Monday, June 13, 2011

Bicycles Bicycles

From high school through about 5 years ago I barely rode a bike at all. But my decision to do a triathlon was the impetus that sent me to a local bike shop to purchase a road bike. Unfortunately, I knew absolutely nothing about bikes.

Ater I picked myself up from the floor, writhing from the sticker shock, I just bought whatever they had on the lower price end -- a Specialized Allez Sport (and I took enough Francais to know that allez means "go", and that's what I wanted to do). I didn't really know what I wanted, but knew I didn't want one of those sleek, fancy Tour de France time trial style bikes because I could never afford the properly fashioned spandex to accompany it.

Road bike I sold

It was a good bike, but I never really felt any love for it. I took it on some beautiful, scenic road rides in WI and rails to trails rides in MN, but it just didn't have much character.

Around that same time 5 years ago I also dipped my toe into bike commuting to work. The old mountain bike I rode wasn't the most efficient transport, but it got the job done until it was stolen from right behind my place of business 3 years ago. That's when I bought the Gary Fisher Mendota for commuting, but, again, I didn't really know what I was buying.

The trusty steed -- my commuter

This is a terrific bike and has served me well, but has disc brakes, which I didn't really understand at the time. Disc brakes are mostly used on mountain bikes because normal brakes on a mtn bike will get all muddied up from the dirt & muck on the tires. Disc brakes are also renowned for their superior stopping power, which is nice in a brake. The downside of disc brakes is that they require constant maintenance. Every few days I'm adjusting one part of it or tweaking another. There are 4 or 5 different ways to tweak the fit. It's also kind of a beast, what with its oversized frame tubes, but I do like the fact that I've never seen anyone else riding one.

For the past few years I've been doing my own maintenance and getting a bit more into the bike culture, both of which have led to my knowing more about bikes and understanding better what I'm really looking for.  The problem is that I now understand why people own 3 or more bikes. I feel like I need:
  • one mountain bike for exploring the wilds of Montana (definitely, thanks Steve),  
  • one touring bike for loading up with front and back panniers and getting out on multi-day, overnight bike tours (pretty sure...but maybe not quite yet), and
  • one low maintenance simpleton for getting around town (definitely if my only other bike is mtn bike).
Neither the Gary Fisher Mendota nor the Specialized Allez Sport fit any of these needs.

So I sold the Specialized several weeks ago but don't want to unload the Gary Fisher until I have its replacement for tooling around town. Bozeman is really flat in the city limits, so I'm considering a single speed or fixed gear. The friends I have with fixies rave about them, but there's also the hipster factor which I'd need to avoid. It's a delicate balance. Ideally, I'd find a city bike like that that could be adapted for winter riding, too, meaning I could add wider tires and fenders which not every frame can accommodate.

I'm now set with a sweet mountain bike thanks to buddy Steve moving to Chicago and unloading his. Now I need to just keep my eyes out for the next right one to come along. I'm not sure if I'll have better luck finding the right used bike in Mpls (#1 biking city in the nation) or if I can pick something up in Bozeman (pretty good bike culture of its own), but I guess I'll find out.

My new (used) mtn bike

Just another of the major dilemmas in my life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To add another to the list of bikes it's nice to own: the folding bike. It's definitely practical for my commute as I can fold it to take on the train part way, store it easily inside at work and even throw it in a car trunk when I need to. I ride a Montague bike which is really a performance folding bike. They use full size wheels and standard parts. Pretty great bikes.