This section of my website used to be dedicated to triathlon training, personal race results and certification reviews, like Turbo Kick. I am expanding it to include more generic health & fitness topics. Also, I talk a lot about "D" -- he's my husband (Dave Liu)!

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Part 1 of 2: My New Shiny Bicycle

The Freewheel Bike Shop is the official sponsor for the Embarcadero Y Women's Tri Club, so that's where I went to buy my road bike. I was caught offguard, because it looked like a bike mechanic store, with tools and bike racks in the front where people could fix their own bicycles. I spoke to a guy at the counter (Travis) about what I was looking for, and he said he had a $700 Marin (the same brand of bike that D has) that may fit me. The only catch was, it wasn't built yet.

Now if there's one thing Shannon (triathlon coordinator) told me to avoid buying, it's a ~$700 road bike. She said you get what you pay for, and everybody who gets a cheapie entry-level bike ends up upgrading in a year's time (assuming that they continue to race). She recommended one in the $1000-$2000 range.

I repeated the same thing to Travis, and he agreed. He said they didn't carry many bikes at their workshop location. Instead, he suggested we visit the OTHER Freewheel store on Valencia, which has a large show room with a wide selection of road bikes, including one from Giant that weighs about 2.5 lbs. The catch, of course, is that it was outside my price range. He says it's so light that people make an impulse decision to buy it after they lift it.

We thanked Travis and went to Valencia. There, I spoke with Carlos, whom I think is the owner. Carlos led us to the display room where there were as many bikes as Big Swinging Cycles (where D bought his mountain bike). I told Carlos what I was looking for and also enquired about the one Travis mentioned. Carlos tried to fit me with a Marin but it was too big. Too bad. But guess what did? Yeah - the GIANT TCR-1 Composite! Travis was right. It was the one I wanted to get. Even at a $2,500 retail price. Gulp.

I made the purchase during what Eric Harr calls a "Buchanan Moment". Eric Harr is a professional triathlete and author of the excellent book Triathlon Training in Four Hours a Week (it's awesome - I highly recommend it). In his book, Mr. Harr writes, "You may have experienced a 'Buchanan Moment' at some point in your life-that is, a moment when you say, 'Forget about price, I must have this!' The experience is named for the moment in F. Scott Fitzerald's class novel The Great Gatsby, in which heroine Daisy Buchanan is overcome with desire when shown an assortment of finely made shirts."

I admit it, the bike is definitely overkill for my abilities, especially when it's outside the price range of what Shannon recommended and what Mr. Harr advises (maximum $2,000) for people even at Fitness Level IV. Just for yucks, here's the description for "Fitnesss Level IV: Single-Sporter on a Mission" -->

You are a serious fitness enthusiast or experienced single-sporter. You're already aerobically fit and want to take your performance to the next level by competing in a triathlon-whether it's your first or your fifteenth...

That describes me pretty well except for the "experienced single-sporter" part. I'm terrible at all three legs of a triathlon.

At this point, I would like to acknowledge the love and support of my husband, D, who went with me to the bike store (Freewheel on Valencia). He did not roll his eyes even once when I said I wanted to buy the Giant. Afterall, it's worth shelling out some extra clams to acquire something I'll be riding for the next 15 years or more, versus, let's say, a wedding dress that I'll wear for only one day in my life. Speaking of which, I'm in the market for a second hand wedding gown for US$200 or less (preferably less). Email me if you know of any deals.

We were at the bike store for 1-2 hours while Carlos helped me get fitted with the bike and other cycling gear including clipless pedals (dumb, dumb, dumb - just wait until you read about my first riding experience), bike shoes and a helmet. He put the bicycle on a stand and watched me ride for a bit and told me all the modifications he was going to make: (1) swap out the existing bike seat for a smaller and lighter one so I can adjust the seat low enough for my height (2) narrower handlebars to accommodate my shoulders (3) more gears to make it easier for me to get up some of the steeper hills in San Francisco.

The modifications took a few days because not all the parts were currently stocked. I was very nervous and had to practice riding on it while it was mounted on a rack.

In case you don't know what they are, clipless pedals are designed to be used with special bike shoes so your foot locks into the pedals. They are helpful because not only do you power the bicycle when you push DOWN on the pedals, but also when you lift your foot UP and simultaneously pull the pedals. The only drawback is that your foot is connected to the bike so you have to unhook yourself before stopping otherwise you'll topple over. I'm told that everybody falls at least once... and I'm afraid of falling.

When I initially tried to unclip my right shoe from the bike, I couldn't get it out. D watched me struggle for a while and then asked, "Can't you just twist your foot?" What he really meant was, "Just twist your foot you moron!" He denies this, but I recognized that look in his eye!

I was feeling very dejected and depressed about the clipless pedal situation when one of the bike guys came in to check on how I was doing. I told him I was having trouble with the clips. He took a look and confirmed that they were too tight so he loosened them. Ha! I KNEW there was a problem in addition to the fact that I was cycling challenged to begin with.

My bike is awesome and I can't wait to take it out for a spin. I'm going to try riding it in a big parking lot armed with my Rollerblading knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards. I'll look like an idiot, but I'll be an adequately protected idiot who will be free from injury!

[Note: I made the bike purchase the week of July 4, 2003]

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