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Best day ever?!! Greg Davis and I pose by my brand new Trek Madone!

Best day ever?!! Greg Davis and I pose by my brand new Trek Madone!

I’ve been trying to think of a good analogy about buying a bike since last night, and the best I’ve come up with is shoes.  I briefly entertained one based on eating spaghetti at Fazolis versus eating spaghetti in Italy, but it fell apart after I ate dinner and was no longer so fixated on food.  So wait, what was I saying? Oh yeah…

Buying a bike is a lot like buying shoes.  Maybe you stroll past the clearance rack and you see a cute pair of pumps at 80% off and they’re not your size but they’re kinda close so you buy them.  Then you wear them to the wedding reception and you’re miserable all night. By the time the DJ starts playing “Old Time Rock and Roll,” your “great buy” shoes are under the table and you’re wearing a hole in your pantyhose.  And the shoes?  They’re going straight to the back of your closet never to be seen again.

Listen, I understand the temptation to look for a used bike or to go out to Walmart and buy something for $200.   I really do.  My first bike as an adult was bought second hand, but as it happens, I just got extremely lucky and could make it work for a while.  When I bought it though, I didn’t know what a difference the right bike could make.

It's me and my bike again! Notice the matching Bontrager jersey!

It’s me and my bike again! Notice the matching Bontrager jersey!

The past couple of weeks, at least 4 different people have asked me to be on the lookout for used bikes for them.  I’m not saying there might not be a decent used bike out there for all of you, but buying used is much harder than buying new if you really want to get lots of use out of your new bike.  If you don’t want to banish your bike to the back of your garage like a pair of clearance shoes to the back of your closet, you’ve got to find a bike that fits YOU!

Let’s put it in perspective.  I rode my bike 2500 miles last year.  If I average 15 mph, hat’s 166 hours in the saddle.  6.94 DAYS on my bike.  Do you think I could have done that on a bike if it wasn’t super comfortable and built for me?!?!

Even if you don’t plan on riding thousands of miles, it’s easy to see you’ll get more enjoyment and more use out of a bike that works with your body instead of against it.

Your best bet is to go to a bike shop with knowledgeable people and learn about what type of bike you should buy.  There are two shops here in Quincy.  My personal endorsement goes to Madison Davis, a Trek retailer.   Gamemasters also has a nice department though, and carries Specialized bikes.

People can (and have) written whole books on choosing the right bike, but let me give you my two cent guide on what you need to do if you want to start riding road with me this year.

  1. I organized a Bridge to Bridge (Quincy to Hannibal and back) ride for the 4th of July, and despite the high temps, attendance was GREAT!  I'm so happy so many people came out for this and I hope we do it again next year!

    I organized a Bridge to Bridge (Quincy to Hannibal and back) ride for the 4th of July, and despite the high temps, attendance was GREAT! I’m so happy so many people came out for this and I hope we do it again next year!

    Get measured.  DO NOT just go a-Googling and find some height chart on the internet.  Your friendly bike shop will measure you for free and will tell you what size you need.  It’s worth noting that different brands measure bikes in different ways.  For example, I ride a 52 cm Trek or a Medium Women’s Specialized.

  2. Think about your goals.  Are you going to ride some 10-20 mile routes or do you hope to work your way up to riding centuries (100 miles)?  Do you want to be able to tow cargo and camp?  Or do you want to race and try triathlons?  If you’re just club riding and aren’t going super long distances,  things like carbon seat posts (which reduce road noise) might not really be worth the extra cost for you.  Buy the options you need!
  3.  Think about your budget.  Yes, I know. This is the least fun part.  If my budget was unlimited, I’d buy a beautiful Trek Project One Domane and I would customize the paint job myself and have all the bells and whistles.  But alas, my pocketbook has limits.
  4. Are you a lady???  In road bikes, the main differences in a women’s specific bike are the length of the top tube (from your seat post to your handle bars) and the angle at which you sit on the bike.   There are very good graphics on the Trek website that illustrate this. The advantage to a women’s fit bike is that you won’t be reaching as far to the handle bars and therefore will put less strain on your back and shoulders.  If you’ve got a nice long torso, this might not be an issue for you, but for me, the women’s fit really feels nice.  The disadvantages of women’s design are that the women’s bike geometry isn’t as aggressive (which is important to racers) and they tend to feature pastel colors or flower graphics.   The girly color/graphic package is a whole other rant though.
  5. Don’t fear the saddle!  I’ve seen it before.  People take one look at those skinny, rock hard saddles on road bikes and demand that it’s switched out to something with gel in it.  Don’t do it, my friend!  I should probably write a whole other blog post about saddles, but the short story is: they can be measured too.   You sit your cute little bottom on a piece of foam, the foam measures your sit bones, and then you get the right size saddle for you.  Let the bike shop show you how to position your saddle for maximum comfort and in just a few rides, you’ll like a road bike saddle too.
  6. Understand your bike and what it’s made of.  I suggest this blog post which I wrote last year on the subject!
I never get tired of bike pictures.

I never get tired of bike pictures.

In conclusion- even if you don’t buy a new bike, start your research by looking at new bikes.  If you know what you want is a Trek 1.2 in 54 cm, you can go look for that bike.  Then you can do your comparison pricing and see if it’s worthwhile to buy used.

If you’re wondering about my bike and the thought process I went through to buy it…

I have a Trek 3.1 WSD Madone.  I bought it because:

  1. It’s an entry level carbon bike.  Carbon is a tough material and it’s good at reducing road noise.  It’s lighter than aluminum and since I knew I’d be a long distance rider, I thought carbon was the right choice for me.
  2. I almost bought a Lexa, which is an aluminum bike with carbon seat posts and forks. I probably would have been happy on this bike too (and would have saved some money) but I knew I loved to cycle by this point because I had already put over 1000 miles on a steel bike.  So, I decided I wanted to get the best I could afford so that I wouldn’t want to upgrade in just a few years.  I wanted something that could grow with me.
  3. My bike has 105 Shimano shifters/derauillers etc.  That’s the middle of the Shimano line.  I don’t feel like I’m a biker who has to count every little ounce yet, so I didn’t want to upgrade to the Ultegra or Dura-Ace level sets, which are extremely light weight but also very pricey.
  4. I’ve got a short torso, so Women’s Specific Design was the right choice for me.  It’s plenty aggressive for the type of riding I do.
  5. The base price of the bike I picked is right around $2000.  After adding pedals, shoes, a helmet, computer, etc, it was more of course, but I didn’t purchase all of the accessories all at once.  It’s worth it in the long run!
  6. Trek and Specialized (and other major brands) often offer financing on bikes, and I took advantage of that.  I believe I had zero interest for 12 months or something.  It was a great deal.
  7. Most importantly: I have never regretted a dime I spent on buying the right bike. I love The Dream Machine! 
This is the 2013 Lexa.  It's a nice bike!

This is the 2013 Lexa. It’s a nice bike!

If I had to make a recommendation for a good all-around bike at a good price for anyone just getting started, I think I would recommend the Trek 1.2 (called a Lexa for women).  It’s their aluminum road bike with carbon fork and seat post and it’s a good compromise between the features of a more expensive full carbon bike and the aluminum frame.  (The Specialized equivalent is called an Allez. Other brands make something similar.  Felt and Giant are good brands to check out but you can’t buy them locally.)  The 1.2 is a great quality bike you can ride in the club rides, take on a triathlon, or commute to work on.  The 1.2 list price is $999 (and the 1.1 is $799.  This is a solid aluminum bike.)

So, there you have it.  Buy a bike! Come ride with me!!  I PROMISE cycling will make you smile.

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Quincy Ride of Silence- Photo by Brandon Glasgow

The first ever Quincy Ride of Silence was held Wednesday night at Madison Park in Quincy.  The event was just one of 300 similar rides held today nationwide as part of National Bike Safety Month.  Around 40 riders enjoyed perfect weather and a four mile ride across Quincy to promote awareness of cyclists on public roads.

The Ride of Silence near 8th and State Street. Photo by Brandon Glasgow

For this ride, we all wore white jerseys or shirts.  The white jersey riders symbolized the “Ghost Bike” of people who have been killed while riding their bicycles.  There have been several fatalities on tri-state area roads in the past few years, and it was touching to take a moment to remember those riders.  Some of the larger national rides spray painted actual bikes white and placed them at intersections where fatalities have occurred.  I think the Ghost Bike can serve as a very good reminder about just what’s at stake when we’re talking about bike safety.

Since I organized the ride, I thought it would be a good idea to say a few words before we left the park.  I thanked everyone for coming and explained the purpose of the ride was to promote safety for motorists and cyclists.

After the introduction, I asked the crowd if anyone there had been hit by a car.  At least a half a dozen people stuck a hand in the air.  6 out of 40.  That’s an incredible number.  Some later explained to me that they had some incredibly serious injuries ranging from broken bones, major lacerations and concussions.   So how can we be safer on roads?  It’s, of course, the responsibility of both cyclists and drivers to watch for each other, to be conscientious and to follow the rules of the road.

Here are 5 things you need to know to help everyone enjoy cycling this summer!

  1. Cyclists: Bike Safety Starts with the right gear!  Wear your helmet every time you ride and make sure your kids do too.  Wear bright colored clothes and use blinking headlights and tail lights- especially near dawn or dusk.  Mirrors are also very important to see traffic behind you.  There are helmet or handle bar mounted mirrors which are inexpensive and can help you avoid collisions from behind when changing lanes. Also, don’t forget to check that your bike is in good working order, that your tires are properly inflated and that you have tire changing or patching kits in your seat pouch.
  2. Cars: Stay 3 Feet from Bikes!  3 feet is the law around bicycles and is plenty of room to avoid a potentially fatal collision.  Bikes: Stay to the right wherever possible and use the lane responsibly.  Cyclists do have the right to the whole lane, but often there is plenty of room at the side.  Don’t be a jerk just because it’s legal- try to get out of the way of faster moving traffic.  That being said, sometimes it’s safer to be fully in the lane.  Just be aware of your surroundings and make a safe and courteous decision.
  3.  Slow down!  Cyclists should reduce speed in residential areas to avoid cars backing out of driveways, drivers opening car doors when they’re parked on the street, and any debris you might find in the road.  Cars should slow down around cyclists and be patient until they are sure it’s safe to pass a rider.  Some riders and I were already in a very close call this year when an SUV tried to get around us before he had checked for oncoming traffic.  Well, there was an oncoming car, and if that driver had not reacted quickly and driven off road into the grass, there would have been a major head-on collision.  I promise, as inconvenient as slowing down for a few seconds can be, hitting a cyclist or another car would be much, much worse.
  4. Avoid distractions!  Don’t text and drive!  Do pay attention to the road!  Spring and summer are prime time for walkers, runners, cyclists, and kids on and near the road.  It only takes one moment for something to go wrong, and that text message is simply not worth it.
  5. Do unto others…  If that cyclist was your son or daughter- would you drive your car so close or so fast?  If the driver of that car was your husband or wife, would you purposely slow them down?  It’s pretty simple.  Treat each other the way you’d want to be treated.

For more information about the Ride of Silence, please check out my blog from last week or the national Ride of Silence website.   Also, please take a look at this great website which details the most common car/bike accident types.  It has great illustrations and can teach you a lot about what to watch out for next time you’re on the road!  Also check this link to an aritcle I wrote last year after a collision claimed the life of a Ft. Madison, Iowa man.

Special thanks to KHQA TV Channel 7 for coming out to cover the Ride of Silence and for having me back on their morning show.  Also, thanks to Rodney Hart for writing a story about it in the Quincy Herald Whig.  And thanks to photographer Brandon Glasgow for taking some amazing photos.  And a HUGE thanks to all the riders who came to the first ever Quincy Ride of Silence!

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On Wednesday, May 16th, cities throughout the country will be participating in the “Ride of Silence” as part of National Bicycle Safety Month.  The ride  aims to raise awareness of bicycle and motorist safety on public roadways. The ride is also a chance to show respect for those who have been killed or injured on their bicycles.

For the first time, riders from Quincy will be participating in this event.  All cyclists are invited to join the Ride of Silence on Wednesday, May 16th at 6 pm.  The short ride will leave from 24th and Maine at Madison Park, will ride to loop Washington Park and will return on State Street to 24th and Maine.  There are no fees and you do not need to sign up for the event, however you MUST wear a helmet to participate.  All riders are asked to wear as much white as possible.  White riders symbolize the “Ghost Bike,” in honor of those lost or injured on public roadways.

Kids are welcome to participate but must be accompanied by an adult and must be able to keep up with the group.  (Note: I am personally organizing this ride- so all participants ride at their own risk. )

There have been several cyclist deaths in the Tri-States in the last year, and raising awareness of cycling safety is something I know we all care about.  Read my blog about cycling safety by clicking here.

Both KHQA and the Quincy Herald Whig have agreed to cover the event, so the more participation we can get, the more we can increase awareness of cycling safety on local roads.

Many cities are participating in the ride,and you can read about the Chicago ride here: https://www.facebook.com/RideofSilenceChicago

*Anyone who wants to stick around after the Ride of Silence is welcome to join me for a medium paced 15 or so mile ride!

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