Sunday, November 16, 2008

Is knit, cycle, swim a triathlon?

Friday night was the Mystery Knitting Party at knit-one-one. Saturday morning (and part of the afternoon) was a tire changing clinic and my first ride with my new cycle team. Saturday afternoon and early evening was full of mom. Sunday morning was running. Sunday afternoon was testing new bicycles. I wasn't home all weekend and I'm exhausted. No clean clothes, no clean house, no clean yard. Whoopsie, I guess "productive" is in the eye of the beholder.

I've been knitting away lately, rediscovering my love of finishing projects. Of course, that means I have to knit very easy, quick projects. I'll talk more about Friday night's knitting tomorrow. Or the next day.

When I got in late Friday night I loaded my bike into my car and set out all my cycling gear for the morning. Helmet-shoes-gloves-bike sounds fine and dandy, but I need clothes, food, drinks. Knowing how spacey I normally am in the early morn, I have to get everything together or I'll forget something that I need. I wasn't wrong and when I left the house early Saturday I was glad everything was ready to go.

I'll come right out and say I don't like to change bike tires. I know how to change them, I just don't like to do it. I have weak little hands and even though I know what to do, I can't always do it. I tried hard to rip the darn tire off the wheel but I ... just ... couldn't ... get ... it ... off! I ended up with a bruised hand from it. The captain of my group finally brought me a speed lever (cool little tool!) and I was able, with some struggling, to detach the tire. Finally. The rest of the change went quite easily until I went to put the wheel back on the bike. I was very mindful of my last tire clinic when the wheel slipped and I spent the next couple of hours trying to cycle while the tire rubbed against my frame. I could see why that happened; the wheel has to be placed just so while tightening the whatchamacallit or it slips out. It pretty much took 3 hands to get the wheel in right.

Part of being a team means that when someone is having mechanical issues, or someone is slower, or someone has a cramp, or someone wants another drink of water, you wait for them. That's why we didn't get back to the staging area until after 1:00 pm. We had a wonderful ride, a tough ride, a windy ride, a hilly ride. We left from Las Positas College and headed up Collier Canyon Road. We toured through Livermore along hilly windy roads and flat windy roads. It was hot, clear, beautiful for mid-November. I'll take windy warm sun over cold rain any day!

There were several newbies in my group and we're all getting to know each others' habits and inclinations. I didn't want to follow anyone too closely because people were slowing for no discernible reason, weaving when there didn't seem to be any obstacles, stopping without warning. I know everyone will get better at it as time goes on, but for this ride it was a little awkward in our big group. Luckily, on our very windiest stretch I was following some people who seemed to have ridden in a paceline before and it was easier to get closer and get a little wind-blocking and draft. Again, I know it's going to get better as people get used to riding, used to cycling in a crowd, used to saying "on your left" and pointing out schmootz in the road or indicating if they're stopping or turning. I'm looking forward to it!

When we wheeled back into the parking lot I was tired and very hungry (not to mention cranky). I had brought enough food for a couple hour ride, but not enough food to be gone from home for over 5 hours. There were snacks at our water stop but I wasn't ready to try real food in the middle of my exercising, and didn't want to try different bars or bits that I wasn't used to. I'm going to make sure that next week, and the weeks after, that I have lots of calories in my bento box and pockets. I don't think a gel here or there will be sufficient so I'm going to start improvising. High carb, non-fat, non-fiber. Uh, cookies?

At noon today I met Coach Al at a bike shop in Berkeley. Coach was kind enough to volunteer to make sure that I got a good bike, the right bike for me. Knowing what I do about bikes (that would be "not much" and "hardly anything") I was ready and willing to take any good advice offered. The salesman pulled a couple of bikes out for testing, did some adjusting, pumped the tires and Coach and I headed out on the first one. I mean, I was on the first one. Coach was on his own bike. Sheesh. It was a Specialized Dolce Comp Triple and lemme tell you, I really liked that bike! Riding a bike made in this century was nice, but this bike was special. We went for a ride with a little uphill, a little downhill, some turns, some grades. A very good test of the bike. And a very good test of my ability to learn how to brake and shift on something brand spanking new.

We returned to the store and decided I should try something else; anything would be an improvement over my twenty year old bike and I didn't know if it was that this bike was so wonderful or if anything new would be wonderful. I tried the Specialized Elite Triple and we headed out along the same roads. It didn't feel the same, didn't feel anywhere near as nice to me as the first bike. We had the salesman price out the Comp, with all added components and accessories that I wanted, and I decided to think on it a bit.

I was so honored that Coach Al helped me with this, that he took a couple of hours of his valuable time to come assist me with this. Thank you Coach!

On my way home I decided to stop at my local bike shop to see what they had available. The shop in Berkeley was great, but it's 40 minutes from my home in each direction with no traffic and if I tried to get there after work, forget it. I went to a shop in Dublin where I've been several times before; I know they have a wide assortment of new bikes and they've worked on my bike several times over at least the last 10 years. I know their service is good, but I didn't know about their sales practices.

I was greatly impressed. The salesguy (I keep calling them salesmen, but they aren't really; they're cyclists, mechanics, salesmen, instructors) pulled several bikes off the racks; a low end one, a high end one (above my price range, but he thought I should see what a really good bike felt like), and one in the middle. They were from different manufacturers so it would be a good test. When he found that I had my bike in the car, he took the pedals off of my bike and put them on the first one I was going to try. That way I could compare the bikes equally and ride them comfortably. Hey, why didn't the first shop do that? He also measured the seat placement so that each bike could be set up the same. I didn't know what order I was testing the bikes, which one cost what.

He told me a good route for a test with a little uphill and a great downhill and a couple of grades and some flats. I set off gingerly, not sure whether I should clip in one foot but then I decided that I know my pedals, I know how to get in and out and I could do it quickly. I didn't like the bike at all, thought it was stiff and unresponsive and clunky. I returned to the shop and he swapped out the pedals to the second bike.

I didn't like the gearing on that bike, but otherwise WOW! It was the most attractive one in my eyes but that wasn't it. It was peppy, and sassy and I felt like I was flying. Remember, by this time I was on my 4th bike of the day, after my 6 mile run in the morning (oh yeah, I ran 6 miles with Bree and Anita, a really good run and the perfect length) and after my Saturday hilly bike ride which was longer than anything I'd ridden for quite a while. Despite my growing fatigue I loved that bike. But I also thought it was too much bike for me. I'm not really a good enough cyclist to handle that much bike, to hold it down and keep it straight. Maybe if I was more experienced, or planning on needing to go really fast, but not for what I want now.

The next bike was very close to what I wanted, but still not as nice as the very first, the Dolce. By the time I went up that hill for the final time I needed that granny gear. I had managed on all of bikes that I tested to try all the gears and on this one I was granny-ing a bit longer than any other time. I was glad to get back to the shop. Unfortunately they didn't have a Dolce in my size so I couldn't try it again to compare it again to what I had ridden.

It turned out that the first bike was the cheapest. The middle bike was the expensive, high end carbon bike. Over my self-imposed price limit. The last bike was similar in price to the Dolce.

Once again I had them price out the Dolce Comp with all the components and additions and accessories. They didn't carry exactly the same accessories as the first place, but it was still pedals, bottle cages, computer, different seat, different tape. It would cost about $50 more than the other shop, mostly because I want to switch from a white seat to a black one and the first shop can swap them out and this one will charge. The labor warranty isn't quite as good at the second shop either; the first store will do any labor needed for 90 days and the second will just give a discount. The first will fix tires, but I know I'm not going to drive for a couple of hours just to fix a tire. I'm not even sure I would go there for the labor, it's so far out of my way. Another big difference is the first shop is on commission and it was the one salesman and all the others mostly ignored us. The second shop doesn't have commissions and all the other guys were helping out.

So I have a decision. Do I go to the first shop, get the bike they have in stock with the lower price and the good labor package, and just use all the gas and time to get to and from Berkeley? Do I go to my local bike shop, 5 miles from my house, wait for them to order the bike (about 2 weeks), pay a little bit for upfront and a little more for maintenance? Or do I continue shopping, see what else is out there?

Remember when I said I don't like shopping? This is why!

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