Saturday, July 26, 2014

On the Importance of Persistence

I have almost tweaked my bike exactly how I like it. It took lots of cajoling and convincing of the bike shop mechanics that, yes, some people actually like to have a more upright riding position on a touring bike with drop bars. They told me my fit was perfect how it was! That my downward angle would give me so much more power and efficiency and let me ride faster and longer!

I told them I didn't care. "I won't ride if I'm not comfortable. Then efficiency will mean nothing."

"Well," he said after swapping for a more upright angled stem, "we can't get the handlebars any higher."

"What about a stem riser?" I asked.

"Well... I GUESS that would work," he said.

Me: "Is there any reason -- besides 'efficiency' -- why a stem riser is not a good idea?"

Him (thoughtful pause): "Aesthetics?"

Yep. That's what it came down to. This guy couldn't comprehend the idea of someone who wanted a bike that fit, that looked, a little different. It would look weird. So much for the wants and needs of the customer.

I eventually convinced him we are going with a stem riser. He reluctantly agreed. I picked one up on amazon and brought it to him the next day. He threw it on the bike and told me to go ride it for a few minutes and then we can tweak.

I left the shop and rode across Key Bridge. And within about twenty feet, I got this huge grin on my face, and I actually started laughing, because the fit was so perfect! I was more upright, and more comfortable, and I could look ahead without straining my neck upward... This was all I wanted!

I rode four miles to Reagan airport and called the bike store. Congratulations, I told them. It's fixed. I won't be returning. :)

It's been about a week and I still love the fit, although I do plan to tilt my seat nose upward a bit, as I've found myself sliding forward a bit too much. So we're still dialing in the mythical *perfect* fit... but even as it stands now, I'm extremely pleased.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

My New Bike Will Take Me Across the Country! soon as it fits right

I got a new bike! It's a Trek 520, which is made for touring but I'm also told is great for commuting. I was going to get a Trek 7.4 FX, which is a hybrid fitness bike, but when I mentioned to the salesperson that I dream of riding the trail all the way to Pennsylvania -- and maybe even riding cross country one day -- he steered me directly to the Trek 520. "THIS is the bike you want," he said. The 2013 model was on sale, and I saved more than $200. I love the color -- the dark olive/bronze is so classy!

It's a beautiful bike -- and very different than what I'm used to. I've never ridden a bike with drop bars before, and frankly the position is all wrong for me. They said I'm supposed to ride on the hoods (the part up by the brakes), but I feel so stretched out there. It's not very comfortable. They say I'll "get used to it." The store manager did a fitting, watched me ride and said he would even suggest a longer stem that pushes the handlebar out farther, getting me lower. "It will be much more comfortable, trust me."

NO! I trust no one. I know how I like to ride, dammit. I'm an upright guy. I like to see the scenery. Drag? Inefficient pedaling? Meh. Not important to me. I'm not trying to win a race. I do, however, have a vested interest in staying comfortable. If I'm not comfortable, I won't ride.

I did a quick 10 miles this morning, and while I'm sure I could get used to the more aggressive position, I can't imagine ever really liking it. I found myself on the flats (the top bar) most of the time, which was better but still not as high or comfortable as my hybrid was. Plus there's no brakes up there, so it's less safe.

And so! I will be modifying this otherwise very nice bike. I've ordered a Brooks B67 saddle, which is made for an upright position, and is said to be supremely comfortable. I'll be ordering new pedals. And, most importantly, I'll be taking the bike back into the shop to put in a new stem with a higher angle. That should raise the handlebars an inch or two, and bring them closer, so I'm not as stretched out. If that's not enough, I'll install a stem riser. And if, on the long tours through the countryside, I find the need for a more aerodynamic position or one that lets me pedal more strongly, I'll just get into the drops, which will still be pretty low and stretched out.

I'm very excited because I know this bike CAN and WILL be awesome! But the frame is SO different than what I am used to, with the handlebars SO far forward, that I need to make some serious adjustments before said awesomeness will thrive. For comparison sake, here's an animated GIF showing how much farther the new handlebars are than my old ones were. Yeeeeeeah.