How a nerdy girl goes about buying a road bike

  1. Does a ton of research online
  2. Checks lots of forums and posts questions on reddit
  3. Tweets to random bike shops and bike blogers
  4. Avoids going to an actual bike shop at all costs by sending the following email:

    IMG_20120509_194214Hey guys,

    Do you have recommendations for a first time road bike? Right now I’m on a Norco Yorkville Hybrid which I use to commute short distances.

    Knowing I’m a commuter, my friends convinced me to sign up for the STP and in a fit of irrational bravery, I signed up. Now I’m reading more, timing myself and realizing my bike (and possibly it’s engine) will not be cutting it speed and weight wise. I want something that might make my ride even a little bit easier and more aerodynamic. ;-)

    Answers to questions you might have:
    I’m short, (5’1″) and overweight (I’ve lost 80lbs, but still have awhile to go). Despite this, I’m fit for my size. No back issues, etc.

    I’ve had previous hip and knee issues with my bike. I had it pro-fit and that made a big difference. It’s still a concern for me over long distances (not sure if you can help with anything other than a fit).

    From what I’ve read I think I want a more traditional road bike (vs. Ultra light). I ideally I’d like some carbon components and reliable drive train and other confusing things that I don’t fully understand and would have trouble fixing on my own.

    I need a bike that is cut out for long distances (ie Seattle to Portland and other cool, long rides).

    I’ve never clipped into a bike before.

    My budget is $700 or hopefully less (I know that’s tricky).

    Totally open to used bikes and/or old models.

    Also, I’d love to know what a touring bike is? Is that what I’m looking for?

    Can you help? Any recommendations? Things I should think about/consider? Are you just gonna tell me to come in? ;)

  5. Waits enthusiastically for a reply knowing that, of course, they will tell her just to come in.

Laugh at yourself.

So, I went in for a bike fit. Finally. And I have to tell you guys I always get a little nervous about things like this because I am such a novice, and in the back of my mind I think, “I’m still overweight. He/she doesn’t know how hard I’ve been working…. I hope they don’t judge me.” I know that this is not the best thing to think to myself. But, hey, it’s real and what I really experience whenever I try something new, so why not share it with you guys?

So, I arrived at the bike shop and the guy was very nice. Soon I got comfortable and starting asking things like, “But can you make it go faster?” and telling him “I like to go really hard and then brake hard….. but actually, I don’t like to brake.

I was being silly to help with my fear and the bike-fit-dude just giggled at me and said I sounded like a biker. I started to feel really good, really comfortable with the situation and admittedly I was a feeling a bit smug when he told me he suspected that eventually I’ll be graduating to a road bike

So, of course, that’s when I TOTALLY FELL OFF THE BIKE.

You see, bike-fit-dude had it on a stand so I could pedal and it wouldn’t go anywhere, but the thing about the stand is that you can’t tilt the bike (like I do) when you get off and it’s also an inch or two taller.

Short, chubby me had no chance.

It was one of those slow motion falls too. He knew I was falling, I knew I was falling…. I swear it took 30 seconds for me to finally hit the ground….

The point of the story?

I just got back up: red-faced, super embarrassed, with a big dorky grin on my face -I stood back up and eventually got back on the bike. Sometimes you just have to laugh at yourself.

Join the Debate: Where Do Bikes Belong?

It all started on my ride to my mom’s house. Someone yelled at me from their car, “GET OFF THE ROAD!!!!”  I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I wasn’t breaking a law or doing anything illegal – the driver was just upset because they wanted to take a right turn while I was crossing the street (apparently not fast enough for them). The yelling scared me (despite it not being the first time) and caught me by surprise but I kept on pedaling. When I posted my workout to Facebook I added the following comment:

……and then the comments started coming in.

J.G.: That’s like saying sharks share the ocean with swimmers. Its a nice idea that bikes have the right of way, but the truth is you have to bike defensively. People are bad enough at sharing the road with other cars.

J.S.: Plus Seattle byclist are asshole and don’t think the rules apply to them.

Shelli Martineau (Me): Trust me, I ride defensively. My problem is with people who yell at me for being on the road. I’m not sorry. Its my road too. So, I’m an asshole?

N.W.: I agree with J.G. Aside from that, I’ll add that I’ve seen many roads that were narrow to begin with that were made even more narrow to include a bike path. So now you’ve got cars whizzing past a cyclist at 45 miles per hour trying to keep their distance from cars coming toward them at 45 miles an hour. India has adopted the traffic law that “Might is Right”. In essence, the bigger the car, the more right-of-way.

Shelli Martineau (Me): I don’t take up any part of the road that I’m not legally allowed to. I don’t break rules. I don’t block traffic or take up room and I certainly don’t harass motorists but people in cars feel they can squeeze me onto the shoulder, yell at me, chuck stuff at me. how is that ok? If I ride on the sidewalk its illegal. I could hit pedestrians. So, where is the middle ground? In India they’ll also let you die in the street.

N.W.: It’s not about the rider, it’s about the stupid notion that cyclists who wear little more than a helmet think the law offers them some form of magical protection from 1000+ pounds of rolling death. It’s like saying you’re legally allowed to walk through a construction site. Yes the workers will be careful if they see you, but if someone is carrying a long 2X4 and decides to make a sudden turn, you’re going to get a good knock in the head regardless of the law.You bring up a good point though, Shelli. They won’t let bikes onto sidewalks because a pedestrian who isn’t paying attention could step out in front of a bike. So now we’re on a larger sidewalk with bikes and vehicles. I think less pedestrians have been killed by bikes than bikers killed by cars. I may be wrong.  At any rate, that doesn’t excuse rudeness by motorists who throw things or berate you from their window. Might be a good reason to get a license plate number.

J.S.: Eh your not an asshole unless you bike like most of the bicyclist in Seattle. Like uh red lights and stop signs don’t apply to them. Pedding 5 miles an hour in first gear down Aurora is maddening. I’m way nice to the ones that follow the rules but they’re few and far out.

P.M.: I can’t believe people throw stuff at you. Christ, people- just share the fucking road- is it that difficult?

A.H.: This should be a part of Driver’s Ed and the driving test. Just because a car is bigger and faster doesn’t mean the driver has the right to not pay attention or give bicyclists space.

N.W.: It doesn’t have anything to do with giving cyclists attention and space. They simply don’t make any noise and aren’t always easy to spot. It doesn’t matter how much it’s rammed down the public’s throat, riding a bicycle around cars is dangerous.

Shelli Martineau (Me): I guess by “ramming it down people’s throats” you mean “reminding people we share the road” and “asking drivers to be mindful of bikes”? My problem is that people flat out harass and endanger cyclists. I’m aware of the danger and I take the risk BC all of the benefits to my health (ironically) and wallet. I wish more people were out there with me – it’d be amazing for everyone. That won’t happen until conditions improve.

P.M.: N.W.- joggers/ walkers are small and don’t make any noise either. Does that mean we should be running them off the road as well?

N.W.: There’s a difference between running people off the road intentionally and doing it because you slowed down to make a right-hand turn and didn’t see a cyclist coming up behind you.

A.H.: Drivers seem to be the more aggressive party when dealing with bicyclists – I’ve had people lay on their horn as they change lanes (when there is plenty of space to the side, in front and behind them) to get around me on my bike. I ignore them, despite how much I want to flip them off and tell them to read up on the actual laws of the road. I think the drivers who act like that are ignorant and arrogant, possibly with some underlying anger that they are reminded they aren’t getting the exercise they need.

N.W.: I think more angst is coming from people who have a genuine need to get where they’re going without worrying about the soft, fleshy meatbags on wheels that feel their recreational habits take precedence over their desire not to incur an awful lawsuit should you float out of the bicycle lane and get hit.

I’d LOVE to hear what you have to say, Dear Readers. What do you think?

I’m Going to Stop Saying, “If I Can Do It, Anyone Can”

I did it again. I caught myself saying “it” again.

I was retrieving my bike from behind the counter at the gym (they don’t have a bike rack so they let me keep it back there), minding my own business, when the woman behind the counter smiled at me and asked,

“So, how far do you ride?”

“Oh, not that far, only a couple of miles”

“I’ve been thinking about pulling my bike out but I just haven’t. I ride the bus.”

“That’s a great idea! It will probably be quicker than the bus and if I…” (gesturing at my chubby self) “can do it, you….” (gesturing at her small frame) “can definitly do it.”

She nodded in agreement and told me I was her inspiration. She was going to go out and get a tire pump instead of a bus pass. I smiled and went about my day, and while I was really happy that I’d encouraged someone to get out there and exercise more, something at the back of my mind was bothering me.

Why do I tell others (and therefore myself) that I’m somehow inadequate in order to encourage them? This wasn’t the first compliment I’ve received on my journey, this wasn’t even the first person to be impressed that I ride my bike to the gym, and sadly, this wasn’t the first time I’ve said, “If I can do it, you can do it.”

But, lets be real for a second….. If anyone could be doing what I’m doing they’d be doing it, right? If anyone could do what I’m doing I wouldn’t be getting nearly as many compliments about how brave and inspiring I am. I’d be average. I’d be part of the crowd.

But, I’m not average. I’m one of only a few patrons of my gym who park their bikes behind that counter. I’m fighting an uphill battle that many do not even dare to face. I’m making big changes, taking huge risks and I’m living without fear. I know I’m not alone in this battle (there are certainly some people who can say they’re doing the same) but I really need to stop discounting my achievements and the work I’m putting into myself. So, with that, I’m going to stop saying, “If I can do it, you can do it” or any variation thereof. I’m going to have to find a different way to take compliments and dish out encouragement.

Any suggestions on what I should say instead?

The Year of No Fear: Apparently I Cycle Now

When you give up fear you find out all sorts of crazy things about yourself.

I gave up fear and found out I’m a cycler… or.. a bicyclist… or whatever the hell you call them….

Who knew?

I certainly didn’t.

About 6 years ago I was 23, I weighed more than I ever had in my life, and I knew I wanted to get in shape. At the time, however, I had LOTS of stuff going on: I was going to grad school, I was newly married, I had just started substitute teaching and I was trying to help my struggling, bi-polar husband stay on his feet. I needed a quick fix and I thought the answer was “riding a bike everywhere”.

Simple, right?

Soon, my father-in-law, who always has spare everythings lying around, put together an amazing bike for me. Next thing I knew I was near tears, struggling to peddle up a huge hill as semi-trucks WOOSHED by me at top speed and commuters jeered and shouted rude comments at me as they drove by.

I think I rode that bike 2 or 3 times before I promptly gave it up.

What went wrong?

  • I wasn’t ready – Mentally and physically I just wasn’t ready to take on the challenge of commuting on a bike everyday. I was looking for something quick and easy and biking wasn’t it.
  • I didn’t have a SMART plan – At the time I thought “ride my bike everywhere” was a great plan. What I didn’t realize is that it wasn’t a plan at all. It was a dream without wings because it wasn’t SMART = Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, or Timely.
  • I wasn’t in the right place for what I was trying to do- While I was living in arguably one of the best cities in the country for bikers I wasn’t living *in* the city. The commute I had to make was either along a freeway or a dangerous stretch of road. I didn’t feel safe and was massively intimidated.
  • I didn’t “own” my bike – My bike was given to me and I didn’t know anything about it. I hadn’t picked it out and I didn’t know how to operate it. While it was certainly mine, I didn’t have that sense of pride that comes with owning something really cool.
  • I had an out – I could always take my car anywhere I wanted to go.

And most critically: I was afraid. Hearing people yell nasty things me from their cars really got to me. I decided I’d rather drive than face the humiliation.

What changed?

Despite being massively put off from my first “I’m gonna be a biker” experience and afraid of rude comments from people on the street a part of me still wanted to be a biker chick. Then, slowly but surely, my life started to change:

  • I got braver – At the beginning of this year I promised myself I would try ONE thing that scared me. After crossing that off my list in record time I decided my year should be FULL of challenging myself to face my fears.
  • I got tougher – While I’m still overweight, I’m a whole heck-of-a-lot tougher than I’ve ever been. Exercising as much as I do means I’m one strong girl. I knew I could commute on a bike after enough time and practice.
  • I moved – From one of the most bike-friendly places in the country, to a place I’ve seen only a FEW streets with bike lanes. This actually ended up being positive as cyclists here are allowed to ride on the sidewalks which puts me out of harms way (a little more) and takes SO much of my fear away.
  • I have a plan – I’m gonna start off slow and work my way up to bigger and better rides. For now my bike is for commuting to and from the gym. Then I’ll work on visiting friends and family and people and errands that are farther away.
  • I don’t have an out – Hubs and I are down to exactly one vehicle between the two of us which means when he’s at work I’m either stuck at home, walking, or begging friends and family for a ride. As you can imagine, that got old really fast and my desire to own a bike has never been stronger.

Plus, I’m proud to say, I’m officially the owner of the prettiest, most wonderfulest bike in the whole wide world! I finally got motivated enough to save up for a bike. I did lots of research and field testing and when the day finally came, I went to my local bike shop and bought her.


But, how does that make you a cycler (or cyclist or whatever they’re called)?

I realized things were different this time after about a week of using my bike to go to and from the gym. Things were going great and I was actually enjoying it. It was working!

I was thinking this over at a red light when I heard people yelling at me from their car.

“Seriously?!” I thought, “Not again….”

Then I looked at them.

5 grown men squeezed into a tiny (TINY) car.

“Yeah guys, *I’m* the one who looks like an idiot”

….I thought to myself as I smiled and peddled off.


What do you think of my awesome bike? She still needs a name!