Well I did it. I got the Trek FX 7.5 (WSD). (NOTE: I removed the link since the Trek page now shows their 2009 model, and I bought the 2008). I guess it’s what they call a “hybrid”, since it has road capabilities but the frame is such that I can hook racks and panniers to it. If you’re not familiar with what panniers are, they’re essentially saddlebags for bikes, and they make all kinds.
So, yes, I went with a Trek, and for those not up on bikes and the cycling world these days, Trek is what Lance Armstrong rode to his seven wins in the Tour de France. In short, they are very nice machines, and not as expensive as you might think. Many many years ago when I was still married, we bought the cheap mountain bikes that Toys R Us sells, and ya know what? I never rode it. It still sits on my back deck, minus the back tire which Kenny cannibalized for his bike, seat chewed up by squirrels for the stuffing for their nests, rusting. I may yet fix it up and use it around town a bit, but we never actually made it out onto the trails with them. They’re not good for long distances on the road, the fat tires give you too much rolling resistance (you’re gonna work a lot harder). This new beast has twenty-seven gears, and the slickest little shifters, I didn’t even realize what they were. I took it for a test ride in the road behind the shop, and went up and down a couple driveways, and when I downshifted to a hill gear, it was nearly effortless pedaling. I was in awe. Bikes have come a long way in the seventeen years since my ex and I bought those cheap bikes at Toys R Us. Helmets are very different now too, much more aerodynamic and better venting to keep your head cool.
I also went with clipless pedals. These are slick little creations that you have to get special shoes for. The pedal itself hardly looks like a pedal, small chunks of metal with an opening that the cleat on the bottom of the specially designed shoe clicks into. This is more efficient for pedaling, as it allows you to both push and pull as the pedal goes around. Sounds scary at first, the tendency is to think you won’t be able to take your foot off the pedal if you need to. It’s going to take a little practice, and I have been assured by a friend who rides with them, and the salesman (I hesitate to call him that, he’s more just a bike enthusiast who works at the store to help others get into biking) who worked with me that I will in due course not pull my foot out in time and fall over. They say everyone does it, you feel like a dork, but it’s like an initiation ritual with these things. So Parker (the salesman) put my bike up on the trainer at the store so I could sit on it and pedal and practice getting my shoe in and out of the pedal. It’s really simple, you just twist your ankle to the outside and your foot pops right out. It’s really very cool. I’m sure it will become second-nature, like shifting a car, and no doubt easier than.
I had to get all the gear since I had nothing: helmet, small tools, portable tire pump which is now strapped to the bike, water bottle and holder. I haven’t gotten panniers yet, or a bike rack for the car. Unfortunately the only bike racks they had were for designed to hold three bikes. I was hoping for a two-bike model, but this shop doesn’t even carry them (and they have six stores in the Portland area, the company as a whole does not sell them). Parker showed me how to remove the wheels and put the whole bike into the car. It’s very cool to know how to do all this, I want to know everything about how this machine works, but I think eventually I will get a bike rack. I may even cave and go back for a three-bike model.
Over the course of the next six months I was told I should probably plan on bringing the bike in around four times for tune-ups/adjustments. I get six months free service at this shop. They also have free classes and clinics on basic maintenance, how to change a flat, biking basics, etc. They installed the special pedals, cleats on the shoes, water bottle mount, and portable pump for me before I left the shop. Now all I need to do is figure out the ride to work, and find time to ride other times. What an education I’ve had in bikes over the last couple weeks!