I’m struck this week by the differences in the way I approach a new bike versus a new car. A new (i.e. new to me) car is something I enjoy, but it arrives in my life as a whole, immutable entity. I pay my money, take the keys (and visit the Registry), and drive off. After a week I begin to notice the little things that start to bug me — the knob that’s in the wrong spot, the huge blind spot in the right-rear, the way the transmission lags when I punch it. But I almost invariably come to terms with them and drive on. If they continue to bug me I might mention it to the mechanic the next time I take it in for a service interval. But change something myself? Ain’t goin’ happen’.
Compare that with what I do with a new bike — like the one I’m riding this week. Day 1, minute 1, before I even ride it for the first time, I raise the seat. I like a lot of leg extension, and the shops never set the seat high enough for my tastes. There follows days, weeks even, of tweaks after every single ride. Adjust the angle of the handlebar. Play with the saddle position, moving it back to begin with, and then bringing it forward bit by bit. No barrel adjustment on a cable is safe. Where do I like the shifters & brakes best? Should I trade out the saddle for the one I had on the other bike? Yeah, but that means another week of tweaking the hight/position/angle. Small price to pay; let’s do it.
Eventually everything settles in, and I can begin to just simply enjoy the ride. But until then I feel like a mass of nerve endings, or a piece of space junk that’s all wired up for telemetry. Everything is being fed into the central cortex, where it’s evaluated in the context of all the other sensations and decisions are made — seat needs to be moved forward, but that means you’ll have to tweak the handlebar, and figure out if that means you should raise the seat. I need a mission control with NASA engineers just to ride the bike path.
One of the data elements I’m working with is speed. Actually, the speed of the new bike as compared with other bikes. The Fiorelli, and my other bike, are both roadies. Drop bars and a flat back. Hitting 23mph headed down the bike path in the morning wasn’t unheard of. That was then — this is now.
The new normal is a conservative, practical “city” bike, with (as the marketing brochures probably put it) “a comfortable upright position that allows great visibility,” fatter tires than I’ve run in years, and those crazy V brakes that look like some kind of suspension bridge over your tires. Not to mention a cassette on the back that has the diameter of a dinner plate. (Can you really put 42 teeth on a cog?) The past two days I feel like I’m working to get it down the hill, and I’m topping out at 18. Plus (and yes, this is a knock at aluminum frames), it’s loud. It makes all these pinging noises when I hit a bump. Nothing like that nice sedate feel you get from steel. You got bumped, but it was a gentlemanly, quiet sort-of nudge. With the aluminum frame it’s like a free safety busting through the line and teeing off on you. I’m going to need some thicker gloves.
All this brings to mind the question of the day: Slow Bike Movement; is the emphasis on the SLOW or on the BIKE? Are people “rediscovering” the joy of pedaling slowly because they honestly decided to just go slow, or did they find themselves on these practical, harsh framed, over-geared city bikes, and just couldn’t go any faster? Did they make a conscious decision to amble, or are they making lemonade out of lemons? If I ever actually left early to get somewhere I’d probably be in a position to make that decision. But until I actually get out of the house before 8AM you’ll see me hauling ass, trying to make my draft horse of a bike into Seabiscuit. Or maybe just a Trek Madrone.
No Comments »
Filed under: bike commute