N + 1 = My Second Bike as a Real Cyclist)

8:42 PM

The spouse objected to the title of one of my earlier blog posts (“N + 1 = My First Bike”), not because he didn’t like the equation (he clearly beats me in the use of N + 1), but because technically the Fuji is not my first bike.  “Your first bike as an adult,” he clarified.  True.

I do not actually remember my very first bike, I only have vague memories of something with training wheels that I soon outgrew.  My second bike was a wonder of 1970s design and style – an awesome banana-seated bike with a sparkly paint job that transitioned from red to blue.  With its high handlebars and low seat, I was Easy Rider on my suburban street.  In high school I transitioned to a blue Schwinn 10-speed that had my full name across both sides of the top tube in yellow stickers (dad worked in commercial graphics).  It probably weighed 82 pounds, but I felt unbelievably fast as I tucked in behind my dad’s slipstream on our evening rides.  In my cocky way, I thought I was pretty tough for keeping up with dad; of course, I didn’t understand the concept of drafting and all the work I was saving. 

 Bikes after that were more about utility – getting back and forth from practice to class in college, and then as something to tool around the neighborhood in my twenties and early thirties.  With the mechanical advantage, I didn’t actually think you could get a good workout on a bike.  The Fuji changed all of this four years ago when I transitioned from running to cycling as my main activity.

After a year of riding the roads, the spouse and I joined a team.  It was fun to be around other cyclists and discover new routes in the area.  When one of the team members put up a post about a cyclocross clinic that August, I thought the spouse was a bit crazy for going.  He showed me a couple of YouTube videos of cross races, but I just couldn’t get it.  “How is the bike different from our road bikes?” I asked in confusion, “and why do you need another new bike?”

It took exactly 30 minutes for me to get hooked on cyclocross.  I went to the spouse’s first race, and everything that the internet videos didn’t make clear about cross was suddenly there before me in all its glory.  Perhaps it was my background in cross country running, but this new sport made perfect sense to me – what wouldn’t be fun about riding through sand, jumping off your bike to leap a barrier, and heaving it onto your shoulder as you huffed and puffed up a hill?  The next day I bought my second bike: the Gary Fisher Presidio.

The Presidio rekindled my love of steel bikes.  I love the sleek, thin tubes, and the simple geometry of the bike.  The understated black, the restrained logos, even the Made in America sticker made me smile with pride (for some reason – something about quality control in one of their factories – the Presidio was made in the USA for that one year, which probably made it the most affordable USA-produced bike ever).  Not very many people have my bike locally, but when I went to the USGP in Madison last fall there were a few others out there.  Without fail, we would seek each other out and talk about how we loved our bike…like a secret club of crossers that knew you didn’t have to spend $5,000 to get a great CX ride.

I have made some improvements to the Presidio, as it is not the lightest bike out there by far (my stock bike was around 20 pounds before I put on my pedals).  He went on a diet over last summer and lost weight by gaining some hand-me-down wheels and an Easton fork.  I spent my first two years in cross making fun of all the weight weenies, but I have to say that I fell in love with my bike all over again last fall when I began to revel in the precision handling, and speedy acceleration that new parts brought.  While I hate to play favorites with my bikes, if pressed, I would pick my Presidio as my favorite.  My Fuji is a great bike for working out, but my Fisher (at least to me) is just plain cool.

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