Saturday, July 12, 2008

Stuff Diet Success

In the past month, I managed to pare down from 3.5 to 1.5 bicycles. I feel so much lighter.

I overheard my neighbor's daughter ask her dad for a ride to a friend's house. He replied that he had 1.5 gallons in the tank until the next payday and he was not going to drive anywhere unless it was an emergency. (Fortunately, he works from home and all major services are walking distance in our neighborhood.)

I always liked the girl. She takes care of our plants while we are gone. When they cleaned their garage, she gave her outgrown bicycle to Iris. The next time I saw her, I offered to give her my about town cruiser bicycle. She loved it. I had the pleasure of seeing her ride it until it became too dark and her parents called her inside.

This morning, I sold my racing bicycle to the fiance of a coworker. She is training for her first triathalon and needed a racing bike. She got a very good bicycle for not much $, and I got more space in the garage. We are both very happy.

How did I became the owner of 3.5 bicycles?

I used to ride my bicycle everywhere in grad school. First, I bought a used rental mountain bike, then I traded it in for a new Diamond Back Apex (Bike 1). When I had enough money, I bought a second set of rims, tires and (gear) cassette. On pavement, I used road slicks; off-road, I rode knobbies.

Mark and I toured overnight many times, most notably in the south of France and California wine country. I used to ride difficult single-track trails in Colorado, including those marked "experts only". (Have you experienced the thrill of a single track descent through trees? Any sane person should be scared. I have the scars to prove it.)

I used to scoff at the middle-aged people, with their much fancier bikes, who couldn't keep up with us twenty-somethings on our cheaper, non-suspended bikes. However, I was enough of a gear-weenie to know that I would ride better with a lighter bicycle that shifted more quickly. So, the first summer after I landed a real job with a real paycheck, I bought a Specialized Stumpjumper (Bike 2) with Shimano Deore XT. XT really does shift more crisply than LX. You can feel the difference.

I didn't ride it much. There just isn't much dirt on the west side of Los Angeles. And I kept getting injured, even though I wasn't riding anywhere near as many miles as I used to.

Mark became obsessed with randonneuring, ultra-marathon bicycle events. I couldn't keep up with his racing bike on my mountain bike. I bought a racing bike to match his (Bike 3). We were so cute. His Cannondale was blue with yellow, mine was red with yellow. I think I rode it between 200 and 250 miles total. I kept getting injured or sick. I couldn't keep up.

We bought a Santana Sovereign Tandem (Bike 3.5) about the time I became pregnant. We thought that would be a good way for me to stay in shape during the pregnancy. As soon as I got over the morning sickness, we could ride all through the second trimester (the "good" trimester).

That never happened. The morning sickness ended at week 13. I had a cerclage at week 14 and was put on bedrest until week 37. I gained 50 pounds, lost muscle tone and had a horrible, horrible birth experience. ( I will not narrate that story here because I want to encourage those sitting on the fence to reproduce.) Anyhow, after the bleeding stopped, when Iris was 10 weeks old and sleeping 4-5 hours at a time, we got right back on the tandem.


Then my hip gave out, I was unable to walk or even move my leg more than half an inch and I spent 3 months in 3x weekly physical therapy to learn how to walk again. (The orthopedicist says that is a common complication from long bedrest, which he thinks should not be so widely prescribed because of all the damage it does to a woman's body.)

Once I was able to walk again, and Iris was old enough to sit up in the rear child seat, we planned to go out on the tandem as many weekends as our work schedules permitted. We did go out a few times.

But I kept falling ill, one infection after another. Two sinus surgeries and a set of ear tubes later (3 if you count the two sets Iris had), we were ready to try riding again. My joints were too swollen for me to ride in the low road bike position. I could only ride in an upright position, and only for short distances around town. I wanted to carry stuff around on a rear rack but the Stumpjumper did not have brazeons (mounting points) for a rear rack.

The solution, of course, was to buy a hybrid bicycle to ride around town! (This is still Bike 3.5 because I gave the Apex to the owner of Aviation Cyclery in Manhattan Beach. Russ fixes them up and gives them to rural kids in Mexico. So many drop out of school because their villages are too small to have a HS and their families can't afford bus fare to school.)

Because I would only ride it for short trips around town and to work, I decided to try a step-through frame so I could also ride it while wearing a skirt. This was a mistake as I learned later that it was impossible to mount a water bottle to the curved frame. Moreover, it was a mid-level bicycle and I was never happy with the way the shifted. Once you have used XT, you can never go back, especially several grades down to Altus. Just ask my friend who drives a Porsche.

Somewhere in there, we also bought a Burley trailer to tow Iris around when she was too big for the rear seat. We didn't use it much. When she was too big for that, we bought a Burley Piccolo so she can ride along. That got a little bit more use and is the system we still use today.

See a pattern here? I kept thinking that I would get better and then I would ride more. More mileage and better health were always right around the corner. I was buying fantasies, not bicycles.

Two summers ago, I found out that maybe just staying alive and somewhat mobile would be as good as it gets. The gene test and family medical history finally made me face reality. Meanwhile, the bicycles sat gathering dust and taking up space in our small, townhouse-sized garage. They weighed upon me. So much hope and disappointment. I had to get rid of the evidence.

My first thought was to sell all three single bikes and replace it with a single city bicycle with a horizontal top tube so I could easily access a water bottle and cage. (See? More retail therapy!)

Trying to sell three bicycles simultaneously was daunting. I went to Beach Cities Cyclery in Hermosa Beach for advice and to see what they would give me in trade. Brian, the owner, is too nice. He talked me out of buying a new bike. He gave the Stumpjumper a tuneup, figured out a way to mount a rear rack and swapped out the SPD pedals for flat pedals and toeclips.

It does seem like sacrilege to ride a Stumpjumper only on pavement around LA, but what could be greener than re-purposing an old bike? Plus, they don't make city bikes with XT. Gotta have the XT. You can't go back.


  1. I love my Breezer Uptown. I had always been gear shift challenged, so the Shimano Revo-Shift is perfect. And it's easy to mount a water bottle to the frame.

    I moved my old mountain bike up to the cottage, but I'm really tempted to replace that as well. The Breezer is so much lighter and easier to ride.

  2. Anonymous15:43

    What an excellent new home for a bike! That is my favorite thing about being bike-dependen instead of car-dependent - an old car is an albatross, but an old bike is a gift.

    And I can't believe you did bed rest for 20 weeks. I was only on it for 5 and it messed up my back and hips something awful - my son just turned 3 and I'm just this summer strong enough in my core not to have my back go out all the time.


Comments are open for recent posts, but require moderation for posts older than 14 days.