I had been battling with mounting anxieties concerning me wanting to do long bike rides and me not having a road bike, mainly because I was really nervous about my cycling ability, and, also, because I didn’t want to show up to my first IronTEAM practice on a hybrid. Since I’d been laid off, the idea of a carbon-bodied, race-ready machine was far beyond my grasp, but I decided to peruse Craigslist for possibilities. Last week, I saw it, a Women’s Specialized Dolce Sport bike, 57 cm, in my neighborhood, for almost 50% retail. I decided to jump on the deal and contacted the owner.
It took us about a week to meet up, and, when I did get there, I had to help her to pull the bike out of her car. A young woman, she had purchased the bike to ride with her mother, an avid cyclist, and, I’m guessing, she had the bike stored over at her mom’s place. It was really dusty and the gears were dirty, a big no-no if you want your components to work in five years. Still, everything else on the bike looked to be in good shape. I straddled it and pushed down on the pedal. The bike wobbled out of control and I had to stop and restart.
“I’m not used to a road bike,” I called out, apologetically.
Still, the reach felt good and the frame size was okay (there should be 1″ of clearance between the top tube and your private bits, when you’re standing over it). I shifted through the gears, braked, and all felt normal. Compared with the solid comfort ride of my hybrid, the light responsiveness of the road bike felt slippery. My turns were wider than they should have been, but I managed to retain weak control of the thing before I stopped to say, “I’ll take it.”
I’m a no-fuss kind of person, plus the price was right and I needed something to compete on. I handed her the cash, loaded the bike into my car, and that was that.
When I got home, the thing needed a lot of fussing. I promptly cleaned off the dusty frame, then brushed out, de-greased, rinsed, and re-greased the gears and chain (you should have seen the dirt that poured out of these things). Aside from a few tiny scuffs, the thing was in tip-top shape.
I took the bike on a test ride this morning, within the confines of a safe and somewhat secluded parking lot. I’ll admit that, after my wobbly first ride on it, my confidence was a bit shaken. As I drove to the lot, my thoughts rambled: What if I have a hard time riding this thing? Ugh, one more thing I have to learn/get used to. Why can’t I just be good at something right from the start? Why is it always so hard?
The nimble black and steel grey frame rolled effortlessly beside me. Unlike with my hybrid, I could guide it with one hand on the handlebar stem. I walked it all the way up to the very top of the enormous parking lot, where there was a lot of free space to just roll around, adjusted the pedal, pushed off, and…took off smoothly! Perched atop this lithe beast, I zoomed around the lot, weaving this way and that, standing up in the pedals, feeling, dare I say it, confident and secure! Maybe, just maybe, I could actually ride this thing without losing control!
I slowly pressured my brakes to come to a stop. I remembered from my road bike class that, in order to stop a road bike with the seat height properly adjusted (meaning, high enough so the feet don’t touch the ground when the rider is seated), the rider must choose a dominant leg, step on the opposite pedal, tilt the bike toward the dominant side, and use the leg to “catch” and stop the bike. I tried this and basically managed to bunny hop a few times on my dominant leg, while my other leg also touched down for balance. Way to be slick. I put myself through stop drills five (or ten) times until I could do three stops in a row without hopping or letting my other leg come down.
Next step will be actually taking it for a ride. I’m not sure when I’ll get to test her out on the bike paths, but hopefully next week, before I head out of town. I am kind of excited!
P.S. I named her, “Shadow Comet.”