Thursday morning I played hooky and went to test the bicycle I'd been thinking about all week. The one that I had decided was more bike than I needed. The one above and beyond my price range. I couldn't get the way that the bike felt, as if I was riding the perfect machine for me, out of my brain. I decided to give it one more try to see if it was really as great as I remembered. I went to Livermore Cyclery, the Dublin shop, and again they switched out the pedals from my old bike so that I could test the new one under good conditions.
It felt just as good, if not better, than it had the first time. It was effortless to climb the small hill, the flats were comfortable and the downhills was screaming. The shifting was incredible and braking, even in the drops, was easy and responsive. I knew that I'd have to buy the bike and just stick my head in the sand regarding the price.
It's a 2008 Specialized Ruby Comp Triple. According to the Specialized website,
Ride like hell! The Ruby is purpose-built for women who demand a ride without compromise. Utilizing the latest in proprietary Specialized FACT carbon composite technology, female cyclists now have every advantage in equipment that had historically been available to the other half of the population. Whether it's the local race circuit or long rides with fast friends, the Ruby is the perfect riding partner.And it just looks hot. It's black with carbon shading and hot pink lettering and design. The only thing closer to my colors would have been black with red, but this bike makes my heart sing. It comes with a white saddle and bar tape; the tape was grungy just from test rides and the saddle was starting to look off-white. I decided to switch them both to black and after it was done the bike looked even hotter. I added lightweight Look pedals and of course needed new shoes to go with them. I picked the women's Specialized BG Spirita Sport Road Shoe in black with pink stitching, just because they're beautiful and match the bike and feel more comfortable than any other cycling shoe I've tried this year. Black bottle cages and a wireless computer with altitude and cadence (and temperature!) rounded out the must-have accessories.
Technically, for those who know or care, the frame and fork are Specialized FACT 7r carbon, triple monocoque construction, Designs for Women compact design with Zertz inserts. The components are all Shimano 105; gearing with a compact 50x39x30, 10-speed 12-27. For those counting, that's 30 gears compared to the old bike with 18. Although those 18 gears did manage to get me where I was going. The bike weighs almost nothing and is easy to lift into the car or to hang in the garage. And let me repeat, it looks hot!
I spent several hours on Thursday and Friday at the shop getting the bike fit properly. I thought it was wonderful before that; it was incredible afterward. When I bought my old bike they fit it by raising or lowering the seat, and maybe tilting the handlebars. This was technical, measured, fit to me and me alone. After I got the new shoes it even had to be readjusted for just that little tiny change.
I can't say enough good things about the shop. Since they don't work on commission, everyone who has spare time is helping. During my first tests on Sunday I had one guy dedicated to helping me but several others pitching in with comments or assistance. When I returned on Thursday I had 2 others helping me, including the shop's fit specialist. Again on Friday everyone who had time was assisting with this and that. They were friendly, helpful, and not at all judgmental about someone like me who knows diddly squat about bikes or isn't a fast, competitive rider.
The final price was -- er -- considerably higher than my budget. Since the bike was a 2008 model it was definitely cheaper than the 2009 and was marked down from the original price. Just the bike alone, with none of the added stuff, was over my original price ceiling. Whoops. But I got a 10% Team in Training discount (go team!) on the bike and a 15% discount on the rest of the stuff and the total, while higher than I had planned, was not too horribly out of line. Really, it was worth it. And seriously, someone has to step up and stimulate this economy! I'm glad to help support my country!
On Saturday the Team met in San Francisco at Sports Basement for a maintenance clinic. Afterward we split off into groups for the ride. I again decided to go with the beginner group since they were doing a handling clinic (and really, I just didn't want to ride over the bridge and back without getting a better feel for the bike). Our large group headed over to a big empty parking lot in the Presidio. We rode around a line of cones, both upgrade and downgrade, with our hands on the bars then the hoods then in the drops; we sped up and slammed on the brakes; we rode around the cones with 1 leg. My bike performed like a dream and it just felt right. Since it was still early our group went for what I had thought would be a short easy ride.
Uh, that would be a short hard ride. We headed up and through the Presidio, down a big freaking steep hill and to Golden Gate Park. It was a great technical ride with tons of stopping and starting and grades and hills. Our group got used to "slowing" "stopping" "rolling" "take the lane" "on your left" and all the other things that you say in a big group. In fact, it must have been pretty hilarious to hear us going on and on. In the Park I think there are stop signs about every 300 feet and most of them have pedestrians so we had to come to complete halts at almost every single one. I was having deep dark thoughts about having to return the way we came; thinking of going back up that big freaking steep hill did not make me happy. It was, however, a gorgeous day and the Park is always scenic and special when you get to see it under your own power.
Although I had been riding near the front of the pack for most of the ride, I went last at the hill. I told everyone that they had to go ahead because I would almost certainly have to stop. My breathing had been sucky (heh, pun not intended) all day with wheezing and heaving scary gasping and I didn't think my lungs had it in them to climb that sucker (my inhaler was in my car - smart move). Not to mention that my legs were fatigued and I hadn't eaten enough. I headed up the hill, going as slowly as I felt I could without toppling over. I'm not secure enough to stand on the bike while climbing (I never could on the old bike either; something to work on) so I just sat and pushed the pedals and pulled the handlebars and hoped and gasped.
In a complete and utter surprise to nobody except myself, I made it up to the top without pause or stopping. Yippee! As a reward at the top we got a fabulous view of the Bay. As a bigger reward it was downhill or down grade the rest of the way back. When we arrived back at the staging area I was exhausted and my hands and forearms were sore from all the braking we had done. I was completely impressed by the new bike, entranced by the fit and the comfort and performance. Now I just have to improve my riding to match the bike!
I'm glad I took the opportunity to feel out the bike, find what I can do with it, see my own limitations and skill level. But I was sad that I didn't get a chance to open up, to just go. I'm hoping I can do that this weekend. The weather better hold up, I'm not taking my brand spanking new bike out in the rain. That's what the old bike is for!