It’s been about 2 ½ months now since I first started to bike to work and I am ready to upgrade my bike. I have stuck it out in temperatures that have reached 100 degrees and have withstood many many comments from friends and family that think I am crazy or that I’m going to get myself killed. I can’t do anything about the weather – except maybe leave before the sun is up in the morning and after it goes down in the evening – but riding in the dark or at dusk would be more dangerous and would mean more time at work and less time at home with my family. So, I’m not willing to change my leave times enough to make any significant difference in temperature. I have found that afternoon rain storms make for a delightful ride home. Although others have called me crazy, I rather enjoy riding in the rain – it cools off the temperature considerably and I’d rather arrive dripping with rain water than with sweat. Don’t knock it till you try it – talk about anti-aging, I promise you will feel like a kid when you get caught in the rain on your bike. As for risking my life, I am extra careful and take mostly low traffic neighborhood streets during daylight hours. When the days start getting shorter I may have to start riding in the dark – but I will be certain to use enough lights and reflectors to blind everyone that comes near me. Driving a car is certainly not a risk free mode of transportation either – I have read that auto crashes are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 6-27. And the health benefits of cycling is said to outweigh the risks by a factor of 20 to 1 (measured in years of life expectancy lost from collisions to years of life expectancy gained by biking).
So, now that I am confident that I can stick with my plan to bike to work, I am ready to step it up and buy a new bike. The question is what bike? I have paid great attention to what others ride down the road on and listened intently to bike enthusiasts’ comments about bike brands, styles and features, but I was still a little overwhelmed with the vast variety of bikes that are available as well as the vast differences in prices. You can spend a small fortune on a bike! Luckily, I have met several bikers of late with a great wealth of knowledge about bikes and who are very generous in offering to help those with low bike IQs like me. I have found that the biking community is like an open club that wants, more than anything else, to increase their membership. If you ride a bike, you are immediately a member and welcomed with open arms. So, I asked a biker friend on facebook for help and immediately got helpful suggestions and several others I didn’t even know chimed in with their 2 cents. One of my new biker friends, Rudy, suggested I try out one of his bikes that he would let me have at a good price – a Trek hybrid bike he said. Hmmm, I’ve heard the brand Trek mentioned before and understood that the brand got considerably high marks from my biker friends, but I figured the price would also be considerably high. But, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it out, I don’t think I’ve ever ridden anything other than a mountain bike. So, try it out I did and I loved it right away! He offered it to me at a great price — a real steal!! After testing it out on my normal route to work and back I decided to buy it – a Trek 7.3 FX. It has 700 x 37c tires (which I have learned are much faster than my smaller, wider, mountain bike tires), it has an extender added to the handlebars so that I ride more upright to alleviate the crick in my neck, it is MUCH lighter (I think he told me 26 lbs), it shifts MUCH smoother, the seat is very comfortable, it is already decked out with a headlight, a small bag, a little computer, and a water bottle holder, AND it is GATOR blue with orangish reflective tires with a flame like design on them (yes, I am a Florida Gator fan). I think this bike was made for me!! It does have one feature though that is taking some getting used to – clips. I had never tried clips before and didn’t think I wanted them. They require you to wear special shoes with a metal piece on the bottom that clips into the pedal. Using the clips keeps your foot from slipping off and allows you to more efficiently pedal – using the full rotation by pulling up on the pedal as well as pushing down. However, when you are making frequent stops they can be a pain, especially when you are not used to them and forget you have them. Yes, I fell over yesterday morning into my neighbors’ raised planter when I stupidly took a short cut and came upon some boards that had been laid out across the path because of some construction they had going on. I went to stop, forgetting about the clips and when my feet did not come off the pedals as expected, I ended up leaning over and laying in their planter. Thankfully, I was going VERY slow since I was on a narrow off-road pedestrian path between houses and I knew there was construction ahead (yes, I knew this and I still took the path – attempting to save maybe a whole 30 sec. on my trip since I left late). I managed to just bruise my right shin, (which now matches the bruise on my left shin). The bicycle was unharmed (thank God!!) and I was thankful that no one was around to see my fall. If you’ve read my accounts of my first couple weeks riding, then you know this is par for the course as I am somewhat prone to minor bike mishaps. (See my earlier blog entries at: http://bikingmobile.wordpress.com/). Another lesson learned, shaving 30 seconds is not worth risking my shins or my bike (especially my NEW bike!)