When you can’t do much actual riding, you have too much time on your hands to sit around and dream about new bikes, pore over their specs, scrutinize geometries, and conjure up visions of your glorious return to riding outdoors. Trust me.
The last time this happened, it changed my riding forever and opened up new cycling horizons. Rewind to 2013 when I was recovering from back to back right foot surgeries. I had walked for approximately 2 months out of the last 7, as the first surgery didn’t take and had to be redone in an even more invasive fashion (tendons unattaching from screws, anyone?). I owned one bike, my road bike, a bike which I dearly loved, but I recently had started dating someone who also spent a good amount of time riding offroad.
“Uh, um, dad, so I didn’t want to tell you because you’re always overprotective, but I’m dating this guy who’s also into bikes … don’t worry, he’s from Iowa too. You have mutual friends so he’s probably not a serial killer, I swear!”
I was familiar with the concept of offroad cycling, especially on gravel. My dad was an avid gravel cyclist, churning out 100 metric centuries (62 mile rides) on gravel in 2011. Massive miles for a man still working full time! (He was also once a prolific blogger, and here’s hoping he starts that again soon in his upcoming retirement.) He was always urging me to try offroad riding of some sort, especially gravel.
One night he was up visiting me and we were sitting on the couch, each surfing on our laptops, drinking beer, with the TV droning on in the background. The discussion of “cyclocross” bikes came up, and how I really needed to buy one once I could ride again. He mentioned a few brands and models that he preferred, and I immediately retorted that those wouldn’t work. He looked at me in shock — how did his daughter, the newbie cyclist who barely rode her road bike the summer before, know which models of cyclocross bikes would work or not?
I smirked and forwarded him an email containing a carefully curated list of potential gravel bikes for me, discussing pros and cons, geometry requirements, etc. He was stunned and then asked “Where did you get this list?” I replied “Uh, um, dad, so I didn’t want to tell you because you’re always overprotective, but I’m dating this guy who’s also into bikes … don’t worry, he’s from Iowa too. You have mutual friends so he’s probably not a serial killer, I swear!”
Long story short, with the help of my boyfriend and the urging of my father I purchased a “cyclocross” bike intended for gravel use before I was even allowed to ride it! I couldn’t test ride it as I was still in an aircast and on crutches. I was only able to compare geometry charts to my existing road bike and then visit the local shop to stand over the top tube to ensure I had at least SOME clearance. Yup! We had found a winner! It was in my price range, small enough, and serendipitously fell into my life at the right time.
I used that tiny green bike to do EVERYTHING offroad that fall once I was given clearance to ride outside. I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about it, but my first gravel ride included a massive crying fit on a major descent – I was terrified, shaken, and couldn’t stop crying even after I managed to stop my bicycle. I was determined that that gravel ride wouldn’t be my last, and that I wouldn’t give in to my fears. Now, gravel is one of my favorite things to ride! I took the little green cyclocross bike out on simple singletrack, weaving in between the trees and remembering the joy of trail running. I had no idea that riding singletrack on a CX bike was supposed to be “hard” — I just knew I sucked at it but damn it was fun. That bicycle opened up so many horizons, and is the reason I spend so much time riding offroad today.
So where am I going with this story? Yup, you guessed it. I bought another bike this week!!! Can I ride it yet? Nope. Am I dang excited? Hells yeah! I CAN’T WAIT!!!