The Orangecycle Diaries: Days 1 & 2

090309-Daisy I strongly recommend not taking a drink for 13 years. Because if you do, it turns out your husband might knock your socks off with perhaps the most awesome present of all time: an Electra Townie Original 7D bicycle in glorious, citrus-y orange pearl. At least that's how it worked for me. (Disclaimer: This may not be true of all husbands.) Please meet my new bike, Daisy.

I should start by noting (somewhat sheepishly) that this is actually the first bicycle I've ever owned. I know how to ride one, thank goodness, and I'm not exactly sure why or how I made it this far in life without ever getting one, but there you have it. Good things do come to those who wait. I have the proof.

Since moving to Ann Arbor, a very bike-y town of exceedingly manageable size, I've been toying with becoming a bike owner, getting something used off Craig's List. From time to time, I browse what's available, realize I don't really know what I'm looking for (or, usually, at) and put it off for another season. Every once in a while, as I drive by one of A2's many, many bike shops, I think about stopping in and asking for help figuring out what I need. But the stores are full of bike-y people and their bike-y knowledge and I get intimidated, so I keep on driving past. Fortunately, I have a husband who is vastly more diligent than I, particularly when it comes to research -- and it seems he has managed to find the absolute perfect bike for someone like me. And not just because it's retro-cool and super-adorable.

Turns out the Townie is also the ideal bike for someone like me -- a novice who doesn't need a fancy racing dealio, a million gears she would never use, and who has a number of physical ailments that often render other bikes an exercise in sheer torture. The Townie's designed with flat-foot technology, meaning your feet can rest comfortably on the ground when stopped, so you don't feel like you're going to fall over. The pedals are placed further forward make for a fuller leg extension (more akin to the recumbent bike at the gym), and that's great for someone (like me) with knee pain . It also features a nifty upright riding position -- as opposed to the hunched-over posture on most regular bikes -- which reduces back, neck and arm fatigue. For someone with chronic pain issues (like moi), this is just dandy.

I got Daisy on Wednesday evening, so I didn't have time to ride around much that day. Mostly in the house, which only served to frighten the cats and didn't give me a real feel for the bike. So I had to wait until Thursday to really take her out for a spin. And by spin, I mean a relatively short 'n shaky tool around our neighborhood which, thankfully, is mostly flat. (However, not nearly as flat as you one might be fooled into thinking whilst driving around.)

Mostly, I found Daisy to be a delight right out of the gate. We had good times, she and I, sailing past cute houses and trying to avoid getting run over by various vehicles and, at one point, a pirate invasion by three young boys who looked to mean business. I did have some trouble on the hills, which was humbling, considering they're not very steep around here. I think part of that is because I was still figuring out what gears I needed when, but also because, you know, I have fibromyalgia and sometimes it feels like my thighs are on fire. There's also a remote possibility that being really out of shape played a role too, but I'm not rushing to conclusions.

In particular, taking the hills even at the lowest gear (or would it be highest? hell, I don't know. It was one. Gear 1!) was causing me a remarkable amount of knee pain. Which didn't seem right, what with all of the hoity-toity design features that went into this bike. I was also a little discouraged that I wasn't instantly able to effortlessly ride for tens of hundreds of miles at a stretch and not feel the least bit of effort. And, in the interest of full disclosure, my butt hurt a bit but not nearly as much as it does on the upright bike at the Y.

All of that aside, oh, how I was thrilled to have an orange bike! I couldn't sleep last night for thinking of all the things I'd need -- a decent lock so I could actually ride it to the gym or to Kroger or into town for coffee, a water bottle cage, a basket or bag for holding crap, a bell. Would I need a light for riding at night? So many questions! Turns out that you have to order some of these accessories directly from Electra as a lot of aftermarket equipment doesn't fit this bike. For example, most water bottle cages don't fit, so you have to order an Electra water cage mount adapter  and then buy a cage to put on that. The mount adapter is $9.99, which isn't that steep, but shipping is the same again, so that's where it starts to look a little annoying.

Anyway, I decided a lock was the first order of business in case I ever made it out of the neighborhood. This morning, I went in search of one at Target, but didn't find any U-Locks, which a couple of people had mentioned was better than the cord kind you can cut through. At the bike store, their U-lock was nearly $50 and I wasn't quite ready to shell that out without doing a little look-see around to find out what's what in the field of bike locks. (It should be noted that this sort of restraint from instant gratification is highly unusual for me.)

So today it was just another day of local explorin' for me and my bike. Before I got on for Daisy: Day II in the 'Hood, I decided to register my bike with Electra. I opened the folder that Chris had given me and, lo and behold, was a manual. Huh. Who'd have thought? The very first thing they suggest is adjusting the seat height, which seems like a sensible thing to do and probably the kind of thing a person who'd previously owned a bike would know. So I adjusted the seat height, then it told me to adjust the stem tilt and handlebar tilt accordingly. Only, it didn't really say how to do those things. It looks like I need a specific kind of hex wrench and even then, I wondered if it wasn't something best left to a professional or, say, anyone who wasn't me. Thus, it seemed to me the most logical approach was to ignore the matter completely and go on about my riding.

The conclusions from Day II's rudimentary spin are as follows:

  1. raising the seat completely took the pressure off my knee on the hills
  2. not adjusting the stem and handlebar tilt means the new seat position makes my back hurt
  3. there's a possibility I may one day become strong enough to make it to Kroger without dying
  4. helmets are no friend of the head sweater

Now I need to talk to some of my more bike-y friends to find out if the new adjustments are something I can do myself or if I need to take it back to the bike store and get help with it. Either way, we're getting there, baby! We're getting there! And once we're there, I'll be everywhere! Watch out!