Excluding a red tricycle, I've owned seven bicycles in my 49 years. Not really that many, in my opinion. Strangely, I have photos of none of my bicycles prior to 2007 and I can't tell you the fate of any of my childhood bicycles. I outgrew one, and another, I left at home when I went off the college. My mom did something with each but I haven't a clue as to what. I didn't really care either. My only biking experience for the most part was pedaling around Merryfield Park, the neighborhood where I grew up; the furthest I ventured on two wheels was the community swimming pool and The Family Mart on East North Street. I didn't carry a bike lock, by the way, since I didn't worry about them being stolen. Very suburban I'm afraid. Not much for a girl and her two sister to walk or bike to - no movie theater, no coffee shop, no parks or shopping areas with cool public spaces where you could meet up with your friends. Because of our suburban location, my childhood bicycles really didn't offer me much in the way of freedom or adventure.
A borrowed image of someon else's Giant Iguana.
I purchased my first adult bicycle when I was in art school at the University of Georgia. Mountain bikes were all the rage in Athens, and I envied the students that I saw pedaling everywhere and over everything on them at, what appeared to me, high rates of speed. I found a bright yellow Giant Iguana at Sunshine Bicycles downtown and was quite impressed with myself for dropping $300 for it and an cable lock. Quite a chunk of change for a college student.
I rode the Iguana a lot when the weather was good. Nobody wore bike helmet back then so I never had humidity induced helmet hair. This time around I did worry about it getting stolen since bikes locks were getting cut in broad daylight all over campus. I kept my bike locked up in my studio space in the art building. I trusted my fellow ceramics major to protect both my little dog, Pepper and my mountain bike.
When I moved to Louisville for grad school, I only used my Iguana a few times to get to class. Louisville, at that time, was nowhere near as bike-friendly as Athens. I hung it up after my first experience at being screamed at by a meathead. The bike stayed with me for another 10 years, rarely used except for a brief period of recreational biking in Cherokee Park, than until I sold it for $150 to a 5'0" male art student. Did I mention that the bike was a small? He was thrilled with it, as it was in pristine condition. Other than that, I don't know what became of it and never give it much thought. Naturally, I was without a bike for several years afterward.
My next and much bigger bike purchased occurred a few brief hours after running my first Derby Mini Marathon in 2000. There's nothing like running your first half marathon to charge up that part of the brain that loves spending money you don't have. I was buzzed from what was then a huge athletic accomplishment, and fueled by a sugar and caffeine packed Starbuck's Frozen Frappaccino, the additional thrill of buying a bike and becoming a professional mountain bike racer pulled me across the street to Bardstown Road Bicycles. Within those doors, I met my soon-to-be neighbor, buddy and romantic advisor Winn, who, with unmatched salesmanship and considerable charm, soon closed the deal on a striking Specialized Rockhopper in kiwi, black and pearly white. I believe he sold me a lock, a helmet and some bike accessories as well.
I paid over $500 for the Rockhopper, lock and accessories and after the delirium of the Mini and the Frappaccino lifted I was determined that I would get my monies out of this purchase. And I did. In the eight years that I owned that bike, I pedaled it all over Louisville, to and from its numerous Fredrick Law Olmsted parks and across the growing miles of greenway that runs along the Ohio River and Bear Grass Creek. All my miles consisted of hot, sweaty, recreational riding. No stopping to shop or rummage through a book store; stops were limited to refilling my water bottle, munching on a peanut Clif Bar or admiring the view of the Ohio and downtown Louisville from Southern Indiana. I mostly pedaled on roads and paved multi-use paths but occasionally took the bike over rocky, muddy, occasionally hazardous, single-track trails in Cherokee Park. I was by no means a "serious" rider but I usually took my bike out for at least an hour each week, except during the winter, as a good means of cross training, since by that time I was running around 30 miles per week.
In 2006 my fiance and I moved to Flagstaff. Now you would think that in a little mountain town and just 30 minutes up the road from Sedona's red rock country that I'd have immediately started taking my mountain bike out of the trails. Were I not terrified and repulsed by dirt and dust I probably would have. It rains in Louisville so dirt turns to mud and there is not dust but I really hate dirt. It's dry and I hate touching it or feeling it anywhere on my body. I have a similar aversion to flour, which is really unfortunate if you like to bake cookies. Because I was more committed to running than biking, I tolerated the dry dirt and dust in order to go trail running, the only kind of running people seem to do here, but it was difficult. And mildly disgusting. But I digress. The Rockhopper sat mostly unused in our garage . . .
A downtown fashion shot with the Specialized Expedition in 2009.
until 2007, when I had to use it to get to my temp job at NAU while my VW Beetle was in the shop. About a year later in order to do a little belt tightening, Bob and I decided to make a concerted effort in incorporate bike commuting into our transportation options. After successful participation in Bike to Work Week, we sold my Beetle, bringing us down to one vehicle, and I purchased the Specialized Expedition, an up-right model in the step-through version to accommodate skirts and dresses, to which I added fenders; a bike bell; a headlight and a red, rear, blinky light; and a rear rack. I based my selection on careful research reading numerous bike commuting blogs that addressed the most common concerns and challenges faced by women bike commuters. Cost was also a concern. My clear preference was for the Breezer Uptown 8 but it retailed for over $1100, and I worried if I would exercise the discipline to make bike commuting enough of a habit to justify the expense. Not only were all the accessories I purchased already included on the Breezer but the higher end bike also came with a cafe lock, a full chainguard and front and rear lightening powered by the internally geared generator hub. Sweet. But cost was an issue. Would I really need all those things anyway? Would they make that much of a difference?
A morning ride into work, equipped with a pannier.
Well, yes. I used the Specialized successfully for over a year but couldn't get my mind off the Breezer. The longer I bike commuted, the more I understood my needs. I pedal at night and needed a brighter lightening system. Due to cold I usually wore long pants and tired of pinning my pant leg down. Finally, the internally geared hub made pedaling in street traffic much more efficient since I could shift after stopping at a light rather than having to remember to do so before the stop. Plus, do I have to remind anyone that the 2008 version of the Breezer Uptown 8 is a stunning ruby red? Who wouldn't obsess about that? But I wasn't going to confuse wants with needs so I tried to satisfy my desires by making weekly and sometimes daily pilgrimages to Absolute Bikes to pay homage to the object of my desire.
The stunning ruby red Breezer Uptown 8.
Bob got a little tired of it and decided one day to bite the bullet and surprise me with one. It took me several hours after work one summer day to find it hidden under a pile of clean clothes in our guest room. Sitting on the front porch relaxing with a glass of wine, I'm sure he laughed at the screams of joy he heard emanating from within the house. I now possessed my dream bike, about which I had developed fantasies of bike dates involving smart trench coats, spontaneous visits to coffee shops and panniers loaded down with bread and wine. Obviously, I would sell the Specialized immediately. Or not. . .
On the way to work with my new Dahon Eco 3.
But then a year later I also acquired a Dahon Eco3 folding bike. Bob purchased a Kestrel triathlon bike. And the garage just got crowded. We also started firming up some personal downsizing and life simplification plans so I had to confront the question of just how many bicycles I really needed. Two bicycles seemed reasonable and less than that, frankly, insane.
It was settled; I would definitely sell my Specialized. Of course, the Specialized represented a lot of firsts for me and many happy times for Bob and me. Just selling it to any Joe-the-street seemed somehow disloyal to a bicycle that done well by me. The Specialized could not go to just anyone.
Angie, early this fall, out for coffee with me Phoenix.
Enter my cousin, Angie of the Valley - of the bicycle garage. My first and most dedicated bike commuting convert. A yoga instructor, Angie possesses her own Jedi mind tricks and, upon learning of my intention to sell the Specialized, set about among her friends to gain her own league of cycle chic converts. Given that I ride small bikes of around 15 - 16 inches, she would limit her voodoo to her more petite friends. Her dear friend Emily, surely no taller than 5'3" (but I must say when you meet her, she really does strike you as much taller) was a likely good candidate. Motivated to incorporate bike commuting into her life; purchased a bicycle for her husband so that he could begin biking to work; and, like my cousin, is skilled in the art of finding high-end, stylish clothes at rock bottom prices at area consignment shops. I consider this part particularly important due to the "content" potential for this blog.
Angie communicated my set price of $200 (including 2 panniers, a wicker bike basket, and a Planet Bike headlight) to Emily. "She wants it!", reported Angie. She suggested that they drive up from Phoenix on New Year's Day and spend the night. Superb! It was settled.
Angie and Emily arrived last Sunday evening. We ate a wonderful New Year's meal and closed the deal. I will add as a side note that Emily works at a veterinary clinic and declared that, despite my denial, Daisy appeared to be quite heavy with child and should be seen by our vet in the next couple of days as Chihuahuas often require a Cesarean section.
Daisy nursing her son, Mocha. I had to work a picture in, didn't I?
Probably, I would have allowed my denial to go unchecked had Emily not been really certain she could feel a pup moving in Daisy's belly, so thank you Emily. Bob and I avoided complete chaos during yesterday's birth.
But back to Emily and her new bike. Bob adjusted the breaks for her after finding them too tight. We also suggested that she raise the seat post a bit as my seating position appeared to be a bit low for her. I suggested that she might want to try one of NiteRider's really excellent battery lights if she plans to do much riding after dark as well as a couple of really good bike locks if she plans to ever leave it at a Metro Rail stop.
Emily and her newly acquired Specialized Expedition, tricked out for bike commuting, or shopping at the farmers market.
And here is Emily with her new but gently used Specialized Expedition. She is, by the way, wearing a sweater jacket from Anthropology purchased at an enviable sale price. She found these soft-as-butter tall boots, pictured below, at a Valley consignment shop.
Angie and Emily left Monday morning with plans to stop at the Anthem outlets to take advantage of the post-holiday sales. Damn, I wished I could tag along but had things to do around the house. After they left, my garage held one less bike and appeared strangely empty. No regrets here, though. My bike has a good, new owner, and I know Angie will keep Emily motivated. I'm sure it won't be too long before Angie tells me she and their respective spouses have been on an exciting double bike date. Naturally, she will remember to take pictures that I'll post here!