I’ve recently gotten into bicycling – which now apparently sounds much cooler if you label yourself, instead, as a “cyclist” (long vowel sound), rather than a “bicyclist” (wimpy vowel sound), not to be mistaken for the label “biker” (coughing vowel sound) in which you have a motor that will do a large majority of the work for you and sounds much more intimidating when revving your engine at a stop sign – versus the only sound I can make at that same stop sign, which is the unclipping of my shoe from my pedal (okay, and the whimpering “crap” that slips out when I lose all my momentum & a hill is facing me).
I’ve decided that, essentially, there are 2 categories of cyclists. Those who are either:
Admittedly, there’s a range of sub-types within these categories, particularly the goal-oriented one. There are goal-oriented cyclists who:
– simply set personal goals to ride so many miles per week (though they might do it leisurely or not),
-work to beat either themselves or someone else’s record(s), perhaps on a particular course that’s been set up (see MapMyRide to understand how you can extend these challenge possibilities beyond your own circle of friends),
-formally compete at the amateur level, such as in triathlons, mountain bike or road bike races,
-formally compete at the quasi-professional level in high-speed road races,
-formally compete in professional road races (e.g., Le Tour de France being the premier of these known by all).
Let’s get back to the normal person, though – like me (yes, I consider myself perfectly normal!) – who started riding with absolutely no competitive aspirations. I imagined myself being a top-speed leisure-oriented rider (meaning I would ride down park sidewalks, pronouncedly declaring “left” to all the walkers I passed – and then I’d go a little over the posted speed limit when no one was looking). I would’ve even been okay with a little bell and a basket on my bike. And I surely couldn’t have imagined frowning down upon coming to a hill, hopping off to one side of my bike, and leisurely strolling it to the top.
That was before T surprised me with my very own Trek Lexa SLX (which touts it is specifically designed with women riders in mind — what? it comes with a compact mirror?!). She was sleek and beautiful, but I could tell she had a little bit of a rebellious streak in her – so I named her “Little Red Riding.” She was a little intimidating just sitting in my office, let me tell you – because even though she’s consider a “low-end model” in the road cycling world (yes, there are bikes that cost more than my car), I was afraid to de-value her by getting a scratch on her body. (If it came down to who was getting the road rash, I decided I’d throw my body between her and the asphalt.)
I was also intimidated by her clipless pedals (which seem to be a misnomer to me, as you do “clip” into and out of them) – and be assured that I’ll write more about those from a beginner’s perspective on a different day because, I figured if anything was going to cause my body to ever be between my bike and the asphalt, those were the most likely culprits.
I should’ve been intimidated by my crank system, but, heck, I didn’t even know there were any choices in crank systems at that time. There are, in fact. One is a triple crank system (meaning there are 3 chainrings) “for a wider range of gear shifting.” That’s what the brochure says, anyway. I can’t be sure of the difference because T chose a compact crank system for me. ‘Sooo?’ you may naively ask. Well, let me just read you its description: “Two front chainrings with shorter gearing, for the best combination of climbing ability and flat-terrain speed.” If you didn’t catch the two most important (let me translate that as intimidating) words, they were: CLIMBING and SPEED. I felt like I’d been gifted with a Trojan Horse! T was sneak attacking me with his gift. He had every intention of me being more of the goal-oriented cyclist than the “ring your little bell down the sidewalk and push your basketed bike up the hill” sort of leisure-rider I had envisioned.
So “Little Red Riding” and I weren’t going to be delivering a basket of cookies to Grandma, huh? Instead, we were going to be out riding with “The Big Bad Wolf.” (Please help me dramatically end this post by inserting your own goose-bump-raising howl here.)