Bikes have changed a lot since I was 161 and rode my 10-speed Schwinn Varsity in a road race in Mason, Ohio and came in second. For one thing, they are made of space-age materials, and the fact that my new bike is made primarily from aluminum and not carbon is, apparently, going to be a major source of humiliation for me. A carbon bike costs about twice as much as my new ride. Dan kept saying, “Here, lift this! Feel how light it is!” and I would lift the expensive bike, but the weight differential (approx. 20 ounces, as far as I could tell) was imperceptible to me. Bike snobs of the world, shun me.
My redemption will be in the “componentry”, as Dan calls it, or the “clicking stuff” as I call it. When I rode my Schwinn, as I recall, the shifter was a little metal thingy that sat on the right handlebar. It had the numbers 1 through 10 on it. Thus, you clicked to the number you wanted, and that was the gear you were in. Something like that. Now, the shifters are little paddles built right into the brake thingies.2 The little black paddle does one thing and the bigger one does something else, and the right one goes up and the left one goes down, or vice versa. Anyway that’s how you shift the thing.
And don’t get me started about the damn pedals. Did you know that bikers have to wear special shoes that they clip into special pedals so their feet are actually attached to the bike? Here’s me, falling over. Thud. I think this is written in the same Rulebook that dictates the long tight black padded shorts and the snug zip-up jersey with writing all over it that is supposed to make you look like you’ve been in the Tour de France even though you are riding down Foothill Boulevard past the Toyota dealership. But I digress.
Dan took me to Helen’s Cycles in Santa Monica, where I already know I am not going to be cool enough. I mean, come on, Santa Monica! We saw a dude drive up in a white Beemer convertible, unlit cigar hanging out of his mouth, white polo shirt with the collar flipped up, stacked little female companion by his side. He was like a tv character, seriously. Like maybe the cocky film producer who gets decapitated on CSI.
But Dan bought his bike there and really likes the place. He's become a real expert on bikes since he took up road riding with his sons; he tends to become an expert at everything he gets interested in. He took some cooking classes with Sam: ask him about pasta making sometime.
So we go in to look at this one Cannondale that’s on sale, and after a while I am out on the street test riding bikes. Damon, our sales person, talks technical stuff with Dan – “so this one has 105s, not Tiagras” “the head tube is a little longer, I think it fits her better” – while I pedal up and down a side street and try not to look foolish.
“How do you like this one? How does it feel?”
Dan wants me to get a bike sooo bad. He is already picturing the two of us out on the road, touring wine country perhaps, or cruising down the PCH.3
“It’s good,” I say. I have ridden exactly two Cannondale bikes, up and down the same side street in Santa Monica, and the main thing I am thinking is “wow, this seat is really crushing my lady business”. But I also want a bike. I want to recapture the feeling of complete freedom, riding through the countryside in Mason4, the wind in my hair5; I also want to be able to climb two flights of stairs without panting, and riding a bike is the only form of exercise that appeals to me whatsoever. So I say, “It’s better than the other one. I like it.”
He tells me it’s an excellent bike. I am completely dependent on him as far as this purchase goes. I look at Damon helplessly and say, “It’s like taking a 12 year old to a car dealership.” And even though it’s a bit more than we wanted to spend, Dan gets it for me. And then he gets me the bike computer. And the bike bag with the spare tire in it. And a pump and two water bottles that attach to the bike frame, and a new helmet, and some lights for the front and back, and some of those obnoxious padded shorts (which my lady business will appreciate, I’m sure).6 Oh yeah, and some gloves. Damon magnanimously takes 10 percent off the accessories for him.7 We load the bike into the minivan, and all the way home I map out the places I am going to ride. Good thing Dan’s driving.
Now we’re home, and it’s dark out, and I am actually looking forward to getting up early and going for a ride. Which, if you know me, is a miracle. Look for me on Foothill Boulevard; I’ll be the one wearing bike shorts and a Springsteen t-shirt.
11978. Same year I saw Bruce on the Darkness on the Edge of Town tour. Damn good year.
2 Give me a couple of weeks, I’ll know the right names for all this stuff.
3 I, on the other hand, expect to be cruising around the Rose Bowl parking lot.
4 Which has long since been razed and paved and overdeveloped into “Cincinnati’s Top Suburb”. I’m not lying. I was there recently, and they have banners flying along Tylersville Road, where I used to ride, crowing this great honor recently bestowed by Cincy Magazine.
5 You didn’t wear helmets back then unless you were in a race. It was awesome.
6 I did not get the Tour de France shirt, or the special shoes and pedals. Yet.
7 Which just about covers the 9.75% sales tax in L.A. County.