Sunday, May 15, 2011

When three bikes aren't enough

Never Done: I (finally) got bike to ride for the triathlon

When I woke up, eight weeks into training for the triathlon, I had two bikes in the hallway, and neither of them was right for the race. Mine is a wonderful little folding bike with only 7 gears -- great for commuting, but definitely not for racing. The other is a loaner from Mich (making her third appearance in as many days in this blog, and keep reading tomorrow, when she will makes it four out of four) that she'll be taking away for the summer.

When I went to sleep, I had three bikes in the hallway, none of which would work for the triathlon, and a yet fourth on loan which looks like it will. It takes a village to complete the biking portion of a triathlon.

About two weeks ago, after much measuring and remeasuring and discussion and rediscussion, Kara shipped her gorgeous Bianchi Eros across the country for me. I had it sent to 718 Cyclery to get it built up, because I like the owner, Joe, and the low-key, personalized philosophy of his shop. I had to wait a couple weeks to get an appointment with him, because he is a full-time architect in the city and owns and runs a bike store on the side, (oh, what people won't do to follow their passion) but the wait was worth it. When I got there, he had already assembled the bike, and was ready to adjust to my size. Only there was a hitch. We couldn't adjust the bike, which has 650 wheels (which are smaller than the wheels you are used to seeing, and thus also the frame is smaller) to the dimensions I need. There's some crucial magic triangle in bike fitting, involving the seat height, the length from the seat to the handlebars, and the relative height of the seat to the handlebars. We could get two of the three measurements right, but we couldn't get all three. Kind of like adjusting the spaghetti and the sauce and the parmesan cheese -- you add some sauce, and then you don't have enough spaghetti, and then you add spaghetti and you need more cheese. Only harder and greasier.

So we got it as good as we could get it, but not as good as we wanted, and then Joe suggested I just go out and ride and see how it works. Because the numbers on the paper aren't as good an indicator as just hopping on and seeing how it feels. So I went out, and within seconds I knew this was not a good fit. But I rode it for a while -- into the park, around the loop, and up a hill -- before going back to the shop and breaking the bad news. Everything hurts. My neck, my mid back, my lower back. Also, the bike was hard to handle, and I had a hard time working the brakes and the gears from the main hand position on the handlebars.

Joe sort of nodded. I think he had already known. He used a great word -- said that 650 wheels are twitchy -- meaning that you feel every bump and every pothole, and that every little turn of the handlebars makes a significant steering adjustment. I'm not sure why my little bike with even smaller wheels isn't twitchy, but he was right about this one. But there was really nothing we could do, so he suggested I take it and ride it, and that I could come back as often as I need to make adjustments to try to make it work. As I was leaving the store, he once again admired the beauty of the bike and its components, and wished me luck.

I came home, feeling defeated, and just wanted to literally crawl into bed. But instead I finished some work on a screenplay treatment that I was massively overdue to work on (sorry partner!) and decided to go back out and ride the little bike. Josh and I decided to combine that with looking at a house for sale near some friends of ours, so we took a ride into the park and down to the other side, and past this house, and then decided to see if our friends were home and wanted a visit. Well, I only knew one half of the couple, so they weren't both our friends yet, but they were home and told us to drop by.

You know when you really, really, really like one half of a couple and you hope you'll like the other half even half as much? I couldn't have told you before we went over, but that was going on for me. I have known D for 10 years -- we occasionally work together, and I love it when we do. He's funny and warm and sees the big picture of even the smallest things and a couple of weeks ago reduced my personality in the most perceptive way anyone has ever tried to reduce my personality. (Something along the lines of, One minute we're working through a task list, then we're taking a mental break to go off on a tangent, and the next thing you know we're back to Type A again.) It turns out that P is quite different from D, and equally (yet uniquely) wonderful. And I'm not just saying that because she offered to lend me her bike for my triathlon. Say what? She is going to lend me her bike for not only my triathlon, but for the training. She's going to give me a key to her house, and let me come and take it on training rides, and then use it for the race. This, after knowing me for 45 minutes.

She let me try it out, with its fancy clippy shoes, and it felt great. After all that fitting and measuring and shipping and building and more fitting and riding and feeling despondent on the couch and getting my ass off the couch, I randomly showed up at someone's house who offered to lend me a bike that seems to fit me perfectly. Both the coincidence and the generosity are a little hard to come to terms with, but I'm just trying to take it in the spirit of this week's mide (middah): Righteousness: What is hateful to you do not do to others, or put another way, treat others the way you wish to be treated. Believe me, I am already thinking of ways to repay her, hopefully in ways that will enrich her life as much as her offering will enrich mine.

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