Yesterday was an amazing day. First of all, the weather was some of the best we’ve had so far this year! Sunny for a good part of the day, and warm-ish, if a bit windy.
Shawn and I got ourselves out of the house (late, of course) for the Biking About Architecture Ride. Our friend Jenny has an amateur interest in architecture, and leads rides where we look at some of the more interesting houses in a particular part of town. I’m hardly an architecture geek, but after a few of these rides, I’m starting to notice things I didn’t before when I look at houses. This one was in North Portland, and just getting to the start point was a nine mile ride for me and Shawn. We did six miles of slow riding with lots of stops to look at houses, and it just reinforced that I love Victorian and Queen Anne houses, along with the style called Portland Foursquare. And Roger might hate New Columbia, but I still think it looks better than military housing, or even most of Beaverton, so there.
After the ride was over, we went to a bar called The Twilight Room, where the poor bartender was a little over-worked. But the place had a good beer selection and a number of vegan options that were yummy and the company was excellent.
Shawn and I had a coupon for the PDX Bike Show, so we made the short trip from there to the Expo Center. Much of it was boring–tables for big charity rides, or people selling ugly lycra. But I did talk to a woman who does bicycle fittings about what I wanted out of a fitting, and I got her number, and that is exciting! We were there near the end of the day, and we ran into our friend Rob, who let me know that Felt was doing test rides outside. Felt? Don’t they make racing bikes? But after Shawn and I had looked at the booths and chatted up a few people we knew, I thought, “I’ve never actually tried a racing bicycle before…why not?” and walked outside. They were in the process of putting the bicycles away, but the company rep said it wasn’t a problem, what would I like to ride? “I dunno, I’ve never tried a racing bike, just touring and commuting bicycles…” He asked me my height, then grabbed a carbon-frame bicycle (the ZW4, as it turns out) and put some big Fixation pedals on it while I filled out a waiver on an iPad. He raised the saddle (not enough for my tastes, but oh well) and I cautiously started riding around the parking lot that was fenced off for test rides.
Dear Reader, I have trouble explaining what a life-changing ride this was. When talking about it via facebook, or text message, or just in person, I find myself abusing caps-lock and saying OH MY GOD a lot and bordering on incomprehensible sputtering. I shall attempt to restrain myself, although it is very difficult. I shall use a list.
1. It fit. This is the big one. This is the one I would like to have in huge sparkly flashing capital letters. I suspected that my dislike of most drop-bar diamond-frame bicycles was due to them not really fitting. I knew nothing felt quite right. I always wondered, would I know when something really fit? And guess what: I do. Sure enough, I need a women-specific bicycle. Sure enough, a bicycle that fits feels amazing. Sure enough, I could have my handlebars the same level or lower than my saddle and on a normal-looking stem if the bike actually fit. The bike was almost as comfy as my Raleigh 3-speed! And it’s a racing bike! I want all my bicycles to feel this good.
2. Carbon-frame bicycles weight almost nothing. Yeah, I know, duh. But experiencing that is different than knowing it. I could easily lift it with one hand.
3. It was so fast! No, seriously, I wished so bad that I had a good length of pavement so I could really speed up, instead of having to turn around at either end of the lot. The bike wants to go fast. Wheeee!
4. STI shifters: easier to use than I expected. (I still think bar-ends are better for touring bicycles.)
5. I don’t know if this is the geometry of the bicycle in general or the way it fit, but it felt….maneuverable? Is this what people mean when they say a bicycle is “responsive”? It just felt somehow easy to ride. I was taking my turns really sharp at either end of the lot and it felt great. I just felt really in control of the bicycle, which I didn’t expect–I thought a racing bike would feel like it wanted to get out from under me or something. It makes me wonder how I’d do on my usual nemesis of long/steep descents.
6. I can ride and brake comfortably from the brake hoods after all, when they don’t feel so goddamn far away.
7. Standing on the pedals didn’t feel great, though. Not sure if it was the low handlebars or the lightness of the bicycle, but it made the bike feel kinda wiggly.
8. The bicycle wasn’t ugly. I’ve poked around their website a bit, and Felt does make some hideously ugly bicycles, but their ZW line is attractive, for racing bicycles, and not exaggeratedly girly.
Shawn was inside at the time, and I thought, “Oh man, I want him to see this, and I want a photo!” Just as I was about to give up waiting for him, he walked outside, and I made him take pictures while I rode back and forth. Which is how we got this one:
(From Shawn’s Flickr)
Is it just me, or does that look “right” somehow? I don’t mean the fact that it’s a racing bike, but just the shape of me on the bicycle. What do you think?
It was so hard for me to get off the bicycle and give it back. It was almost painful. The company rep and I talked about the bike, and the one I tried? Is $3,199. Ouch. Yeah, not happening. But…but…they make one with the same fit, lower-end components, aluminum frame, for $899. And I admit, I’m thinking about putting it on my list of bikes to buy. The internal debate is something like: But I don’t race. I don’t even do club rides. But maybe I’d do club rides if I had a bike like this one. Maybe I’d do races, even. Can you ride an aluminum frame for cyclocross?
Clearly, a few more test rides are in order, and of course the company rep made sure I knew that Bike Gallery sells Felt bicycles.
My priority, right now, is still getting a bicycle for touring and randonneuring. I think it’s sad that despite the recent upswing in touring, only Terry makes a women-specific touring bike (which is way out of my price range), considering that almost every company makes a women’s racing bike (at multiple price points).
Oh, and the rest of my day! Because it wasn’t over yet. Shawn and I made the trip, into a rather fierce headwind, to NE 42nd and Tillamook, where a new bike shop was having a huge party for their grand opening. Lots of our friends were there, we took turns waiting in a long line for a couple of free beers, we ogled bicycles. Turns out my friend Audrey had tried out the same Felt bike I did and loved it too. Maybe we’ll become bicycle twins? I saw Rob and just about jumped up and down talking about the bike and thanking him for telling me they were doing test rides, much to his amusement.
They had a digital photobooth set up. I took a set of me alone with my beer, and one of me and Shawn being nauseatingly cute. Our friend Meghan arrived on her new custom MAP bicycle and we stood around admiring it and trying not to drool on the nice paint job.
Then Shawn and I rode home, on a night that smelled like cherry blossoms and daphne flowers and somehow, summer.
(But not before stopping at the 12th and Hawthorne carts to share a pizza from Pyro, and a peanut butter and chocolate Whiffie.)