The other day, my wife found me looking at bikes again. When I get bored, I start surfing around Konaworld.com, TrekBikes.com, Specialized.com and others (but mainly those) and ogle bikes. Currently, it’s cyclocross bikes. I’m constantly switching between lusting after the new disc-brake Kona Jake the Snake, the World Cup-proven Trek Crockett and the “safe choice”, the Specialized Crux. The Jake is the one I can get the cheapest and comes from a smaller company that seems to still manage to create world-class ‘cross bikes. Trek has not been at the forefront of cyclocross, but has arrived fashionably late with a remarkable offering. Honestly, when a pro rider is willing to pilot an aluminum bike, there’s something special going on there. Since I’ve been riding a Specialized Tricross in ‘cross races for years, I feel like the transition to the more race-oriented Crux will be easy, but the bike will last.
But this post isn’t about these bikes.
For one, I simply can’t afford one right now. Bikes are expensive and my kids are starting ballet and hockey and son. That’s not worth whining about though. What my wife really wondered about, and what this post is about, is why I would really be looking at such expensive bikes at all. Why should I be tucking a $2000 hunk of aluminum and carbon in my workshop at night?
Let’s start with a simpler question. Why do I ride a bike?
1. I love it. Perhaps more so than any other athletic activity I’ve ever done, I really enjoy a bike ride. I enjoy the struggle up a hill. I enjoy the wind in my face as I dive down the other side at 40 MPH. I enjoy railing corners on the singletrack and watching trees fly by my peripheral vision. It just makes me happy.
2. I like food. I was telling my wife the other day that I am a health nut with a terrible weakness for junk food. The idea of having fruit for dessert and lots of egg white omelets with avocado for breakfast and all kinds of salads for lunch sounds perfect. Then I see sausage gravy and biscuits on the menu. Then someone puts a plate of cookies in front of me and suddenly three of them leap into my hands. I like to eat and riding my bike lets me do that. Because…
3. When I am not active, I get fat. I tell the story to anyone who wants to listen. When I got to college, I weighed 175 pounds. By the time I graduated, I was 210. Three years later, I was nearly at 230 and was just uncomfortable in my own skin. I spent too much time in front of computers, too much time watching TV and too much time drinking Mountain Dew. I started running, riding and eating right. It took another 4 years, but I got back to 175 pounds. The less I ride, the more my weight creeps back up. I don’t want to be that way now. Or ever, for that matter.
4. Racing is awesome. I never thought of myself as a particularly competitive person until I started riding bikes. I can’t be cutthroat competitive, but driven enough to train and give it my all out there. And the reality is that you can race well if you don’t ride.
5. I’m fairly good at it. “Fairly” is as much as I will give myself. I’m a Cat 2 mountain biker and a Cat 3 cyclocrosser. I don’t think I’ll ever get any higher than those. But being at that level is still nothing to sneeze at.
Why then would I need a good bike? I ride a bike and really love it, but does that justify a somewhat expensive bike? I think so.
When you ride as often and as long and as hard as I do, a good quality bike keeps the ride safe, secure and fun. A good bike will ride well, which keeps you happy. The parts on mid-range bikes are quietly reliable, which means that when you go out, you will come back. Descending that hill at 40 MPH on a good bike means that the frame will handle that use. And because I would use this bike on long gravel rides, cyclocross and road rides, it needs to be something like a ‘cross bike. Those just start at $1200.
I don’t need a fancy bike as a status symbol. You’ll notice my list of bikes doesn’t include any carbon wonder-bikes. I don’t need that. I just want something that quietly lets me ride, be healthy and see the world.
Now I just need to start saving my pennies. (And figuring out which one of these bikes I really want. I went though a short phase of wanting all of them just in the time I was writing this post!)