The time has come.  Spring is in the air and I am itching to get out there and ride.  I know that sounds like a pretty typical reaction, however, it is important to note that I have not ridden a bicycle on the street in 20 years.  Even then I was a pretty uncomfortable cyclist and probably have fewer than 600 miles under my belt.  I have had a mountain bike for maybe 5 or 6 years, and I have never ridden it off of my yard.  Oh and I have a half acre flat lot, so it isn’t like I have been adventure racing.  To be honest, I’m pretty nervous about riding a bike because I just don’t feel stable on one.  I think it is a combination of lack of experience, and the fact that I went ass over teakettle on bikes more than once in my life, and not while doing any type of tricks btw, unless riding in a straight line on a flat road is a trick.  It also seemed to take me an inordinate amount of time to learn to ride a bike, or at least that is what my family seemed to convince me of.  Anyway, long story short–or shorter, trust me this could go on for months–the fact that I am excited to ride a bike is so close to miraculous that somewhere at the Vatican a canonization process is kicking off.

As I’ve said, I only have a mountain bike, and although I have heard that  a lot of people start off in triathlons with only a mountain bike, I am thinking that I want something more official.  My search for road bikes has brought me from high to low.  Both in price and expectations.  I have given myself a ceiling of $700 for a bike and I really want that $700 to do the impossible.  I want a bike that isn’t too old, with a Shimano 105 or better group.   I have been to almost all of the bike shops in my area over the last few weeks with little hope.  I have found that what I’m looking for, unfortunately, doesn’t exist.  But I continue my search unrelented.

Today was a beautiful day, and the pull of the sun forced me to go out and continue my search for bike nirvana.  I decided to stop at two local bike shops to discuss my options.  A manager at the first bike shop was the only one to not discourage me from getting a used bike.  He spent nearly an hour with me talking about a bunch of different things and ended up telling me that my best bet was to let him do a fit so that he could provide me with some measurements to ensure that the bike I buy will be able to fit me.  He explained how bike sizes aren’t standard at all and how different sizes from different manufacturers may actually work out to be a good fit.  I think he has a good point, so next week I plan on scheduling a bike fitting.

After I left that bike shop I went to another local shop.  The personnel was also very friendly, a common theme at these shops which I find refreshing, but not nearly as engaged.  They showed me a Specialized Allez.  It was in my price range, however it was the bottom of the line bike and it barely made it into the range.  The weather was really nice, and they asked if I wanted to give it a test drive.  GULP!  At first I said no, then I said, well, sure why not.  I strapped on the helmet, tucked my jean leg into my sock (sexy I know) and off I went.

The first couple of seconds must have been interesting to watch.  I’m not used to a road bike (or any other bike but lets forget that part) so it was a bit of a shock to see that a slight turn of the handlebars translated into a massive movement of the bike.  I looked like a baby giraffe taking it’s first steps minus any of the cute factor.  I could see the accountant at the bike shop writing off the “inventory spoilage” as I pulled away.  It was bad.  Of course the bike shop was on a busy highway, so my first foray into  biking in 20 years was going to be interesting.  I approached the road and stood watching the cars zip by at 50MPH waiting for my opening.  To add insult to injury a car was pulling out of the driveway.  I waved the car through, and found my opening.  And then, like a gazelle on an acid trip I was off.   I zigzagged along the shoulder trying to find my bearings.  The cars were nice enough to give me plenty of room.  I searched for the first intersection I could find so that I could get off the insane traffic.  Nope, that’s a driveway, nope, not there, ah here’s one.

As I turned right I found what can only be described as a mountain.  It was like 1000 feet of elevation over 6 inches, practically a wall.  Just my luck.  Of course I couldn’t back down, so I just went for it.I struggled with the gears, trying to figure out if plus or minus was better, do I shift the big ring?  What am I doing?  I did manage to get it into a good gear and crawled up the hill.  I got 2/3 of the way up and decided that what goes up must come down and that I should turn around before my return trip is forced on me by gravity.

As I turned around I thought two things at once, “wow this must be what it feels like to be in the chute at the downhill ski race in the Olympics.”  The second was the realization that instead of flags and a finish line I was facing the highway from the top of a steep ramp reminiscent of Evil Knievel.  I started down the hill and realized an additional two nuggets of information.  The first was that the rear brakes on this bike were not road ready causing me to have small heart attacks as I chose between front braking down the hill or slamming into a car going 50MPH.  I got a hold of myself and stopped short of death, however I then came to the second realization which was that I should have adjusted the gears on the bike before heading down the hill.  I realized this as my legs went spinning out of control as I made my second visit to the highway that day.  I wanted to head back to the bike shop at this point, life being precious and all, but I had no shot at turning left at the intersection of Mt. Everest and the Indianapolis 500, so I turned right and made my way to the next driveway.  I struggled again with the gears until I got it right.

At this point I actually found my groove.  I still had no left turn but I did have an opening to go right and shift to the middle of the road,  I did that and took a u-turn at my first chance.  After a moment I had a shot to get back to the middle of the road for my left back into the bike shop.  I was cruising down the street feeling amazing at this point.  The bike felt really responsive, light and fast.  It was great to feel the wind blowing over me.  I was hooked–I know it surprised me too.

I pulled into the bike shop and the salesman was still there waiting.  He was talking to another customer who was about to leave.  I swear I saw money exchange hands as I pulled in, but I’m sure that wasn’t related to betting on me.

I left the bike shop to ponder my options.  I think I will get fitted, and then look under the pillow cushions for another $500 so that I can get a better bike.  Maybe I’ll use my tax return!  In terms of the bike itself, I thought it was pretty good, however that may have just been as a result of bonding with it because of our mutual near death experiences.  My hands were sore from riding on the heads, death grip anyone?  The shifting was a little rough, but that may be my stunning lack of experience.  The ride, however, was enjoyable.  I can’t wait to get a new bike.