New Trip, New Bike
So. In nine days I head out on a new summer bike trip: DC to Chicago. It’s an ambitious ride. No, wait; not ambitious: nuts.
At least it would have been—with my old bike.
In 2004, I bought a Raleigh C30 hybrid—a good city bike capable of handling riding around the District and commuting to work. In 2010, I went on the first long distance ride I’d done in years, a trip to Harpers Ferry with Michelle and Rachel. That trip inspired me to try other long distance rides, including biking to Annual Conference in Baltimore and back. That summer I made my first long distance trek since United Methodist bike camp at Skye Farm in the 8th Grade: I biked from D.C. to Albany.
When I took my bike into The Bike Shop in D.C. to get it ready for the trip, I half expected to be told the bike was no good. But Neil was reassuring that the bike could handle it. And so, with new fenders and wheels and a bunch of other modifications, off I went. The following year, I took the bike from D.C. to Charlottesville and then from there to Berkeley Springs, WV before heading back to D.C.
But this time, when I brought my bike in to the shop for a loose spoke and told Neil of my plans, he gently suggested that it might be time for a new bike. Given that I would probably spend the value of my bike over again in getting it ready for the ride, a new bike was probably the saner option.
But given how this bike had gotten me to Albany, through the Virginias, and in 2008 helped me to lose 60 pounds, this was not an easy decision to make. I was greatly attached to this bike. A friend who had recently bought a new car after having a beloved, long-time car told me that it took a while to get used to the idea of getting a new car. And so it was with my bike. Over the next few weeks, I would take my bike on training rides: 40 miles, 50, 60. And as I would make these rides, it became more and more obvious just how heavy my bike was. And the thought of pushing my bike, fully laden, up the Alleghenies was becoming less and less appealing. That and a string of flat tires (which aren’t really the bike’s fault but they seemed like a bad omen) got me used to the idea of getting a new one. Then, on the weekend of July 6, I set out for a 60-miler. The heat was debilitating and as I stopped at Jed’s Shaved Ice for a break in rural Maryland after 22 miles, I noticed a crack in the frame of my bike, right where the crossbar and the seat stem meet. And it was clear: time to get a new bike.
A week later, this past Saturday, I decided to take one last training cruise with the old bike and did a 57-mile loop from DC through Alexandria, Lorton, Falls Church, and back along Lee Highway. The bike did well–no flat tires and the slight wobbling in the seat stem was not catastrophic. But the bike felt heavy and the hills along Prosperity road were demoralizing. And so, at the end of the bike route, tired and exhausted, I biked not home but to The Bike Shop. Neil was there and I said, “I’m here to buy a new bike.” He was extremely helpful and had me try out a couple of bikes, including one with an internal gear system. (It was really cool but the shift action was precisely the opposite of the C30 and it kept throwing me.) But then I tried the Raleigh Misceo 3.0. I took it around the block and knew right away that this was the one I wanted. Lighter (aluminum, not steel) and strong. It was the bike my bike would be if it could just dip itself in the Fountain of Youth.
And so I made the purchase. Adding on the rack, some fenders, and a more padded seat (useful for long rides), I completed the purchase. As it was late in the day, all I could do was make the purchase; the bike would take a day or so to be made ready. And that was fine; I was exhausted, I wasn’t about to go riding.
I picked up the bike today after work. It has a different feel, which will take getting used to, but it’s a good feel. It’s solid, it shifts easily, and it rides like a dream. And it’s so much lighter. Even with the packs it weighs about what my old bike weighs unladen. And it’s a good looking bike.
Chicago’s a long way away, but now I know I’ve got the bike that’ll get me there.