Biking Alone

Kris and I had a fairly relaxing Labor Day weekend – much needed, since we will probably be out of town at least 2, and possibly 3, weekends in September!

Highlights of the weekend: we found a new sushi place (not that there was anything wrong with the old one, just always nice to find additional good ones)… and we finally bought a bike rack for our car! Since I haven’t been blogging much this summer, you readers are probably not aware of how truly awesome this development is. You see, Kris and I had been attempting to shove the two bikes into the back of our SUV; this often led to HUGE arguments about bikes hitting into each other/grease getting on the carpet; bike parts potentially cutting the leather. I had been putting off the purchase though because holy cow a legit bike rack is expensive. The good news: we installed them this morning without any arguments. The bad news: we haven’t actually tried to attach a bicycle to one of these yet. The weird news: if the sunroof cover (not the actual sunroof) is open, we can hear them make a whistling noise while driving.

We had to attach them backwards so they wouldn’t hit the hatch door when it’s open.


We didn’t get a chance to use the rack because Kris and I actually did not get to biking together this weekend. Yesterday, it was oppressively hot and humid; we couldn’t fathom installing the racks, let alone taking the bikes anywhere and riding them. Today, Kris’s arm was hurting when he woke up. He biked downtown with me (where we went mini-golfing!) but decided against doing a longer ride. This meant I had to go by myself!

For some reason, going on longerish rides by myself seems particularly difficult to me – almost like it’s not even an option. I always feel like if Kris can’t bike for some reason, this means that biking is just out for the weekend. A couple of weeks ago, I had done a ride by myself because he was sick, and it felt just as odd. I usually can’t bring myself to go more than 10-12 miles and I feel incredibly nervous the whole time. 

really do not understand this particular issue. I commute all by myself (in the city! a city with no bike lanes!) every day and took rides of 10-12 miles with no issues at all when I lived in Indiana. I even feel guilty about how much faster Kris is at cycling than me that I slow him down when we bike together, so theoretically I should be out working harder so that I can get better at cycling and not hold him back so much and I should be happy to be doing that because it means I am not worrying about whether I am holding him back. For some reason, though, I absolutely dread going out on these solo rides.

Possible reasons:

  • I get lost easily. I know my way to work, and in Lafayette I usually only rode on trails I regularly ran, but driving to a rail trail or going out on the trail that surrounds my city are slightly unfamiliar. This is a somewhat legitimate concern; I missed a turn and took a wrong on my route today, but I had a GPS with me the entire time and immediately realized I was wrong in both instances (i.e. I wasn’t so oblivious that I continued in the wrong direction for miles).
  • Fear of getting in a wreck. I did wreck my bike a few weeks ago, and today I almost got run over by a car due to a careless mistake (Kris went through a light, so I assumed it was still green for me without checking – it wasn’t). There isn’t really anywhere nearby where I can completely avoid roads, and even on a rail-trail I’d have to deal with potholes and debris, but I don’t know why this would make me dread long rides when it doesn’t make me dread my commute (where I regularly have to blindly pass buses).
  • Not being comfortable on my new bike. I think this is part of it – I did recently get my old road bike completely fixed up and have been forcing myself to ride it around more. I’m not 100% comfortable with shifting the gears or going super fast on it yet, but again, this should be something that is easier for me to deal with on solo rides – I always feel a lot of anxiety about not being skilled at riding around Kris, so I should be happy for the opportunity to practice in private. 
  • Boredom. I have never taken a ride more than like, 12 miles, by myself. Additionally, when Kris and I take long rides, it is more for us to do something fun together than for fitness. Maybe I just dread the rides because I have to out alone in the afternoon sun and not talk to anyone for like, an hour. Then again, I do that with running all the time, and I’m not actually usually bored on the bike, so who knows?

Hopefully I figure this out – maybe I should just force myself to go on a solo 20 or 30 mile ride just so that I get over it. Exposure to things that worry me always helps!



Bike Shopping!

So, today, my roommate, our friend who actually knows how to ride a bicycle (ok my roommate knows how, too, but knows about as much as me about buying them) and I headed out to a couple of local bike shops to look at bikes! I was thinking of getting a used one, but as I started to realize that a)  a used one was only about $200 less than a new model that I would not need to do a bunch of fixes too and b) I could probably afford a low end new one, I started to consider new bikes. I still have NO idea what I’m doing. So this post is mostly going to be me sorting out my thoughts on the bikes.

Things I learned:

  • I apparently like hybrid bikes and the handlebars that stick straight out rather than drop handlebars (I think the latter are supposed to be “better,” but they were sooo sensitive I had trouble steering). All of the used road bikes I tried had the drop bars and I had never used these before and was not a fan.
  • I need a very small step through frame, which really limits my options. The one employee, when trying to figure out how frame sizes of bikes compared (he wanted to find me 15″, if I recall correctly, but that for some bikes mean extra small…and I’m not even short!). I really don’t want to give up on the step through frame or getting a women’s bike in general, though, because I know a major difference is that they are set up for smaller hands, and I basically have child sized hands. Also, I wear skirts almost every day so there is probably no chance a regular bike would suit me well.
  • Apparently you never do forget how to ride a bike! I was SOOO nervous when I test rode the first bike. I even sort of wrecked into a wall and kept like hopping off thinking I was going to run into a parked car (part of this was that bike store employee put on seat wrong). As soon as I calmed down, though, I was zooming around the parking lot!
  • Bikes are expensive…but not AS expensive as I thought. I went in thinking “Ok, so used will be like $200-300 and new will be like $1000 so I need used.” I then discovered there was a whole range of prices for new bikes!

Bikes I tested and thoughts:

  • Jamis Commuter. I rode the Commuter 4, but would probably buy one of the cheaper levels (the 1 and 2 are in my price range, I think). I liked that it came with some components already (i.e. fenders and a rack, some with headlights), but I am nervous that I would want to switch the components and their inclusion then would be a waste of money. This bike was the cheapest, but it handled worst and was least comfortable (though this might have been an artifact of me being super nervous that I might wreck the $800 bicycle). Also, it was at the less helpful store (i.e. I couldn’t practice shifting this one because the employee wouldn’t show me how to shift gears).
  • Trek 7.1 FX. This one was acceptable to me. It was in the middle in terms of price and how well I liked it. I did think it came with the most comfortable seat, so there is that. I felt more comfortable with both this and the next bike because they were hybrids – I’m still not really sure what a “commuter” bike is and I’m not sure if it would be appropriate for use for fun/fitness and the employee at the second, more helpful store immediately jumped to these hybrid bikes away from other styles when I mentioned occasional biking for fitness.
  • Specialized Vita. The more I think about it, the more I want this bike, even though it was most expensive. It handled the best (I was turning around a bunch of times in the parking lot, I almost fell off trying to turn around the Jamis), it was the lightest, and it was the cutest (it had pink on it!). It was also the most expensive, though.

Anyone who has suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments!