So I've been thinking seriously about changing my bike for my work commute. I love my old Trek Mountain Bike, but it's just not the right tool for the job. I know that a good road bike would cut down on travel time and make my commitment to biking as my primary mode of transport much, much easier.
After looking at bike shop reviews online, I biked to Logan Square today to a shop that was pretty universally recommended. It's about 8 miles from my house.
Logan Square is one of those urban places that used to be grand but has fallen to hard times. It's being rediscovered as a hot spot to live, but I still don't get it. Sure, there's the boulevard, the square itself, and a certain level of hipster funkiness, but there's also a lot of trash blowing around, many trashy storefront business, and, well, I've never caught Logan Fever.
I locked my bike and went inside. It's a small store, and the few employees were with customers. I looked at the bikes along the wall, and noticed a model a friend of mine in Boston had gotten as a commuter bike. I'd tried it once and felt as though I were flying. I looked at the price tag.
"Can I help you?" a man young enough to be my son asked me. I explained my mountain-bike work-commute issue ("I love my bike, but it's kind of like riding a donkey.") I also made the mistake of mentioning the Bianchi Volpe, because he seemed to decide that that was the bike we would focus on.
Long story short: I asked what the difference was between the bikes, and got answers like "Different components," and nothing more. He went downstairs to get me the smallest model they made, and I took it for a test drive.
It was a beautiful bike. I did feel like I was flying, and was able to maneuver the bike back into the shop with one hand, rather than struggling with the heavy Trek frame.
I told him the good stuff: the ride was great, I felt like there was more me than bike, rather than vice-versa.
"But I don't like the drop handles. I found that the weight on my hands is a problem. I have some tendonitis issues and by the time I'd ridden around the block, I had pain going up my arms. I also don't like that I'm not erect, because I don't feel like I can be seen by cars."
He proceeded to point out the benefits to the drop bars, but I think I finally got through that there could be all the bennies in the world but the pain mitigated them all.
"Also, while I could certainly jump off and straddle the bike in an emergency, the bar, while not injury-producing, is still getting a bit personal for my taste," I said.
"They don't make road bikes any smaller," was the reply.
OH FOR CRIPES SAKE. DO YOU MEAN TO TELL ME THAT THERE ARE NO SHORT WOMEN IN THIS WORLD, OR HAVE WE ONCE AGAIN JUST DECIDED THAT WE DON'T EXIST?!?!?!?!
I saw a woman buying another Bianchi, the Castro Valley, which as it turned out was designed to be specifically a commuter bike: straight handles, fenders, and (I love this), a headlight that connected by a wire to the front wheel hub, which caused it to light as the wheel spun. Adios, batteries.
"What about that one?" I asked. "It looks perfect." I figured that if I had to accept the height, I could live with it if I had a bike that worked in every other way.
"Yeah. We don't have your size in stock."
Does Bianchi make kids' bikes?
He gave me a strange look.
"I'm just thinking it would address the size issue."
He looked at my feet in their Tevas. "Do you always ride in flip-flops?"
Another Look. I was beginning to think that I'd have been better off going out, getting a tattoo, and finding some clunky nerd glasses before returning so I could have a decent conversation.
He suggested that bike shoes would give me some elevation (I have bike shoes. I disagree), and also suggested letting some air out of the tires.
"You know, that might work, but at eight hundred and ninety-five dollars, I'd prefer it just be what I want."
It was all very pleasant and friendly, but I've had more guidance buying a thirty-dollar helmet than I received at this store. Tomorrow is another day, and there are other stores.
Oh, and I checked the Bianchi website. They make road bikes specifically for women. They start at twelve hundred dollars.
I've tasted wind-like speed, and I like it.