Friday, April 11, 2014

Life is short...

And so here we are. On the day that I bought my new bicycle! It's felt like Christmas Day all day; I've been giddy with excitement and anticipation. My new bicycle was coming home today!!!

But I should probably back up just a little, eh? I might be wondering..."why did you need a new bike, Beth?" Let me tell you!

As you may or may not know, I purchased a bicycle just over a year ago - a Specialized Ariel. Just a few months into riding it, I began to suspect I needed a different bike. A better bike. A faster bike. A more versatile bike. But I figured I would ride it out for the first year (see what I did there?) and think about a new bike at the start of the 2014 riding season. 

2014 hit and I made the decision that I am going to ride in the Sea Gull Century in Salisbury, Maryland at the end of September - that's my big goal for this year. (A "century" is a 100-mile bike ride.) Four weeks ago, I found myself in The Bicycle Shop here in State College checking out my options. I looked at the Cannondale Quick, but its set-up was very similar to my Ariel's. Keeping my preferred type of riding in mind (the Spring Creek Canyon trail and the Lower Trail) but also mindful of my upcoming century, I then looked at cyclocross bikes - particularly the Specialized TriCross. I wasn't in appropriate riding garb, so I opted to wait to do test rides until it was a bit warmer and I had on the right duds. 

About a week later, I found myself wondering what kind of cross bikes the other local bike shop - Freeze Thaw Cycles - might have. The morning of Tuesday, March 25th, I IM'd my friend Greg and asked him if he had lunch plans. He didn't, so I invited him to meet me at Freeze Thaw to check out the selection of cross bikes. Greg purchased his Surly Orge from Freeze Thaw and has been singing their praises ever since. I went into the shop interested in the Surly Cross Check. Justin - one of the guys at the shop - really listened as I spoke about the kind of riding I typically do, but also the kind of riding (long-distance) I want to train to do. I left sold on the idea of a Salsa Vaya.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn't going to cooperate for a timely test ride, so I went into the following weekend test-ride-less. I also happened to be in Baltimore that weekend, so there was that, too! What I did do while I was in Baltimore was check out Joe's Bike Shop in Mt. Washington. There, I checked out the Salsa Warbird. Nate from Joe's got me seated and set-up on the Warbird for "sitting purposes" (it was POURING rain in Baltimore that weekend so no test rides to be had) and I really liked it. A little follow-up research revealed that the Warbird - while pretty amazing - probably wasn't going to be the best bike for me. It's aluminum frame probably wouldn't fair well on some of the more rugged terrain here in Central PA and it was much more race-purposed than I was seeking. 

Which brought me back to the Vaya and Freeze Thaw. Last Tuesday, April 1st - with the weather fully cooperating for test rides - I headed to Freeze Thaw after work to test ride a Vaya. I worked with Jordan, who took measurements to determine which frame size I would need - which wound up being a 52 cm. As it turned out, the only 52 cm Vaya they had in stock was last year's model of the Vaya 2. As Vayas go, the 3 is the low-end model, the 2 is better, and the Traveler is best. Being last year's model, the '13 Vaya 2 was priced similarly to the '14 Vaya 3. At this point, I'm thinking, "Score! Better model, better price, better color!" (The '13 2 is, "vanilla"; the '14 2 is a light blue that was not appealing.) 

Jordan plucked the '13 2 off the wall of the stairwell of the shop and brought it down to start setting it up for me. He estimated this would take about 15 minutes, so I hung out upstairs talking to Paul - another of the guys in the shop - and browsing a bit. Before I knew it, Jordan called me downstairs to have a seat on the bike so he could check some measurements. He wasn't happy with my upper body positioning, so he decided to swap out stems. He worked on the bike for another 15 minutes or so before telling me that he just couldn't get the bike set-up the way he wanted it for me with the stems that he had available in the shop. He wanted to order a different stem - which would be arrive in 2-3 days - and then get the bike ready for me for the best test ride possible. He apologized that I'd waited as long as I had only to go home that day without doing a test ride, but I assured him that I understood and that - more importantly - I appreciated his efforts and attention to detail.

I walked out of the shop, checked the time, and thought, "Well, there's still time to hit The Bicycle Shop and try the TriCross." So that's exactly what I did. And my experience at TBS could not have been any more different than at FTC if the entire thing had been scripted. Where Jordan was meticulous about measurements and sizing, the kid at TBS plucked the bike down off the rack (after *I* had to tell him which frame size I thought I needed), lowered the seat, aired up the tires, opened the front door, and sent me out on a test ride. I rode away from the store thinking, "Huh. That's different." 

The TriCross was OK. Just OK. But I really had no way of knowing if it was really the right bike for me - should I fit on it better? There was one way to find out. Buy it and THEN be fitted. Something about that process didn't compute. Not for the kind of coin I was about to drop on a bike. I rode the bike for about 25 minutes all through West Campus and down one of the local gravel bike paths, but my mind was already made up. My next bike was coming from Freeze Thaw Cycles. 

I got the call on Friday, April 4th that the new stem was in and that Jordan had gotten the bike set up for me. The next day, I stopped into the shop to chat with the guys. I had to play the "girl card" that day - I'd just gotten a pedicure and was wearing flip flops. There weren't going to be any test rides that day. My main concern was that someone else might come in and be interested in the '13 Vaya 2. I'd gone in to BEG them not to sell the bike before I had a chance to ride it - which was going to prove tough since I was headed to Rhode Island Sunday through Tuesday and Pittsburgh on Wednesday and Thursday. Justin assured me that it was in the basement of the shop being held for me. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and promised to be in the shop late Thursday afternoon.

Fast forward to yesterday - Thursday afternoon - FINALLY! My friend Phillip and I returned from Pittsburgh at 4 PM. I dropped him off at the office and returned the car to Fleet Services. I took my cycling clothes in with me when I returned the car keys, looked at the guy at the counter, and asked, "Bathroom?!?" He said, "Down the hall on the left." I practically ran to the bathroom, changed quickly, and headed downtown to Freeze Thaw in eager anticipation.

I arrived at Freeze Thaw and was cordially greeted by the guys in the shop. Jordan retrieved the bike - my bike - from the basement and had me sit on it while Justin held it so he could check the fit. Despite being two weeks later, I could tell a difference in the riding position and orientation of my upper body. Jordan gave me a quick tutorial on the shifters, which are Sram, not Shimano to which I'm more accustomed. I put on my helmet and gloves, handed over my keys (I joked "for collateral" but really because I didn't want them in my pocket), and headed out the door. 

I spent the next 25 minutes riding around downtown State College through the neighborhoods that house the fraternities. At one house, all of the guys were shirtless playing volleyball. Flashbacks to Top Gun played in my head. I didn't hate it. Anyhoo, I loved my test ride! I could tell a huge difference in hill climbing. On the Ariel, which has a front suspension, I would lose power on climbs as the suspension would "give." On the Vaya, 100% of my leg power was going into the climbs. It was amazing! The riding position was fantastic. The bike handles like a champ. And the disc brakes are pretty sweet, too.

I'm fairly certain that I was rocking a smile from ear to ear when I returned to the shop! I told Justin that I wanted to bring my Ariel in for a trade-in evaluation and that I wanted to buy the Vaya; I said I'd be back Friday after work. I asked Justin to put some basic pedals on the bike for the time being. (The switch to clip-less pedals is coming. SOON! But I want to get used to the shifting and brakes first.)

This afternoon, Chris met me in my office once he'd gotten off work and we went downtown together once my day was done. I took my Ariel in and Justin gave it a once over. Unfortunately, given their current used inventory, he wasn't able to make me a trade-in offer but he did help me figure out what I should ask in a private sale. He also pointed out a very minor repair that the bike would need, which I just told him to go ahead and do. I'll list the Ariel on Craigslist, Facebook, and the bulletin boards at work. (Anyone reading this in the market for a medium frame 2012 Specialized Ariel?!? Email me!) 

Since my purchase of the Vaya wasn't dependent on a trade-in, I told Justin I still wanted to go ahead with that! Jordan rang me up and not 10 minutes after I walked in with my Ariel, I walked out with MY VAYA!

Without further ado - and to reward you for making it this far through the post - check out some pics of my new 2013 Salsa Vaya 2 from Freeze Thaw Cycles in State College, PA:

Welcome home, pretty girl!

Not gonna the pepper emblem!



Continental TourRIDE tires with puncture protection.

SRAM shifters.

Thank you Justin, Jordan, and all the guys at Freeze Thaw Cycles! You're the best!!!

Another pepper!

I like the blue accents on the "vanilla" bike.

Like my gears?!?

Head-on shot.

Check out my rear, y'all!

The weather this weekend is supposed to be spectacular. Any guesses what I'll be doing?!?

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