There was a little more of a gap between Part One and Part Two than I would have liked.
As I mentioned in Part One, I was concerned about going into a local bike shop and being told (politely or not) that they wouldn’t be able to help me. I’m still a magnificently fat bastard, after all- 365 pounds is nothing to sneeze at, even if it IS a hundred+ less than my peak weight. That overwhelming fear of rejection and ridicule drove so much of my day that it was kind of shocking to have it rear its head so strongly again. It DOES still influence me deeply, and honestly, I am quite sure it always will. There will always be a little voice that says “You’re the picture people see when they think “Well at least I’m not as bad as THAT ONE GUY.” You’re the Worst Case Scenario.” That’s better than it was (seriously; I leave the house willingly now. I go shopping and walk the streets without prodding or bribery from H4rpy), but I have a lot of work to do still.
I was being a complete dumbass. 365 pounds of pure, Grade AAA, All American, Corn-Fed DumbAss. I knew I was. H knew I was. You ALL knew I was. So I told The Little Voice that I was going to sack up and do this, and if he didn’t like it, he could suck on a teabag.
We made the drive to Oklahoma City and were at the bike shop for all of 30 seconds before the owner we were supposed to meet came right out and greeted us. It was probably all of 120 seconds later (after a few questions to make sure he had his numbers right) that he led us over to a couple of bikes that he thought would do the job. I gravitated strongly towards one in particular, largely because of some options it had that I knew I wanted in my next bike (disc brakes and lever shifters, plus a better gearing ratio. I knew I wanted a hybrid because I was going to be mostly on the road, but I can’t handle the riding posture of a true road bike yet.)
He talked with us about the bike (a 2014 Giant Roam 2) for another 10 minutes or so while his crew got one ready for me to test ride (the one on the floor was a large frame, and he thought I would benefit from a medium frame since I have short legs but a very long torso.)(He was quite right.) I knew as soon as I saw it that it was the one- the price was right, the size was right, and it was a huge upgrade over what I had, but not a jump all the way to top-of-the-line (with the price jump that would entail.)
Once the bike was ready, we took it outside and I hopped on for a test ride. H saw the smile on my face and that was it- we knew we were coming home with it.
So for the last week I’ve been an insatiable monster, wanting to ride the new bike everywhere. No matter how much my ass screams about the tiny new seat, I scream back louder: “YOU WILL GET USED TO IT, ASS.” I feel like I’m cheating, because it’s so easy to ride and I can go so much faster than I could on my Schwinn (better gearing and larger tires.)
After having it for a week, I decided it was time to give the Schwinn an overhaul.
The Blue Bomber (and its sister, pictured above shortly after we bought them) has a fair number of miles on it, badly out of adjustment brakes, a broken spoke, an out of round rear wheel, and generally just needed a lot of love. So I spent most of this last Saturday working on it. I taught myself how to disassemble the rear freewheel, remove the cassette, install and properly tighten a new spoke, retrue wheels, etc etc etc. After I was all done, it was time to go for a test ride to make sure I didn’t ruin anything.
Something unexpected happened.
I fell in love with the Schwin again.
Don’t get me wrong. The Giant stays, and it will indeed get the lion’s share of my Ass->Seat time. But riding the Schwinn after riding the Giant for a week made the differences between the two immediately, SCREAMINGLY apparent. The Schwinn is indeed a comfort bike. It rides like a cloud, soaks up every bump, goes slow, handles like a tank, and is perfect for a leisurely cruise to the store to get some milk, or for a jaunt with H. It felt good to ride the Schwinn again- the Giant made me appreciate all the things that felt the same between them, all the things that were RIGHT about my Blue Bomber, and now I realize I didn’t just get a new bike for my birthday.
H got me two new bikes- the one I always had and had forgotten about, and the new one from the store. I love them both and I’m going to use them both.
In the next 12-24 months, those two bikes are going to take me down to 200 pounds.
That’s what H gave me for my birthday, and I love her for it.
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.