When I was planning to go to She Does Tri I debated about shipping my bike to camp or renting a bike. I listened to a few friends who told me horror stories about shipping their bikes and about renting bikes. I decided to try the rental route though. I figured for a few hours that I would be fine. Krista put me in touch with Kris Auer, owner of Twenty20 Cycling in Baltimore. (Check out the feature about the shop in the May issue of Bicycling Magazine.) Kris and I traded some e-mails about my bike. I answered some questions with Gina Simpson’s help at VeloCity. After I bought the bike shoes and clip in pedals, I contacted Kris again. He said to just bring the pedals along so I made sure I had what I needed.
I own a Cannondale Hybrid. I like it and it is a pretty sturdy bike. When I bought it in October I figured that was a good bike to start on since the road bikes just looked a little too scary to me. My cousin Dionne, who was part of my inspiration to try a triathlon, told me about riding a bike with road tires and how different it was than the wider tires. But I’ve had this nagging desire to try a road bike lately. I had planned on asking Krista and/or Kris about it and if I might be able to try out a road bike while I was at camp in what I thought felt like a safe environment. I never got around to sending the e-mail though. Little did I know how that desire would be answered without even asking.
Friday afternoon there was a tire changing clinic, a skill every cyclist should possess. Kris arrived with bike tools for all of us and with the bike that I would be riding for the weekend. Everyone else had brought their own bikes. My wish was answered. Still, I looked at the bike Kris brought me with a bit of disbelief. It was a road bike and not just any road bike as I would learn throughout the weekend. He brought me this bike:
When he showed me the bike, the conversation went something like this:
Me: I ride a hybrid. I have never ridden a bike like this. (fearful voice)
Kris: I thought you might like to try this one.
Me: Ok. I ride a hybrid. (stunned voice, with a bit of fear)
Kris: I have a hybrid if you want one.
Me: I’ll try this one.
Kris: Do you know how to take the front wheel off?
Kris: I’ll do it for you.
The tire changing commenced as Kris showed us how to deflate the tire, take the tube out, and put the tubes back in the tires. We quickly learned that this was not as easy as it appeared and that some bike tires were harder to deal with than others were. He showed us some tricks and gave us all tips. We learned the best way to use a floor pump and how to use a CO2 cartridge to fill a tire. As I was putting the tube back in I obviously did not get it in quite right. When I started to fill the tube, there was a loud explosion. If you have heard that sound, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, I don’t even know how to describe it. The tube exploded. I felt pretty stupid but I was assured that I had provided a good example. Y’all were so nice to me. Kris took over, showed me what I had done and why the tire exploded, and proceeded to put in a new tube. I was very grateful because I really would not have felt comfortable riding if I had been the one to change the tire again.
Since I had never ridden a road bike, Kris gave me a few tips. He told me how the brakes and shifting mechanism worked because I had not used SRAM components. Mine are Shimano. Then he causally mentioned that the Blue was about a $5,000 bike. I thought I misheard. I thought, really? Then I was convinced that he had really pointed to the Specialized bike that was sitting beside the Blue.
I texted Sam later.
Me: I will email a photo of the $5,000 bike I am being trusted with.
Sam: Oh lord
Me: I hope he was kidding. He might have been. It is a road bike though.
I checked the internet for Blue bikes and then wrote:
I think it might be around $1500. I will send a photo of the one I think he meant was $5,000.
Sam: When I see it I’ll let you know.
So I sent the pictures.
On Saturday Chris Newell joined us for a riding and bike handling clinic at Loch Raven. I was feeling pretty nervous by the time we arrived and were getting ready to ride. I was wishing that I had asked Kris to bring that hybrid instead. Several people helped try to calm my fears and assured me that I would be fine. I was not convinced. Chris Newell took a look at the bike and confirmed that yes, indeed, it was a $5,000 bike. Krista hadn’t really looked at it and confirmed the same. Chris Newell helped me get started and coached me through getting used to the shifting. I felt like a lot was being thrown at me all at once. Skinny tires – how were these going to hold me? SRAM components. Good grief, how do these work? Different handlebars, a different saddle, and a hilly terrain.
We were riding from one parking lot to the next one so we could practice cornering, braking and some other skills. Everyone else took off and I was left back with Chris. I felt panic and I almost wanted to give up. I could not get my left foot clipped in and suddenly I was on hill going up. I had to stop and get started again. Krista came back to try to help. They both encouraged me and talked me through getting going again and I did. Krista stayed with me and helped me get to the parking lot. I was relieved to make it that far. This was a very different experience. The clinic was a great help but I was terrified. I am always terrified I am going to fall. It goes back to that bike accident I had when I was 10-11 as well as not wanting to be humiliated even though I know everyone falls off their bikes. This bike was fast – much faster than my bike. The cornering exercises were pretty scary to me but I made it through all of them and I did not fall or run into anyone. I survived.
We headed out on an out and back route that was about 10-12 miles. I regularly ride a 23-26 mile route but even a few miles on this bike felt like it was going to be a lot, especially because of the hills and curves. Loch Raven is mainly traffic free, a very good thing. Krista and I started out together. I got stuck on another hill and stopped to try to get going. I was really close to totally breaking down in tears. We talked for a few minutes and I said that I was absolutely terrified of this bike. She encouraged me, told me to just take it slow and get used to the bike. She was sure I would be fine. Krista was right. I really appreciate her coaching on the bike and that she stayed with me on the ride. It made all the difference in my ride and experience.
The Blue weighs around 10 pounds or less. It is very responsive so I had to concentrate even more than I usually do. I really had to get the feel for the SRAM shifting. Things started to click. Going up hill was so much easier. Going down hill was exhilarating (and scary). We made it to the end of the route and turned around to come back. Everyone else was ahead of us but not really as far ahead as I thought they might be. The ride back was much better. I want this bike. In Cathy’s words, I was not letting the bike defeat me. Krista continued to coach me through corners, reinforcing what Chris had taught us. We made it back to the parking lot. I was exhausted mentally and physically and we still had an hour to an hour and half more to go in the pool.
Everyone was kind. They told me how great I looked on the bike. We took some photos. I look dorky because my helmet was crooked. David took a few on Sunday for me where I look slightly less dorky, just like myself. The bike felt good – no, it felt far more than good. It was really incredible.
When Krista and I returned the bike on Monday, we were telling Kris about my ride. He said, “I wanted to give you something really nice. It’s not the usual rental.” Thank you so much. I am not sure if you know how much I appreciate this experience. You did make me want this bike though. I appreciated the time he took to explain different kinds of bikes and frames to me on Monday and the pros and cons of each. The information will help me think about what I want and what I need once I save some money.