided to do a 4 hour race. I figured if I was going to spend hundreds of hours working out that summer, preparing to slog around an Olympic Tri course, I was going to take every advantage I could.
That meant purchasing a gleaming, glistening, sexy, red and white Trek 1000. I remember trying it out when my cousins were in town, riding it down an alley behind a local bike shop, trying to get over how different it felt to be on this spindly little thing – versus the Barcalounger that was my hybrid. My hybrid bike had safe, thick tires, handlebars 8″ wider than my shoulders, and a seat that you could see under my cheeks. This thing – this red and white, patriotic little thing – had teeny pedals, handlebars, and a seat that most surely would not be confused for “comfort”.
But I had an instant crush on this bike. I adored that when I put my foot in the downstroke, the bike went for ten feet, instead of four. I liked it so much, I bought it – because it was “cheap” I told myself (at $550); and it was going to last me a long time. It was an investment. I could overlook its flaws (the handlebars were, in fact, too close together for my broad shoulders…the seat would have to be replaced…) – because I could fix it, right?
That bike and I lasted three years. It was my first long-term relationship with an adult road bike, and it saw me through various triathlons, and a very long MS 150 (where I rode only 110 miles, but still, in two days, that felt like a lot). Three years ago, spurred on by my friend Brian and the tales of the bike he was buying for his wife, I began to covet another. I aimed within my means – no use lusting over a pricey bike I couldn’t afford – and found myself another Trek – a Pilot. I told the man at the bike store that I wanted to feel less uncomfortable on it – that I wanted to be a bit more upright, a bit less of my weight on my hands – a bit less stretched out on the bike. In short, I wanted to step into my new bike relationship and feel like I was dating the man I’d known for years. He seemed to get it – (to be fair, I really said “no more pain”). He gave me this bike to try – and I wept. It has carbon stays (the things that hold the back tire to the bike) and a carbon seatpost, and carbon handlebars. That carbon is the relationship equivalent of laughter. It deadens the vibration from the road, so now, when I ride, and go over potholes and cracks in the pavement, and such, I dont’ feel like my teeth are going to vibrate out of my head (or like I’m going to cry that I have to ride 20 more miles.) Of course, I had to get rid of the Trek 1000, but I found him a good home – a nice guy, who wanted to have a bike for his first race. We bid a fond adieu in the alley one day, as I recouped 75% of my purchase price, to put down on the Pilot. He lived to race another day.
The new bike and I had all sorts of adventures when I first bought it. We went to Iowa when I took work trips. We went riding on dates. We took on the hills of Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Park. But last year, I began falling out of love with it. I took it out once or twice – when I was camping in Wisconsin – but other than that, I couldn’t get on it. I had mentally convinced myself that it was too good for me. That I was unfit for it. That I was too big, that it was too hard – that it was not comfortable. I locked it away in the basement and didn’t take it out much at all.
The truth is, like any relationship, falling out of love isn’t about one thing – it’s usually about a lot of things. In my case, it wasn’t the bike’s fault I had switched jobs, was commuting for four hours a day, and was pretty unhappy. And as much as I wanted to, I just couldn’t see where getting on the bike was going to make me feel better.
This summer, I’m like a new person. I left my old job in December, so I’ve had some time off. That helps. I also signed up for this BIG race, which is motivating. But more than anything, I’m just happier. Maybe it’s the exercise. Maybe it’s this lovely community that’s starting to spring up around The Plus Runner. Maybe it’s the new job, or the fact that I’m training with a group, or that I’ve stuck with my training plan (for the most part.) But I’m finally starting to love the bike again. It sits in my front hallway now, and I see it every day. I make it easy to ride by keeping my gear in one place. And we’re kind of starting to hang out together again.
Let me be clear: two weeks ago, when I completed the Lifetime Tri in Minneapolis, we had a little tiff. The hills made me angry, (it couldn’t have been my fault that I had skipped a few bike workouts, could it?) But this past week, I rode twice with a new riding buddy. And yesterday, when it was 94 degrees here, when I could have stayed inside and skipped the workout, I went out at 5:00 and rode 20 miles in the Forrest Preserve. It was wet, and muggy, and dim – and it was deserted. I had the path to myself as I rode North, and it was lovely! (There aren’t many times when you can ride alone in Chicago on a weekend….this is one of them.) And the bike didn’t say “I told you so” or “see, you don’t look fat in those bike shorts” – it just let me glide up and down the hills, ride through the trees, and enjoy the day.
I don’t know what happened yesterday. Maybe it was all the training. Maybe it was mental. But I think I’m falling in love again with the bike. So tonight, I’m going to go give the bike a little attention. I’m going to oil the chain, clean off all the grit and grime. I’ll tighten the cleats on my riding shoes. And make sure my gear is clean for Tuesday, when I’ll head out to ride again. Nothing like a rekindled relationship to make a girl happy, right?
See you on the path….