Sunday, March 22, 2009

Just like riding a bike...

...well, not quite.

Eva and I hauled out our bikes for the first time this season, her for the first time in twenty some-odd years. 
Mine's an old clunker restored to pristine condition by a colleague of Eva's who eats, sleeps and breathes bicycles. Hers is a work of art:

a 2009 Fuji Saratoga touted as "the ideal bike for re-starting biking".

We bought this at Braun's a few weeks back, and let me say for anyone in the area, this is the place you want to go to buy a bike. The service and selection are exceptional. So is the price: we got her fully outfitted (panniers, water bottle, lock, car carrier, helmet, etc.) for less than we'd thought we have to pay for the bike itself.

My darling wife was getting herself stressed out about the whole re-starting biking experience. As I've perhaps mentioned, Eva's a big girl. There's a lot of muscle there--167 pounds worth at last check, more than a woman her height is supposed to weigh, period--but also a fair bit of fat. And carrying around that much weight, no matter how much of it's desirable muscle mass, can screw with your psychology. Hence Eva's fear that she'd hop on the bike and the back tire would say "fuck you" and pop. My reassurances that wouldn't happen were useless, and for a while she put off getting on the bike out of that pervasive fear. We recognized together that the longer we delayed, the worse the fear would get, and so today we brought out the bikes and resolved to ride around the block.

I wasn't expecting much...last year I'd hopped on a bike myself for the first time in almost twenty years, and I vividly recall it taking a little time to get re-acquainted with pedal power. Still, it surprised me a little how wobbly Eva was. She got better as she went along, and by the time we cruised back down our street and into our driveway, she was riding like a pro. In an effort to perhaps better appreciate what she's attempting, I asked to take her bike out for the same spin we'd just done together.

And I promptly derailed her chain. Once that was fixed, I hopped back on and barely made it out of the driveway on two wheels. 
I'd adjusted by the time I got halfway around the circuit...but it took an amazing amount of adjustment. The riding position is completely different...more upright, and the handlebars are closer. Her gears, all 24 of 'em, were something else again. I've never seen, let alone ridden, a bike where you push one lever to gear up and hit a button to gear down. (Shows how out of touch I am: apparently most bikes come this way now.) And holy cow, but her brakes are good enough to practically pitch you over the handlebars with what I think of as a routine application of force.

This may well be "the ideal bike for re-starting biking", but it sure doesn't feel that way at first. Practice, practice, practice....

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