Friday, March 26, 2010
A girl. A bike. A love.
It started out with tears. When I stepped over my red and silver Jamis Aurora the other day and realized that where there used to be over an inch of space between my tender girl parts and the top tube there was now some negative space - enough to hurt. WTF!? Legs don't shrink. Bikes don't grow. Again - WTF?! The next moment I felt like a traitor as the thought of possibly having to get a different bike rushed through my head. I looked at my trusty little fire engine of a bike (she thinks she's a fire engine- really) and out poured the tears. And I'm not a crier. Not usually anyway - but this whole new bike thing - it's doing me in. I get attached to my bikes. Especially the good ones - the ones who have taken me places I didn't know I could go and let me sing my crazy up hill songs to them as we crawled along at a snails pace - never judging me along the way. The Aurora has been that kind of bike. A good bike. But...
I got sick, had some crazy life shit flung at me and in the process gained 35 pounds that have stuck to me like glue no matter what I do and I am limited in what I can do - that illness again. All this happened since I bought the Aurora. And my feet grew. That's where the shrinkage came about, come to find out. My feet flattened out a size to a size and a half worth and down I went to where my bike's top tube no longer plays nice. Add to that that I still can't go longer than about 20 miles without my wrists screaming in protest. The fit just isn't there anymore. I looked at my bike that fateful day last weekend and cried. Mark came out of the store to see me crying when just before I was all "happy go lucky we're running errands by bike happy". I told him about the top tube and my girl parts having a meeting when they shouldn't have. All those plans I had been dreaming up to try and get the handle bars further back towards me and higher to help the wrists - they seemed pointless now. I covered the outside of the handlebars of my bike as if covering a child's ears and mouthed to Mark, "I might have to look for a different bike." Then I cried some more.
What started out as a simple errand run in our own neighborhood turned out to be a day of riding to one bike shop after another around Seattle. This has continued into the week as well. It took me all day and then some to stop waffling and trying to convince myself I could make the Aurora work. And I had tears stinging my eyes more than not throughout the day.
I experienced a wide range of service too. There was the not listening to me at all type service while rattling off lots of terms that might have been meant to impress me with their lofty knowledge, but didn't. My husband is a bike geek. I can handle all the bike terminology and if it goes to far I start threatening to rattle off all the plants animals and minerals in Latin. I'm a nature geek. I can play ball. I'm also not afraid to call someone on this sort of thing and I can be very blunt while doing so. I whipped that particular salesperson into shape rather quickly when I started asking him to explain terms in detail - and he couldn't, so he shut up and did what I asked and stopped arguing with me.
Then there was the incredible service from a couple shops that deserve mention. Our first stop along the rout last weekend was at Elliot Bay Bicycles - home of the Davidson Hand Built Bicycles and a good stock of various other bikes. Bill Davidson was the one to help me and help me he did. I was still in emotional turmoil and rolling back and forth between trying to make the Aurora work and getting a different bike. The first thing he did after I told him my troubles was look at me and ask me, "Where are your gloves?", and in an almost scolding fatherly voice, at that. I looked at him and told him I wasn't cold, in fact I was sweating! He looked at me a moment doing a damn good job at not shaking his head, rolling his eyes or snorting at me. Then he made me follow him and pointed out the gloves he can't live with out. The kind of gloves that help with wrist pain - the kind of gloves I had up to this point ignored because of my tiny little hands and how uncomfortable they are. Not the kind of gloves meant to keep your hands warm, by the way, but Spenco Ironman gloves that actually were comfortable even two sizes too big.
Bill proceeded to give me my options. He wrote down everything I could do with my current bike to make it better in the mean time and even fixed a couple things right then and there to make the rest of that days ride a little easier. He showed me what to look for in a bike for a better fit and had me test a sporty little Bianchi Brava to get a feel for a shorter top tube length and different handlebars and brakes - and oh those brakes - I was in brake heaven! He put my more comfortable seat on the Bianchi for my test ride too. He did all this without belittling me in any way. Take note, bike shop peoples, THAT is service. If ever I have the funds to pour into a custom bike build - Bill Davidson is my guy.
We were off for an organic lunch at the Fremont PCC before I had my second awesome service experience of the day at Free Range Cycles. I've always liked this bike shop and most often when I have gone in to get something or to look at options or just peruse the latest bikes and gear I've been greeted by some rockin' ladies who know their bike stuff. Those ladies must have stuck the guys on bike shop duty that day and were off riding in the glorious weather, no doubt. But the guys were great too. At this shop I tried out a newer and smaller framed version of the Aurora and then for something completely different, I tried a Soma Buena Vista mixte. This is where the service went from good to great. The Soma had a very long stem on it and the guy helping me went and put a shorter one on it for me so I could get a better feel for the fit of the bike. See? Awesome service. The Soma was a fun ride and it helped me finally rule out the kind of handlebars that I was hoping might make the Aurora more comfortable. I knew I wouldn't want to do longer rides with those handle bars it felt all whacked out in my shoulders. They would be great for the sub 15 miler errand and farmers market runs - but not for the long rolling hill countryside rides that I long for more of. Not for me anyway.
I left Free Range with time to hit one more shop and test a couple more bikes before places were closing up for the day and it was time to make our way back home to West Seattle. One evening this last week I picked up Mark from work and headed to yet another shop where I tested a couple more bikes bringing my total test rides to 7 so far. The best fit up to this point was with a Marin Portofino. I'm keeping it in mind but after a lot of soul searching I'm going to spend some time this weekend looking for a more classic style frame that I could customize just the way I want it and give an old bike new life.
As I finish up this post I am still waiting to hear back about a 80's Peugeot mixtie on Craigslist that caught my fancy. Oh the things I've dreamed up for that bike and I don't even know if it is still available or if it will be a good fit. But somewhere out there the universe has the perfect bike waiting for me and a good home for my trusty fire engine "Bike-Bike" Jamis Aurora.