a tale of two lovers


So, the other week... in the middle of a record heat wave in Portland, I did it. I did what people have been urging and recommending me to do for the past half year. I've seen the looks, I've seen the giggles, I've seen the people scratching their heads and finally I broke down and gave in. Tired of the scorn and the ridicule, I allowed my heart to be taken over by something. However, it's not an easy transition. It's gonna take time, I'm going to get frustrated and some feelings are going to be hurt. I hate having to try to ease out these emotions and make sure no hearts are broke beyond repair, but sometimes you just have to make changes and accept the fate that lies before you.

I am speaking of course, about the purchase of a new bike.

When first moving to Portland I had my GT mountain bike from back in college. Everyday I rode it to and from work, cranking as hard as I could and every day I grew more and more frustrated that regardless of how hard I pushed it, I could never keep up with the sleek racing bikes that effortlessly darted around me. So, one day in March of 08, after a great breakfast with friends at the Tin Shed, I walked a few blocks down Alberta street and into the Community Cycling Center. I was interested in upgrading to a road bike but I had no knowledge of them and nor did I want to spend a terrible amount of money. So, the friendly staff there directed me to a Trek 2010 carbon fiber road bike from 1998 that had been in the shop for a few days. It was so light in comparison to my current bike and it looked fast too, and then when I hopped on it for a test ride, aside from the differences between riding a mountain and a road bike, it seemingly fit like a glove. It was new and glittering and shining to me, even though it was an ancient bike by today's racing standards, when it was first introduced in the 90's though, it was top of the line. So, I paid the shop $700 for it and rode away on the "new to me" road bike of my dreams.

From that point on, I was a force to be reckoned with on the twenty minute commute to and from work. People who had formerly passed me on my mountain bike were now left in my dust. And, it felt great. In fact, I was so sure of my speed, I decided to give racing a hand. And so, about a year ago today I entered my first race at the Portland International Raceway (PIR) and won. Granted it was a novice race, but it was just me, my ten year old bike, tennis shoes and baskets on the pedals in a sea of bright and shiny new bikes, cleats, clips, and people wearing kits. "I like this" I thought... and so from then on I decided to try my hand at bike racing.

This first year of bike racing hasn't been an easy one. Yeah, I joined a team... but there were so many things I didn't know and embarrassingly, had to learn along the way. Plus, I think at first... much like the other women I raced against in the novice race at PIR, because of my bike and shoes and baskets and lack of spandex choices, no one really took me seriously, sometimes even myself. My first race back in March of this year was a complete tragedy. Two minutes into the race I got a flat, I got new wheel but the cassette didn't match and so I rode the whole remaining few hours with limited gears by myself in the pouring rain. To make matters worse, with one lap to go... I got another flat. After crossing the finish line, cold wet and alone, I pretty much went back to my car and cried.

The next race I entered was the Cherry Blossom Classic Stage Race in The Dalles, OR. This race was my first with real bike shoes and pedals and it went okay. Aside from being dropped from the pack just after halfway through the race, I caught up with another rider and we finished the rest of the race with some good conversation. I may have placed no where near the front, but at least I wasn't alone, cold and wet. The second day though, went much better because this day was the day that I discovered Critiruim racing. Short, fast and flat... for once I was able to stick with the field of riders on my "vintage bike" and actually place some where near the top ten. I finished with a smile on my face, having actually enjoyed the race and it's aggressive and technical nature. The next day after that was another grueling road race with a massive hill climb and a wonderfully exciting downhill. Aside from the downhill, that wasn't my favorite race but I smiled when it was over knowing that I had a full summer of crits ahead of me.

Fast forward to this June and July. I've been racing out at PIR and local crits and doing pretty decently on my trusty carbon fiber Trek, never placing below 8th. However, whenever I take my bike into a shop for work, I'm left feeling ashamed of my ride. The wrenches look at me with a questioning smirk that says "THIS is your race bike?" In fact, at one shop a guy actually called my bike my rain bike and I didn't have the heart to tell him it was my sunshine bike too. Not only is it my sunshine bike, but it's the bike that takes me to and from work as much as it takes me from the start line to the finish line. My bike is trusty and dependable and I know it like the back of my hand. I just don't ride that bike... we move together. I don't have to think about anything, the shifting, the breaks, the way the tires grip the road... mile after mile, day after day, that bike and I are like one. However, there is a creeping greed in my system that asks myself, if I race well on my trusty old Trek, imagine what I could do on a newer, more modern, more technology advanced bike?

For the past few months I've been from bike shop to bike shop, making the rounds. Not only paying attention to the bikes they have to offer, but as to how well the bike shop treats me. If they treat me like I know nothing about bikes, try to sell me something with Tiagra's or leave me hanging for fifteen minutes, I'm out of there. So, from shop to shop I've ambled. I've gone in, inspected their bright and shinnies, but always walked away being uninspired and unimpressed - by both the staff and the selection. See, my bike isn't just a bike to me, it's an extension. Much like me, it has it's own quirky character and any bike I choose to add to my personal peloton, has to do as such. So, that's where Lakeside Bicycles in Lake Oswego comes in. Several of my friends had recommend them, but trying to get out to LO from NEPO to have a look was always the difficult thing. So, a few weeks ago I did just that. And, it didn't take too long before I fell in love.

The bike that set my heart a flutter was an aluminum Bianchi Via Nirone 7 with carbon forks and a Shimano 105/Ultrega mix with a compact double. I liked the bike's white frame. Where as most Bianchi's are the infamous celeste blue, (which I like) this frame was pared down, more simple and clean. As well, all of the text on the bike was set in what seems to be Helvetica. Unlike other models of bikes with fancy scripts and failed attempts at being trendy... helvetica is a font for the ages. It speaks of clarity and simplicity but great understanding and versatility, plus... it's the font of the New York City transit authority and there is a movie about it! Lakeside didn't have that bike built yet in a 53, so they let me ride a similar bike that just had different components on it. I was interested, so they quoted me a price $200 less than the MSR. I thought it over, I reviewed my financing choices (bike loan at Northwest Resource), and then told Lakeside I'd take the bike. Surprisingly to me, they even knocked off another $300 off the already lowered price and even threw in a basic bike fitting ($100 some dollar value). Overall, I found the staff to be very helpful, friendly, and they even gave me a handful of M&M's and a few road bike magazines as I sat waiting for my fitting.

detail of that beautiful sans serif typeface

Then, wouldn't you know the day after I brought my new Bianchi home, my old Trek got a little jealous. I went ride the Trek to work one Thursday and it broke down on me. I took it into the shop where they informed me that the right crank thread had been stripped and a new one would be needed. I could buy one that would work for about $170 or I could call around to see if any bike shop had an old Shimano 105 crank 170mm from the mid nineties laying around. No small feat. I called around and was finally able to find one side (the right side) of a 105 crank that would work perfectly in some bins at the Community Cycling Center for $10. Needless to say, a little TLC and a few days later my trusty Trek was reunited with me and I became aware that even though the bright & shiny bike is bright and shiny and new and fast, the Trek is my rock. My to and my from that helps me afford things like bright & shiny.

So, a week or so has gone by and bright and shiny has been to the races twice. Last wednesday I placed 1st for CAT4's in a crit and then this weekend I had a disappointing 8th place finish for the CAT4's. Although the new bike is fast, my body will need to get used to it and it's slightly different gearings. One gear is too hard and the next one down seems too easy. I wore myself out too soon with bright and shiny this weekend and didn't have enough juice left for the sprint at the end. With results like that, part of me wants to rush back to the Trek since I know it and how it races so well, but at the same time, I've never going to get used to bright and shiny unless I ride it more and race it more. So, my greed for more speed has to take a back seat for now till my body and the bike get to know each other a little better. We're still in the "new" phase of the relationship, where things are exciting, but you have no idea how the things you do will cause the other to react. In due time though, results will come. However, I have to try not to get disappointed, I have to try not to beat myself up, and I need to give both bikes the attention and care they deserve. It's gonna take time, just like any relationship, but hopefully in the end everyone can be happy.


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