New Ride

21 May 2011

As I said I would do when I moved into town, I bought a bicycle. At first, my boss said he had his son's old bike which he said was hardly used that he would sell me. So he brought in to me to try out. Once I saw it, I thought it was more used than he led on; but it was still in decent shape. I was thinking I would offer him $50 for it, but he wanted $70. He said to take it home, try it out and see what I think. It was a few days before I took it out due to poor weather.

This bike has those quick release wheels. Ever since I was a kid I never wanted a bike with those because I worried that something would happen and the wheel would come loose and cause me to crash. This bike which I will refer to as "the black bike" because of it's color, had an issue with the quick release levers not staying tight as I would soon find out. The first morning (Friday) I took the black bike to work on the 2-mile trip. I tightened down the quick release levers once more and took off. I got down halfway of the first street and the rear wheel came loose and started rubbing on the frame. I stopped and realigned it and tightened it down again. I made it about 1 3/4 miles to the biggest and busiest intersection in our city and even in the county. I waited for the signal to cross the street and started to pedal away. About halfway across the street the rear wheel gave way again only worse and I almost fell into the street in front of a lot of morning traffic! I tried in vain to go again hoping it would turn and just rub on the frame as it did before. But no luck, I almost fell again. I then hopped, yes hopped the black bike the rest of the way across the street like a crazy fool. I can only imagine what all those people in their cars were thinking. Most were probably laughing at me, as I would have done if I saw someone else go through that! I spent about five minutes on the sidewalk trying to get it back on. Hands and pant leg greasy from the chain and I am on my way again. Thank God nothing serious happened to me. I had some scrapes and cuts on my leg from when my foot came off the pedal and that was the extent of my injuries.

I'm glad I didn't fall down in the middle of this street as I did once long ago as a kid on the country road I fell on before. Back then, we were always doing tricks and stunts or other dumb things with our bikes. This is how I got one of my earliest nicknames, "looney von jif." My two best friends and I would take a sheet of 4x8 plywood, prop it up on some blocks and then I would get my bike going as fast as I could and jump the makeshift ramp. We all would take turns and jump our bikes. Eventually we started taking extra blocks of wood and 2x4's and putting them as obstacles on top of the ramp. Here is where the nickname came from as I was the only one stupid enough to run my bike over the treacherous ramp! My two "friends" were either too chicken or too smart and never jumped the ramp with the obstacles on it. Oh I made quite the spectacle of myself when I crashed off that thing and we got plenty of laughs from it. I never got hurt real bad which was fortunate. Some short years later I was all about trying to see how low to the ground I could get my bike without losing balance in a turn. One time I was in the middle of the road doing this and got so low that I lost my balance and tipped over right in the middle! I lay there for several seconds on the road laughing, while my friends laughed along. Then I looked up and here comes a car at 55mph! Quickly I get up and move off the road. I did not want to repeat that event on the busiest street around here.

I told my boss what I thought of the black bike and said thanks but no thanks. Later that day on a break, one of the girls had to go to the Walmart so I went with her to look at other bikes. I really didn't want to spend a lot for a bike so I figured I would spend only about $100 for a new one. I found a bike which I will call "red bike" for $105 out the door. It is an 18-speed and had suspension on the front and rear wheels; something I never had on a bike before. The red bike also had the wheels attached with traditional nuts and lock washers. It also had a gear shifter like that of the throttle on a motorcycle which I had never seen before. All my bikes as a kid had the old thumb shifters. We then took the red bike back to the office in her Mercury Mountaineer. Later that day I rode the red bike home from work. It was a much safer feeling ride than my morning experience. But I noticed two things that I didn't like about it once I got started riding. The first was the front de-railer would keep rubbing on the chain no matter how much I adjusted the shifter. It wasn't bad, but annoying none-the-less. The other was noticeable about a mile into the trip, my butt really hurt from the unpadded small seat. It hurt enough to be sore into the next day. In the morning I went back to the Walmart and bought a nice gel-padded, wide seat and put that on the red bike. Then I went for another ride around town. I went much further around than 2 miles which took me to the north side of town (I live on the south side), out to one of the parks, through the park and out by the hospital and then headed back south to the apartment. My bottom felt much better with the new seat. However, the rubbing chain I found out was caused by a bent hub. The hub is the part where the pedal shafts connect at the middle of the frame. A bent hub is not an easy fix and it takes getting a whole new one and disassembling and unpacking the bearings etc... It's not something I wanted to do, especially on a $100 Walmart bike. Lastly about the red bike, the kickstand seemed too short and the red bike was always very close to tipping over which I didn't like. Being in my mid-30's now, I am not a kid anymore and my body doesn't take the beating riding a bicycle can give as well as it used to and I feel every bump in the road now for a while. This never used to bother me when I was younger.

After the long ride, my hands, wrists and arms were tired and sore from the angle of the handle bars compounded by the height and angle of the seat. I had the seat raised up as high as it would go so that my knees weren't in my chest as I pedaled and so I could get full extension while pedaling. It all added up to being uncomfortable to ride, save the new padded seat. I decided to return the red bike back to the Walmart. I did so and went back to look at another bike that I looked at the day before. It was a taller bike (29" vs. 26" on the red bike) and it was white. It had a front disc brake and was a 21-speed. I rode it up and down a couple of aisles and decided that I didn't like it. A white bicycle seemed too feminine and although it was new, had a lot of deep scratches on the handle bars. Plus the front disc brake was not very good at stopping the bike. This white bike was $200. I decided to pass and headed downtown to a dedicated bicycle shop. I knew going there would be more expensive than anything at a "big box mart." I had to have a bike that wouldn't kill me and was of decent quality.

I walked into the bike shop and they had a lot of bikes ranging from over $300 to $800 that I saw; there were probably more expensive ones too, but I didn't notice them. The cute girl there came over and started to show me around, asked what I was looking for in a bike and so forth. I found one that I thought looked good and was reasonably priced compared to many of them there. This bike I call "the silver bike." The silver bike is more of a cruising or touring bike I guess; I'm not really sure what to call it. It's not a speed or long distance road bike and it's not a mountain bike. The silver bike is a 7-speed which only has a de-railer in the back and none in the front. It came with a wide padded seat and the handle bars were much higher up than the red bike and the black bike. The cute girl let me ride it through the store and out the back into one of the city parking lots. It was a very comfortable ride and felt real solid. I knew it was a keeper right away!

We brought it back into the store and I said I'd buy it. The other thing about the silver bike is that my friend "clearance" was selling it for the low price of $339! Even on clearance it was more than I initially wanted to spend on a bicycle, but after my experiences with the other two bikes, I saw that I had no other choice. I added a water bottle holder to my purchase and I was about to be on my way. The cute girl also told me that I get 1 year of free service with the silver bike. Should anything go wrong with it I can bring it in and they will take care of it for free. That was comforting to know.

I took the silver bike home which is branded by Trek and the model is Navigator 1.0. I added a cable bike lock which I bought the other day with the red bike to the front handlebar stem, right under the reflector. Then I took it out for her maiden voyage. It is a real dream to ride! It was so smooth, comfortable and the changing of gears was quick and solid. It is also quite quiet with no clanging of the chain or other parts. It's a real solid bike and I rode it all over the east and south sides of town for about an hour. My trip to work is about 15 minutes by the way. I really love the high handle bars which makes me sit more upright like a chair instead of bent over like a traditional mountain bike. I guess the only thing I would have liked to have with it is the front and rear suspension for added comfort, but that probably would have added a couple of hundred dollars to the price tag. But it's not that big of a deal to me.

I am very happy with this bike! Now I can ride to work on nice days, save fuel in my vehicle and get some needed exercise too. Plus, because it is so nice to ride I plan on just taking it for rides as often as I can.

Download the pdf version with pictures here.