been years since I’ve biked

I’m sitting in the cafe part of the Trailhead Bike Cafe, writing from my iPad, waiting for them to basically overhaul my bike. I haven’t ridden a bike for more than a few seconds in about eight and a half years… which is why my bike needs an overhaul; it’s been in storage (or in the way), unridden and unmaintained, for about eight and a half years. I’ve been thinking, casually, of getting it out of mothballs (as it were), getting it tuned up, and riding it again for a while. I added it to the long list of things waiting for money, since I knew it would easily cost $100-$300 to get it back in condition for riding, and mostly put it out of my mind. Then last August I saw a Groupon for a $60 overhaul/tuneup (plus $10 credit at their cafe) for $30 at the Trailhead Bike Cafe. I looked the place up on yelp & around the web to see what other people said about them, and they looked okay, so I bought the Groupon… and then I put it back on the list of things waiting for money, since I knew the Groupon wouldn’t cover parts… and I’ve had parts replacement on this bike cost $150 over the cost of a tuneup when I was keeping it well maintained and riding it every day. As I’ve posted about recently, we had a bubble of available money this spring, so I penciled it into the budget… and now here I am, taking care of it.

As a side note, I ordered my mocha “extra sweet” and it seems to have come extra bitter, and the giant macaroon (the size and appearance of a black and white cookie, with one half chocolate-dipped) is half stale. ((What is it about independent coffee shops that causes their “good” (to the cool kids) coffee to be so much more bitter & terrible than the coffee [I make myself|I get at the national chains]?)) Meh. It’s good enough, they have free Wifi, and they don’t mind me hanging out here all day. I’ll take it.

In case you didn’t know me a decade ago, when I rode a bike everywhere, I’ll fill you in: I rode a bicycle everywhere. I didn’t even bother to get my driver’s license until I was 22, and then I only ever did the 6 hours of driving (with an instructor in the seat beside me, able to override my controls) required to get the license until a couple of years later. I started riding a bike to high school my senior year, then rode a bike to PVCC the three semesters I attended there, then rode my bike to the bus (and the bus to ASU) when I transferred to ASU… until I moved to Tempe after a semester, and then I rode my bike to school and work and all over Tempe for the five and a half years I lived there. I typically rode about 90 miles/week, though during certain periods (mostly when I was trying to go to school while working full time) I rode over 200 miles/week.

I went through quite a few bicycles over those years. At one point while I was living in Tempe I bought a brand new bike, paid to have a few upgrades from the basic model done (think spokes; see below), and had about $700 worth of bike stolen within 3 days of paying for it. I was a student, earning ~$9/hour, and that hurt a lot, since I’d bought it to replace a totally failed bike and then needed to buy yet another. It had been locked up with a “Club” lock, one of those big solid red ones, the top of the line at the time. I don’t know whether they cut through it or broke out the cylinder or what; they took the lock/remnants with them when they took the bike. A year or more after that incident, when I’d saved up a fair amount of money (and earned a fair amount of credit), I decided to invest a lot more money in a new bike than I had been, and I’ll tell you why:

My legs had got too strong. Also, yes, I was cycling a lot in those days and it was worth it to me to spend what it took to get quality. ((The same philosophy should apply to your bed and, if you sit in an office chair all day at work, your office chair – if you’re spending hours and hours a day with the same device supporting you, it had better be a good one, or your body will suffer.)) I figured it was appropriate to spend up to what I would have had to spend on a used car, since my bicycle was my primary means of transportation. Mainly though, it was because my legs had grown too strong. (At one point I actually ground a bike’s bearings to dust.) The amount of force I was applying to my bike’s pedals from a dead stop (ie: at a stop light) was enough to warp (at first) and even to break normal spokes. I’m sure my weight didn’t help, I’ve never been a small person, but after a certain point I was hearing/feeling spokes break their heads off at least once a week while starting from a red light. I know, I know, I could have shifted gears up and down and up and down every time I slowed down, stopped, and started again, reducing the amount of force applied, but I had the strength and wanted a bike that could keep up. Upgrading to alloy spokes had helped for a while, but my research (and math & physics) told me I needed to upgrade to the sort of high-tension, high-strength spokes you only get on high-end road bikes.

The bike I ended up buying was one model above the bare minimum bike which was built with the wheels I wanted. The base price was nearly $1800, over $600 of which was the wheels. It was the lightest, fastest, highest quality bicycle I had ever owned (including a very nice Peugeot I inherited and rode for years), and I had selected it after taking dozens of comparable bikes out for road tests. Size is super-important for me; if I get back into riding and decide to buy a new bike, I’ll probably have to pay a lot more for one since I’ll want to have one that was geometry actually designed for my giant legs. The (Trek) bike I bought barely fit me with the seat at its maximum extension, but most of the road bikes (under $3k) I’d tried were even further from fitting me properly. Anyway, the new bike, with the several-hundred-dollar-wheels built with spokes that cost about ten times as much as the expensive alloy spokes on a normal wheel, was awesome. I rode it thousands of miles and never broke a spoke; I almost never had to re-adjust them. It was worth every dollar I put into it (probably over $2500 total, including parts & maintenance over the several years I rode it).

Then things changed, I moved from Tempe to Pine, my lifestyle went from one where I was within a few miles of everything I did to one where I either didn’t leave our 1-acre plot or needed to drive 30 or 100 miles to get where I was going, and I stopped biking. I recall trying to take the bike out for a ride the first month I moved up there, but my road bike was not what was required for riding around up in the mountains. Too many of the roads in Pine were hardscrabble at best. Without just riding up and down the highway, there wasn’t much riding to be done without buying a new bike (and learning a new way to ride – mountain biking and road biking are surprisingly different activities). The bike went into storage. I finally began to drive some, motivated by the requirement that I drive if I ever wanted to see Phoenix, or my friends, or movies, again.

A couple of years later, when I moved back to Phoenix, the job I found was too far to cycle to. I took the bus for a while, then started driving. The bike continued to go unridden. It was already well into disrepair by then, and my transportation budget was all directed toward gas, insurance, et cetera for the car I was driving. Fast forward to 2010, and we’re back to the beginning of this post.

Last summer was when Mandy and I really started working on trying to get more fit, eating less, exercising more, all that. Mostly I was going for walks or doing yoga last summer, for exercise; the Bowflex didn’t stick, and my bike was in disrepair. A little while after I bought the Groupon to get my bike fixed, we bought Mandy a bike at a yard sale and I tuned it up (it’s just a cruiser, and was in reasonably good repair already), though she hasn’t taken it for many rides in the last six months. Of course, being the gradual, slow-to-change person that I am (aren’t we all?), it wasn’t until we’d been dieting for over six months (and after I’d dropped 40lbs) that I really began to work out with any regularity. Listening to podiobooks only while working out on the Bowflex has generally been sufficient motivation to keep me coming back about 3 times a week since the first week of February. Exercising more seems to make one feel like exercising more, and Mandy and I have both been wanting to actually start riding our bikes, finally.

Then this week, another thing changed. My sister’s car is beginning to fail, and she needs a replacement. She can’t actually afford much of a car, doesn’t have much cash on hand, and probably couldn’t qualify for much credit for one if she applied. Going from one falling-apart car to another that’s about to fall apart didn’t seem like such a good idea to any of us, so… Well, Mandy and I have had two cars since we first met. We owed a fair amount of money on hers until (as previously described) we worked hard to pay it off, finally reaching that goal in February. It was technically upside down as recently as last Summer. Anyway, it’s paid off now, and we’ve been considering (for a couple of years, actually) whether or not we actually need to continue to have two cars. With me working at home, there’s no commute. I haven’t done the Art Walks in over a year (and don’t foresee myself starting up again any time soon), which was one of the things that absolutely required me to have my Vibe available during the days (while Mandy was at work)… one day a month. Realistically, for almost everything we do, the relevant driving can either be done after Mandy gets home from work or with a little planning and extra mileage. So we offered to sell Mandy’s Lancer to my sister. We looked up the blue book value, figured out terms she could afford, and we’ll get everything finalized in the next few days. (The financials on this help Mandy and I with our budgeting and debt payoff, considerably, by the way.) Since discussing it, I’ve been considering how this would change my capabilities/activities going forward. Bit by bit, things have bubbled to the surface of my mind, like that I’ll no longer be able to go to free movie screenings by myself (or just early, for Mandy to meet me in line, since one has to be in line so early for some of them), or that we’ll have to do maintenance on weekends, holidays (including summer), or by having me drive her to and from work, or that for my occasional need to go downtown during business hours on a weekday (to hand paperwork to the government re: I run a small business), I’ll have to take a bus or do all that extra driving. Then my mind hit upon the fact that I’d need my Vibe during the day on a weekday to get my bike repaired (or drop it off one day and pick it up another…) since the Groupon came with the cafe credit and I’d wanted to sit here and hang out and write, rather than just drop it off & pick it up. So, when it rained yesterday and threatened to rain today (ie: preventing me from recording any of the Untrue Tales… Book Six audiobook, which had been my original plan for this week), I decided this was a good opportunity to come down and get my bike fixed.

Plus, that unfocused, stressed thing I posted about before? Riding my bicycle should help with that. Before too long I should be back to a point where going on long-ish rides is no bother… and then even things like my occasional need to head downtown will be easily accomplished on the bike. Ooh. I’d better find a good, new bike lock while I’m here. I wonder what’s good…

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Author, artist, romantic, insomniac, exorcist, creative visionary, lover, and all-around-crazy-person.

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