Monday, September 15, 2008

Decision Time

OK so the bike issue.

Basically, prior to starting up my “tri” career, I hadn’t ridden a bike in about 15 years – and I’m not even 30, so it had been a LONG time. I rode my bike almost everywhere as a kid, and loved everything about it – except trying to get it into our 2 feet above the ground raised shed in the side yard. I must have ruined more derailleurs trying to pull my bike up into that shed… fortunately we didn’t care! We were just having fun.

When I bought my lavender road bike, I did it the wrong way. I said “well I’m not sure I’m going to be much into this triathlon thing, so I don’t want to spend a lot of money on a bike at first.” I bought it online. I didn’t know what size I was, and all I looked at was “Well Lamborghini is a good company, and European, they must make decent bikes” and “Ooh I really really love that lavender one!” $250 later… I had a road bike.

A completely useless road bike, that is. Although I loved the color, I soon learned that I should have stuck with a name brand I knew – provided of course that I knew the names of any bike companies, which I didn’t. Basically, I couldn’t do anything with my bike. I could put in a trainer, but I couldn’t get a training wheel, or tire, oh or replace the tubes in my tires because they were some weird long schraeder (sp) valves, and I couldn’t put aero bars on it because of the location of the shifters, and I couldn’t change out my pedals. Oh, I also couldn’t ride the bike for 5 minutes without my hands going painfully numb, and I couldn’t reach the breaks, and I couldn’t reach the ground, and I couldn’t grab my water bottle. After I was run off the road I basically lost all interest in ever touching it again.

Whew, it felt good to get all of that out!

So my options were –
1. Ride my totally unsafe bicycle until the tire tubes pop, and then quit the sport.
2. Buy a new geeked out road bike, at a small sum of $3K+, which I’ll be freaked out about because I already HATE my current road bike
3. Go back to basics, and buy a decently priced mountain bike to build riding confidence, leg stamina, and enjoyment back into my biking life, and let the future happen as it will.

In actuality I debated on #2 vs. #3. I really thought that I “should” go with option #2 – it was the right option if I was “serious” about triathlon. I was going to need to get used to the geometry of being uncomfortable 100% of the time. If I spent enough money maybe I could get over most of that, at least I’d be able to customize it. I even had it all planned out – use my bonus in February, deal with my current bike until then, work hard to build endurance and speed as I could using alternative methods (spin and stationary bikes).

The problem was that I really struggled with the idea of throwing around big money (for me at least) on a bike that was so similar to the one I hated and felt so uncomfortable riding. I had never ridden a road bike before the lavender one, and frankly, those tires are pretty thin. I couldn’t ride that on the road without fearing a fall – even without cars driving at lightening speeds.
Then I went for trail ride with my brother in law on the Cape, on rented mountain bikes, and it started to change my feelings about the options. When I was on the Rail Trail, I felt the uninhibited joy that I felt as a kid riding my bike around my neighborhood. It was natural, it was free, and it was totally comfortable. We rode 20 miles, which was WAY longer than what I was riding on my road bike, and I felt great afterwards. I can honestly say that it was the best part of my trip this summer. I wanted to feel that way every time I got on my bike.

So, I started weighing my options – are mountain bikes as expensive as road bikes? Not hardly! Are they slower? Yes. Are they heavier? Yes. Do I really think I’m ever going to be a “fast” cyclist? No. Will the extra weight make me fitter? Yes. Will I feel confident enough to actually ride on the roads and the canals? Yes. I asked my family what their opinion was (I was afraid to talk to the “real bike riders” because I thought they would unanimously say road cycling was the only “real” option). Lilac bought a bike to use to train for the Mission Bay Tri, and it was a mountain bike. She wanted to ride with me – and I didn’t want to touch my bike. Then Lilac and I went to a women’s only bicycle clinic at Landis on Sunday (highly recommended if you need leverage to do things like change a tire) and talked to Stacey about my dilemma, since she knew about my bike issues – she had been there when one of the Landis guys said “Just buy a new bike Eileen. This one is useless.”

She surprised me a great deal by telling me to go with what I’m going to enjoy, and not to worry about what kind of bike it is, but if it makes me want to get out there and ride. She even told me that she had done triathlon for many years, and that she spent most of her time riding her mountain bike, because it made riding so much more enjoyable for her. I went and saw her today, and she spent a lot of time talking to me, counseling me, listening to me, and finally letting me ride a couple of bikes around to see if she could find something that would fit my uber long legs, with my rather short torso. As soon as we had the right mountain bike we both knew. She actually told me as I was swinging my leg over that all of a sudden it looked totally natural – like a kid swinging her leg over, rather than a nervous and stressed and uncomfortable adult. I took that bike for a spin, and it was amazing how great it felt! I got that exact same feeling, I could zig zag with ease, I could go no hands again. It was a pretty amazing transformation. I also think she was genuinely happy that I came in there so frustrated and left feeling absolutely great – which made me feel even better. The coolest part about my new bike (being assembled today) is that the color is brushed silver – which means I have great options for names – Sparkles? Shimmer? Speeding Bullet? It will name itself before long.

I am so glad that I made this choice, though I know it’s not the one that most people make. I can always by a super duper road bike down the road, but for what I need right now, this is the perfect fit. I want to get out there and ride right now! That’s not something I’ve felt in a long time. I tacked up my Maricopa bike route map on the wall, and I feel ready to GO!

Here’s hoping for many enjoyable miles on the road and the trail!

1 comment:

  1. OMG! Thank you sooo much for writing this post Eileen! While I have never trained for a tri- I have always wanted to tri one (giggles appreciated, tehe!) I am not a bike rider at all and like you before you started training,I think the last time I was on a bike was about 15 years ago when I was 10! But the thrill of completing a tri has always been on my list! I loove hiking and envy those who fly past me screaming "yaahhhooo" on a bike so mountain biking is something I would like to do your post has convinced me to buy that mountain bike, not only will I be hitting the trails in no time..I will be one step closer to a tri! Cheers to a great week!