Way back in 1992, we decided we’d like to do some biking. There was one hitch: My wife, Pat, had a 10-speed Schwinn road bike, but hated it. Her back hurt when she bent over the bars, she never did get the hang of shifting the gears, and it was clear that doing anything over a couple miles would end badly. The answer, of course, was to buy a new bike.
We hit several bike shops in the area, and came up with a hybrid — a Trek 700. It served her well for its intended purpose. We didn’t ride much in town, but did throw our bikes in the trunk of the car and drove to the paved bike trails in southeastern Minnesota. Here, we could ride for miles — safely — and Pat did just fine on the hybrid.
Fast forward 15 years. Pat was president of a local professional organization that sponsored one of the big organized rides around Austin: the Hill Country Ride for AIDS. It was a 50-mile ride, but Pat figured that as president, she should step up, so she started going on training rides with a group of AIDS ride organizers. Her bike-savvy friends pointed out all manner of problems with her bike: The 38mm tires were too wide to go fast (a popular misconception), she needed clipless pedals to add power to her pedal stroke, she really needed a road bike, etc., etc.
Pat rejected the road bike idea, but went to the LBS on a shopping spree. She got Look Keo pedals, 28mm tires, and had them put on a taller stem that put her in an even more upright riding position to take pressure off her arthritic hip. She completed the 50-miler on that bike, and when I saw that, I figured I could do it too. That’s when the Bike Noob really started biking.
We just had the six-speed freewheel replaced and a new chain put on. “It’s like a brand new bike,” Pat said. Earlier this year, I replaced her worn tires with a brand I’d never heard of before — fyxation. They bill themselves as a company that caters to urban bikers, and their Sessions model of tire has a puncture-resistant diamond tread. Pat’s flatted only once on these — they’re terrific tires.
Pat is still on the same bike. She’s got a repertoire of neighborhood rides of nine, 12, and 16 miles, and will occasionally join me on an organized ride where she can do 30 miles or so. It’s her main form of exercise, and exercise is the main reason she rides.
For people who are leery of taking up biking because of the bent-over riding position, this could be the answer. As you get more experience, a few tweaks will let you stretch your riding limits. Who knows? You might even decide to take the plunge and upgrade to a road bike anyway. The next bike purchase in this house will not be for me — it’ll be for Pat.