Birthdays and Bicycles – Part 1

There are two things I wanted to write a bit about this week, and they’re kind of related. My beloved H4rpy (I know it’s weird to say that someone you call “Harpy” is beloved, but that’s another blog) is participating in a 6 week challenge where you set your own goals and win warm fuzzies for completing them. One of her goals is to ride 60 miles over the course of that 6 weeks. That’s not a huge distance for experienced riders, but H is just gearing up to get serious about it now.

That challenge started this week, so we’ve been going on medium distance rides (7-8 miles) out to the edge of town and back. She’s learning about gearing and how to tackle inclines and how to share the road with not-always-observant drivers. It’s amazing what just a couple of extra 1 hour bike sessions a week do for you (and TO you), both physically and mentally. The whoops of joy as she found top gear and pushed down the road at a maintained 18mph for a mile long stretch was music to my ears and made the pain of the ride back (20 mph cold headwind, and even 100lbs down, I’m still more like a sail than a beanpole, so ANY wind causes me to have to work a lot harder) so very much worth it.
So H is riding now and we’re both loving it. We do pretty much everything together, but this was one fitness activity that we’d kind of grown apart on, and for us to both be doing it feels very right.
Our bikes are nothing special- they’re nicely built Schwinn Link series comfort bikes picked up at The Great Blue Satan (aka WalMart) back in 2010. We got them somewhat on a lark:
I had come home from a trip to Colorado where my mother had passed away. As my stepfather, my sister, and I were going through things he mentioned that her bikes would need to find a new home. She and he were avid riders and had very nice equipment. At the time I hadn’t ridden in years, and I had no way of getting her road and mountain bikes home. I couldn’t use them, and I wasn’t sure H would want them, so I declined. I kick myself about that to this day- not because of the quality equipment, but because they were hers. Grief makes people do stupid things!
So I came home with things and started learning how to live again.
A month later, H and I were shopping at the aforementioned Satan and I saw all the bikes at the store. I mentioned how I could have brought my mother’s home for her and she lit up happily at the idea. We kicked around the idea a bit and the next thing you know, we bought a pair right there, took them home, and rode for the first time in years… in the middle of one of the worst summers in Oklahoma in the last 50 years, in the middle of the day, in the middle of July. We didn’t make it very far!
Anyway, the point of all this is that our bikes were chosen on a whim based on what we thought would work. At the time I wasn’t yet at my heaviest weight, and H was carrying more than now as well. It amazes me that the poor thing could even hold me up without breaking spokes- we got lucky and actually picked one that could hold me without knowing any better.
So the years and the miles began tacking on. The particular bike I had chosen was not assembled with great care, so it had some problems at the start. Never one to be afraid of disassembling things I know nothing about, I wrenched in and did my best to repair everything, with general success. Then I had my first run-in with a texting driver, and I ended up in a ditch with a banged up bike and blood all over me. I managed to make it home and patched my bike and myself up and resumed riding a few days later, only to find that there was actual serious damage to my bike (the crankshaft sheared into 2 pieces), so we had to take it to the nearest LBS (Local Bike Shop), which is 40 miles away and is so busy they need a week or more to fix even small problems.
Over the course of the 3 years I’ve had my Blue Bomber, I’ve had 3 accidents (2 due to texting drivers, 1 due to malfunction) but none have been especially serious after the first. The bike has held up well, but I can tell the miles and the strain of carrying 470lbs, then 400lbs, now 365lbs on a bike designed to carry no more than 300 or so is adding up. I intend to ride it until the frame starts to split, but here’s where the wrinkle comes in…
…my birthday is coming and H wants to do something nice for me.
She wants to get me a new bike so I have two in case one goes out of action for a while, and so I have a fancier, shinier one than my Blue Bomber.
I’m more than a little freaked out at entering an actual bike shop to buy a new one, especially one run by a pro rider, when I have heard and read so many horror stories about people being told to leave and “come back when you weigh 200lbs.” She has a contact who we’ve been assured is wonderful and kind and won’t do that at all, but I still freak a bit a the thought of being told “Nope, sorry mate, you’re just too damn fat. We don’t have anything that can hold you.” (Having to drive an hour and a half to Oklahoma City to be told that, then coming home empty handed, would be further sauce for the goose.)
So, we will see how that plays out- we might go up today, or perhaps Monday. More to come on that front.
So there’s part 1 of the bicycle chapter. Part 2 and the birthday chapter will come soon.

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