bicycle bicycle bicycle

At some point in early 2015, Tank Girl's brakes stopped stopping. I went to the bike shop desperate, at that point I was doing Fred Flintstone stops and my shoes were getting pretty worn down. Ahh, but Tank Girl was no spring chicken, her brake thingys would have to be ordered. And there I was, at the bike shop, on payday.

tylerTyler came home with me that day, all matte and new, and I excitedly rode her to work the following Monday. On Tuesday, I rode her disappointedly to work, and by Friday I had whined to everyone who would listen that I had bought the wrong bike. I googled some things and learned that in spite of spending more than I ever had before on a bike, I'd actually downgraded from Tank Girl, component-wise. It wasn't a completely terrible decision -- Tyler is comfortable, stylish, and practical, excellent basic transportation. Ask my son, he rides her now (and his girlfriend rides on the rack, because Tyler is a good, sturdy, reliable bike and puts up with that kind of abuse.)

A few weeks later, browsing craigslist, I happened upon a cryptic listing for a 2011 Giant Avali, accompanied by several pictures apparently taken with a potato or some other root vegetable. Google helped me with the spelling and I discovered that the Avail that was for sale was actually at the top of the line (for aluminum road bikes anyway). And it was less money than I'd spent on Tyler, though it had cost some three times as much new. I emailed the seller some questions, he replied to one of them (what size). "Small," he said. So I emailed back again to confirm it was an Avail 1. A few days later, the reply: "Yes." Weeks of slow, painful email-tag followed, and we had settled on a time for me to come see the bike.

Do you see those directions, particularly the bit after Lynn Road where, inexplicably, Google decided the best way for me to get from one city to another was to hike through the wilderness, in spite of numerous nicely paved alternatives with nice wide bike lanes and everything? Now, I had corrected the directions, but I had sent them to my phone, which caused them to revert to Google's idiotic version. I did expect to go down one service road, so I didn't think much of it when the directions directed me into a passage between two houses on a cul-de-sac leading to a thing kind of like a trail, but steeper and not as wide.

HURTYMCSCARYBIKEBy the time I realized it wasn't a service road, I had descended more than I cared to re-ascend, so off into the wilderness I went, carrying my delicate new road bike. Have I mentioned this wilderness was in the Conejo Valley in August? In spite (or perhaps because of) the triple-digit temps, the trails were fairly busy with people who seemed utterly confident in where they were and which direction they were headed. There were signs: this way to Paradise Falls, that way to Lizard Rock. There were no signs whatsoever that said Parking Lot, or Exit. Finally, I asked someone if they knew how to get out. They started telling me about up, and I said no, I need down, up is where I started, I can't go back there. But what about those Google directions, you ask? Well, they are absolutely terrible at describing which way to go when a trail splits off and even worse at visually representing it on the screen, but that was still better than the No Signal part, which was not bad at all compared to "your phone is too hot and will be shut down to prevent damage" part. And I had to go to the bathroom, but there were no bathrooms. I know what you're thinking! It's the wilderness, the whole damn thing is a bathroom! Sure it is, but two steps off the trail and I had more stickers in my socks than is actually possible. Took me a good ten minutes, standing there on one leg and holding the bike while I picked stickers.

So I kept walking. I crossed the same creek at least a half dozen times on bridges made of wooden pallets, past picnic areas and camping areas and lookout areas. Finally happened upon a rather large clearing, where a couple of khaki-shirted guide-looking types were instructing a herd of teenagers about wilderness stuff. And bathrooms! Big enough to bring a bicycle in with you! And then after that, and many awkward minutes of not wanting to interrupt guides guiding teenagers, I got one of their attention and it turned out he wasn't sure how to get out either, but his best guess was to take the trail to Lizard Rock. It was a good guess. It's a guess I should have guessed myself, but I was justifiably afraid of my own judgement at the time.

I had left the house at 6 to catch the bus to Westlake and arrive by 10. By the time I got out of the wilderness, it was mid-afternoon, and I was still at least somewhat lost. Picturing in my mind the directions I'd plotted and Google had reverted, I made a pretty devastating wrong turn. Out there in the plains, you can go miles without a cross-street, and I went at least two or three cross-streets before I realized I'd looped on back and was almost right back at the wilderness. I did a bit of crying, then got back on the bike and finally got to where I was sure which way was home. It was about 4:30. Have I mentioned that riding a terrifyingly light road bike is terrifying? Luckily my hands were all painful pins-and-needles numb, my shoulders and back were racked with pain and sunburnt, and my ass was in agony; the terror was also in there somewhere but I was too busy to give a fuck. I'd also missed a whole day of work, thus pissing the boss off something fierce. I considered stopping by there on my way to damage control, but the pull of home was just too much.

I got about a mile past the place I'd have turned to go to work when *bam*. Hit a pothole and got an instant pinch flat! One minute I didn't even know such a thing existed, next I'm sitting in someone's front yard sobbing hysterically. It used to be very effective, but I may be a bit past my prime for the damsel distress call to work.

There was 3% left on my phone battery, the nearest bike shop closed in 5 minutes and was miles away, and my boss called. I answered. I sobbed. I babbled. She furiously told me she'd come get me, and I was too weak to stubbornly refuse. I got home 11.5 hours after I'd left, dirtier than I'd ever been in my life. Ate some food, next thing I knew it was morning. Filthy, filthy morning. But with loops and all I'd ridden some 40-ish miles by my best guess, which (in spite of the clusterfuck) I was pretty happy about.

So the new bike sat in the living room for a week and I went right back to riding Tyler for the rest of the week because at the time, a flat tire was quite simply more than I could deal with. When I (timidly) resumed riding Hurty McScarybike to & from work, it was on a pair of Schwalbe Marathons.

hurtymcscarybikeWhile I did love being seen with Hurty, loved how she looked leaning on my office wall, I must admit I wasn't crazy about the constant fear and pain involved in riding that terrifying rocket ship of a bicycle that weighs less than my cat. Well, less than the fat one anyway. Cramping calves, burning nether regions, pins-and-needles hands and feet, and the constant vague sensation of being about to tip over. Bad bike fit, right? I adjusted it according to the conventional wisdom, which didn't help, then went ahead and did it wrong, which did. A little. But that didn't matter! It didn't? No! Because I'd finally figured it out. Sure, I had bought the wrong bike (again), but this time it was different. This time, I knew enough to know what I really *really* wanted: a road bike, but with flat bars. And disc brakes.

bobinadarkroomAnd I found one, and ordered it and put a down payment. And between a small financial windfall, a little bill juggling, and considerable ramen-eating, by the middle of September people were starting to look at me funny because I'd bought three bikes in the past three months.

2 thoughts on “bicycle bicycle bicycle

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *