Today I went for the first bike ride of the year – 11.5 miles. I don’t ride much in the winter as I’m very sensitive to cold – if my ears get too cold as I whoosh along it can trigger a monster headache for me. Today my husband and I started out for a walk and I said – hey, it’s warm enough to bike today, let’s do it! So we went and got our bikes.
I rely on several pieces of gear to enhance my experience when I bike. I wear a helmet, obviously, and I like to have a pair of biking gloves to provide wrist support. I also need to wear padded biking shorts because otherwise my undercarriage starts to hurt too quickly. I don’t like to go without all of my gear, and the most important piece is my bike.
I used to have this clunky old bicycle that I got when I was about 23. Some people I knew, who had been here in the States studying at a local University, gave me the bike for free when they went back to Germany. It was an odd brand, Tunturi, and I never saw another one of that brand the whole time I had it. But, it was serviceable enough for somebody like me who didn’t ride very often.
I rode that bike for more than a decade, but not terribly often. Once I started losing weight I rode it off and on a little more frequently – it was my ride for the only Triathlon I ever did. But, it was heavy and clunky and not very sleek at all – it was old when I got it (sometime around 1998 I think). I moved many times over the years, and in 2010 when I got it out to start riding it was beyond help. Even though some very nice people had made a big effort to fix it up for me – tune-up, new brake lines, bottle holder, seat, handlebars…it wouldn’t stay in gear, it was hard to pedal, it kept getting flats. The last times I rode it I had three equipment failures in three rides. I threw it down on the last ride after getting another flat tire and told my husband in a fit of pique that I was DONE with this bike, and possibly with bike riding for ever. He told me we could fix it, but I was done.
He left me by the side of the road with my stupid old bike and rode home to pick up the car. On the way home he took me to the nearest bike shop. He admitted later that his intention was to bring me to my senses with sticker shock on just how much a whole new bike would cost and cause me to reconsider and let him try to work on my old bike some more. He was sure we wouldn’t see anything under $2000, it being a specialty mountain biking shop. But they had a few variants of non-mountain bikes and the perfect bike for me – a Specialized Sirrus – for significantly less than we both expected! So I bought a bike right then and there on the way home from my last failed bike ride, and now every single time I get it out for a ride I’m happy again with that decision.
The thing about gear is that if it’s hindering you, it’s bad gear. If thinking about your bike makes you want to stay on the couch, it’s not a good bike for you. If your running shoes make you want to call a podiatrist, it’s time for new shoes. I’m very fussy about my gear because I know that bad gear can do worse than make for a single bad exercise experience – it can discourage future exercise attempts and leave a bad feeling about forms of exercise that might otherwise be perfectly enjoyable, or, worst case, it can cause injury and pain. It’s a worthwhile investment, over the course of years of enjoyment and fitness, to make sure the gear you get is just right for you. The gear should inspire you to use it – it’s hard enough to motivate ourselves to get moving, gear shouldn’t be a hindrance.