New Gear Geekout: Part two, new bike

Loving the drop-frame. I can step into it! No more falling over whenever I stop suddenly!

Loving the drop-frame. I can step into it! No more falling over whenever I stop suddenly!

This is the summer of new stuff. In addition to new skates (see my last gear geekout post) I bought a new bike. Behold a bike that actually fits my short-waisted, short-armed, short-legged body! ook ook!

This is a Trek Verve 3 with a rather nice component package, drop frame, 700mm wheels, seat-post and front-post suspension, hybrid tires with Kevlar for city riding and moderate side-tread for gravel trails, thumb-controlled gearshifts, theft-resistant seat and wheel security system, long-shank Kryptonite lock, and a men’s seat with a big airy slit up the center, a feature all women bikers will understand and appreciate. (Why the men’s seat had a bigger slit I will never know. Bike manufacturers are no friendlier to female bikers than skate manufacturers are to female skaters.)

Slotted for extra comfort and health.

Slotted for extra comfort and health.

Since I know a lot less about bikes than I do about skates, I brought my husband along, and I asked the sales guys to tell me the name of “that woman who works here—I can’t remember her name—I think she’s kind of blonde, not real young?” I didn’t actually have anyone in mind. I just wanted to talk to their oldest female bike shop employee. My experience with bike shop salesclerks is that they regard female customers with suspicion, not to say contempt. (Kind of like comic book store salesclerks.) I wanted to work with someone who would take me seriously as an athlete—gray hair, short legs, big ass, and all—and who would be patient with my ignorance and my needs. They named Gretchen. I made sure to call ahead and come in on a day when she was working.

Gretchen was surprised when I asked for her. She dwelt in the back room, where technicians worked their magic in seclusion. “I usually have a wrench in my hand. They don’t let me out of the back to sell bikes.”

I already had the odometer, bell, headlight, and water-bottle carrer.

I already had the odometer, bell, headlight, and water-bottle carrer.

“Well, you’re gonna sell me this bike.”

Gretchen was great. She talked to me, not to my husband, unless I was standing back to let them geek out about derailleurs or maintenance. She asked me, “How many gears do you really use?” which proved vividly that she wouldn’t try to sell me too much bike. Yet she respected my athleticism enough to steer me to a road bike instead of a “townie” with sit-up-and-beg handlebars and no tolerance for the abuse I heap on my stuff. She talked me out of expensive aerobars (though I was dying to buy them) because they didn’t fit the brand of bike I wanted. She didn’t argue to do all the transfer and installation of my little bitty accessories like lights, bell, and odometer, just to add to the labor charges.

She fitted my bike to me. She explained everything in a way I could understand, and also respected my intelligence and commitment.

In the past six days I’ve put 65 miles on it, in small increments. I’ll probably go back and buy some ridiculously expensive bike shorts and a rear cargo carrier. From Gretchen.

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New Gear Geekout: Part two, new bike — 3 Comments

  1. Ooh, bike! More proof that we are actually the same person, separated only by some space/time flux.
    I love the drop frame — I fell off my bike earlier this year and nearly broke my ankle, because I couldn’t hop off fast enough.
    Bike shorts are a mixed blessing — tight, but often too tight. And wildly expensive. Let me draw your attention to yoga pants, which work just as good and can be bought on discount. Also, layers! A woollen base layer under those yoga pants carries you into winter. (They go on sale at Costco in the fall.)
    I have done rear carriers. Get Gretchen to install a rear rack on the bike. Then you can attach all kinds of things to it — wine bottle holders, panniers. I have used zip-ties to attach a basket to the back. You remember in the movie version of THE WIZARD OF OZ, when the crabby schoolteacher crams Toto into her bike basket? That kind of basket. The best one is a wire market basket, so that you can use bungee cords to tie items down.

  2. Bike!

    Two years ago after a long dry period (in which I’ve had bikes, just not the greatest), I found a bike that fits me like a sleeve, and it’s just so, so, worth it. It’s also light enough that I keep looking at hills going ‘I’ll never get up that- oh, I’m at the top’ It’s a Ridgeback 21′ hybrid bike (city and tracks), and I love it to bits.

    My problem with bike shops has been that most try to sell me a woman’s frame since I walk in presenting as female. Mostly 18′, but one memorable salesdrone tried to tell me that the 16′ he desperately wanted to sell was a perfect size for me. Worlds of nope. I sat on it and had my knees under my chin.

    I bought my bike from a shop that treated me like a serious cyclist (I also bought my exercise bike from a shop that treated me like an athlete) – I may not look it at first glance, but I am reasonably active and I expect my gear to be serious.

    I hope you have tons and tons of fun with your new bike!

  3. Oh, green_knight. Yes, it is annoying to be judged by your gender. And age. And weight. I bet I could hip-check every one of those snooty skinny bikeboys across the shop, but do I say so? noooooo…