"We are all of us living in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." ~Oscar Wilde
"Adventure is worthwhile in itself." ~Amelia Earhart

March 26, 2008

The $1000 Bicycle

I didn't ride a bicycle for many, many years. As a child, me and almost all my friends had one. We rode them everywhere; to friends' houses, to the store, to the park, everywhere but school where most of our parents worried that our $50 bicycles from the local Target would be stolen. But, around the time we hit 12 or 13 years old, almost in unison, we shelved our bicycles. Though I never heard it said by anybody out loud, we all seemed to agree that 'bicycles were for kids' and, like most teens and tweens, we were desperate to be seen as somewhat mature.

And, so, I didn't ride a bicycle again until I was 29 or 30 years old. I don't remember why I decided to start bicycling again. Probably the usual reasons; fitness, it's friendly to the environment and cheaper than the bus, fond memories of cycling from childhood, etc. At the time, I figured it was just one of those fads that'd pass after a week or a month so I didn't want to spend anything on it. I dragged my seventeen year old bicycle from my parents' garage, filled the tires with air, and set off on a test run to the local park's mile of cycling trails. It was going along pretty smoothly. And, then, I hit my first hill. A burning pain exploded throughout my thigh muscles. Now, this was a tiny hill. These days, I wouldn't even notice it. But, for a first-timer, it was a steeply graded, insurmountable obstacle that I thought would take weeks to overcome. I limped (bicycle-style) back home and put the bicycle back in the garage.

A few days later, I decided to try again. Thanks to the internet, I had learned what those strange shifter things were for and could actually conquer some of those hills by switching into a lower gear. I pedaled my way to a convenience store a couple of miles north where, for the first time in my life, I started hyperventilating. After a couple minutes, it subsided and I limped back home and put the bicycle in the garage.

You'd think after those two experiences I'd stop, right? Normal people would stop. This, however, is me. I'd discovered that I felt a strange sort of giddiness by torturing myself through exercise. As the weeks passed, I slowly increased the number of miles per trip and grumbled to myself as little old grey-haired ladies on single speed cruisers whizzed past me on the bicycle trails.

A female cyclist stopped to talk to me one day. She glanced down at the bicycle. Rust and chipped paint covered the old 10-speed that I was using. A subtle look of pity crossed her face. Mildly embarrassed, I snickered and realized I probably needed a bicycle made within the decade. While I would have loved a $2000 road bike from one of the local bike shops, my parents were buying it and I always feel a mild guilt about spending other people's money. So, I settled for a $150 mountain bike from Walmart. Even though many serious cyclists shriek in terror at the thought of riding a department store bicycle, it's been fine. It's lasted for 4 or 5 years. Sure, it's a little too heavy at 42 pounds but very little has gone wrong with it. I've never had a flat tire. Something's a little off with the brakes at the moment but it's not going to cause me to go barreling into a passing car. I'd fix it but, sometime next month, I'm going to buy a new one. One of the spiffy $1000 bicycles especially designed for touring.

I can justify paying $1000 for a bicycle. They really are much sturdier and lighter. Employees in bicycle shops are less likely to sneer if you bring it in for repairs. (I wouldn't have even bothered bringing my current one in to be repaired. I'd just scrap it and buy a new one if something terrible went wrong.) Plus, I use it a lot. Six or seven months a year and over 1000 miles/year. And it's likely that I'll use it for the next ten years, bringing the cost down to $100/year. I'll probably still keep the Walmart bicycle around. If I lock it up downtown and it gets stolen, I'll cry a lot less over it than I would a $1000 bicycle. And, if I ever get brave enough to try winter cycling again, I'd rather let the elements beat up the 'meh' bike.

And, besides, I'm going on a 1300-mile bicycle tour in June. If I can make that slightly easier with a better bike, that's all sorts of awesome.


Titania Starlight said...

I do not see anything wrong with treating yourself to a $1,000 bike. You seem to be really getting into cycling and you should have the proper gear.

I am a runner and I can never buy Wal-mart brands. I go for running shoes specifically designed for how I run. It is well worth it.

Kudos to you on helping the environment! :o)

franscud said...

You'll have to post pics of the bike when you get it home. I'm envious. I had a pretty rigged out tour bike for a number of years, but am currently riding a hand-me-down Trek that's falling apart.

Gianna said...

Cycling is really cool. I cycled a lot in my 20's. Still love it but am not healthy enough at the moment...I bought a cruiser with 20 speeds a few years ago...it's super comfortable and hope to be able to use it again.

In my 20's I was serious and rode 50 miles several times a week. I miss it...

Berryvox said...

Titania - Sometimes I have a hard time justifying spending hundreds of dollars on things. But I think you're right about serious hobbies. :)

Francis - Oh, I definitely will. I'm wondering how much better it'll be. Part of me expects to go whooshing down the street thinking, 'How did I live without one?!?' But that's probably expecting too much. ;)

Berryvox said...

Gianna - I'm sorry to hear about your health. I hope you recover soon and join us. :)

Michael Aulia said...

I'd rather spend that amount of money to 'beautify' my computer :D

Berryvox said...

Michael - My computer's pretty decent. I don't have to worry about it for another couple of years. :)

CarmenSinCity said...

How exciting - the new bike sounds very cool and you are making me want to go out and ride a bike :)

The Commentator said...

I'm a former cyclist slowly getting back into it. I bought a custom bike for $1400 back in 1990 - and still using it. All Italian parts and frame to boot. 1 grand is fine to get a good bike. Beats the hell out of spending $4000 - just for the frame!

Will be in the market soon myself.

Berryvox said...

Carmen - I don't know if I would've started if I still lived in Vegas. I lived right next to the Hard Rock and all the traffic would've been a bit spooky. But I'm sure there's lots of places with less traffic. :)

The Commentator - Yeah, I love the touring bikes you can fold but they're in the $2000-3000 range. Ouch!

rino said...

My first bike was of the $50 department store variety and I used it for 3 years until it was stolen right off our garage.
The bike I'm using right now is already 4 years old and I'm thinking of getting a new one, but certainly from where I am, I cannot afford to buy a $1,000 bike, though I would really one to have one like it. Enjoy your new bike and good luck on that 1300 mile tour. I'd love to do one like that some day.

Berryvox said...

Rino - The $50 bikes really aren't as bad as some people think they are. It's mostly just the weight and the fact that most people who buy those bikes don't maintain them as well.

Thank you. :) LOVE your blog btw.