I have a friend who said to me wisely, as her marriage was falling apart, “It’s all there on the first date, if we could only see it.” And so it was with Janet. To be honest, ever since the idea of a road bike entered my head, it’s a black carbon fiber bike I’ve been dreaming of (even if I couldn’t afford one), not Janet’s powder blue. But I was so taken with her sunny disposition, her capable shifters, her efficient brakes, her flat bars (and her price), that I fell in love too fast and sold myself short. And over time the deficiencies I might have spotted on my first ride, became real drawbacks: her persistent lack of aerodynamics, and her weight.
Meanwhile, with every visit to Zen, the vision of my dream bike is becoming clearer: a stealth gestalt at once mysterious and charismatic. Light and responsive, fast on straight-aways, strong on inclines, with great aerodynamics, a great fit – and definitely black. Well, who wouldn’t want that? That’s why it’s a dream bike. But I’ve seen dreams come true before, and I think my bike is out there. It must be. I determine that if I should ever find it, I will name it Lola.
J hoists down an affordable Felt carbon fiber bike with dropped handle bars and encourages me to take it around the block. But I’m not comfortable with those handle bars in traffic, and the gearing is still foreign to me. I ask him to mount it on a Cycle-Ops, so I can try it out in the store.
He makes various adjustments, but still it feels forced. It’s too pink, too garish. And the fit isn’t natural. I want to like it, but finally I say, “I’m not in love. Can you show me anything else?”
Whereupon J takes down a Scott carbon fiber woman’s bike, The Contessa Solace 15 (I’m a sucker for royalty), and puts it on the machine.
Women have longer legs (generally) and shorter torsos. Janet was designed with women in mind, and she’s comfortable in that regard. So is this bike.
Good fit: Check.
It’s a stealthy, velvety matt black with just a couple of fuschia accents. The right combination of mysterious, charismatic – and slightly seductive:
It tips the scale at just 16.5lbs – nearly 8 lbs lighter than Janet:
Check and Double Check.
No hydraulic disc brakes (I’ll miss those) but like Janet, gears and brakes threaded through the frame, forks that are hollow and flat, to cut down on weight and drag...
But there are those drop down handle bars again. I run into the usual resistance about changing them to flat. I know it can be done though – my friend P did this on her gorgeous Trek Madone - so for now I don’t insist.
And now a note about love. Even if you want it, even if the outsides look great and all the signs are go, that doesn’t mean it’s going to work (well, I said it was just a note). At the same time, what do I know about bikes? Even less than I know about love.
As a musician, even after years of experience, I always had a techy friend, someone who could advise me on equipment purchases. It paid off. I sidestepped a lot of disasters that way and it shortened my learning curve considerably. But I don’t know anybody who’s an expert on bikes. I’m dependent on J, his judgment – and the stock at Zen (which is actually quite large and varied).
On the one hand, it’s money I shouldn’t be spending. On the other, this bike feels like the one I should have bought all along. And it fills every requirement. Do I dare to hope this is my Lola? I am encouraged by the quality of her Shimano components, her enhanced “granny gear” for climbing – but because of those drop bars, I haven’t even ridden her around the block – and it’s too dark by now (I don’t ride at night). I know I’m taking a big chance.
I say a quick prayer, and in an act of hope over experience, plunk down the credit card (ouch).
But what about Janet? I don’t have room in my hallway for two road bikes, and I really don’t have the need. J suggests I put her up for sale on Craigslist. That sounds practical, but really harsh - and so sudden; we only just got back from Nyack. I have an emotional moment as I remove her lights, seat and pouch to put on the new bike. She has served me well in her way. She never pretended she was light, black - or aerodynamic; I was the one who embraced her and tried to make it work. Zen offers to store her for me until she sells. But I’ve never had anything sell right away on Craigslist, which will buy me a little time. Perhaps I’ll find a way (and a good reason) to keep her.
I’m excited about the future, but I’m aware that this bike – even if it’s perfect - will not transform everything. The riding, the training, the effort is still up to me.
I walk the new bike home where I reap the first benefit: I can lift it up the stoop with one arm.
Tomorrow is supposed to be warm and clear. I’ll try out those drop bars and gears on a quiet street in my neighborhood and see how it goes.