Friday, June 17, 2011

Day 84: How to Buy a Bike Without Looking in the Mirror (it was tough!)

New Bike = FREEDOM!!!!
Who could have predicted that buying a bike would be one of the most challenging mirror temptations yet!  Here's the story:

Saabaru + Roadtrip = Love.
Saabaru + San Francisco = NotLove.
One of the hardest transitions from L.A. to San Francisco has been adjusting to rarely driving my car.  Even though I brought my trusty love-worn "Saabaru" with me, I rarely get use it because the parking situation is so horrific ($30/day in my current neighborhood, thanks to Giants game traffic, and up to $10/hour to park near the About-Face office where I volunteer a few times each week).  Because of this, once I manage to snag a "free" spot on my block, it takes a lot to convince me to drive away from it.  This is a big contrast to L.A., where I enjoyed the flexibility of driving wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted, knowing that I could always find free-ish parking at my destination, and that a reserved garage space would be waiting for me at home when I returned.

For my first several weeks in San Francisco, I walked pretty much everywhere within 2 miles, and called a cab if paths seemed a bit dicey (or, more frequently, when I was running late!).  This worked out okay, but a few weeks ago I realized that walking 6 blocks to Trader Joes, and then back again with groceries, wasn't fun.  Sadly, the impossibility of driving + sweaty slowness of walking + high expense of cabbing was frequently preventing me from leaving the house at all some days! Public transportation would have been the obvious solution, but the hills and turns involved in long SF bus rides seemed like an invitation to throw up in public at least a few times each week.  (I am notoriously motion-sickness-sensitive)  And so, facing an impossible choice between isolation and inconvenience/expense, I decided it was time to buy a bike.

This is the worst picture taken of me,  EVER.
I'm in the ER, telling bicycles (and my sister) to
"!*&%! Off and leave me alone!".
Getting a bike was a pretty brave move on my part.  Adulthood has granted me really shitty luck when it comes to bicycles.  I stupidly "lost" my first bike to a thief 8 years ago when I told a moving company they could "just leave it on my porch" while I was at work.  It was gone before I got home.  5 years later, I borrowed a neighbor's bike to (overly-ambitiously, and with virtually zero training on wheels) participate in a 2-day road race with my dad and sister.  Fewer than 10 miles in, I took a major spill (my second accident of the morning!), and ended up being carted off via ambulance to the nearest hospital, with a cracked helmet and mild concussion (see photo).

So now you know: my decision to buy a bike could only have happened in the presence of a greater threat (in this case isolation/insanity/puking in public).

And so it was that I found myself perusing the sale options at my local (i.e., walking distance) Performance Bike shop. I was surprise to spy a HUGE mirror at the front of the sales floor. I figured that serious bikers probably wanted to check themselves out on their bikes before purchasing.  Whatever.  I could resist.  Piece of cake!

I flagged down a dreadlocked and enthusiastic salesperson, and explained the purpose of my visit. I warned him of both my constrained budget, and lack of coordination.  He promptly walked me down a looong row of bikes (organized with most expensive bikes near the front of the store, and cheapo options in the back where we budget customers can't bring down the ambiance).   We arrived at the very end of the grown-up bike section, where he pointed out a few suggestions and then rolled the best contender to the front of the store so I could fill out a "test ride" form.

And then, eyeballing me with squinting contemplation, he said it: "Yep, well, you're definitely over 5'2" and you've got long legs, so you'll be a size small in co-ed bikes."  I couldn't help myself.  "Long legs???" I asked, eyebrows raised.  (I've heard "strong legs" and even "great legs" in my day, but NEVER "long legs")  Without pausing, he clarified, much to my chagrin: "Well, yeah, I mean, in comparison to your torso.  You have a really short torso.  I want to make sure you'll be able to reach the handlebars..." Oh.  Short torso.  Right.  Of course.

And with that, I learned what felt like an infinitely important detail about my body, while standing about 7 feet away from a HUGE mirror.  I REALLY wanted to look.  Was it true?  Do I have a short torso with long(ish) legs?!!?  How could I not have known this about myself!  Argh!   Look-away-look-away-look-away-look-away-look-away!!  Somehow, I managed to get myself outside for a test ride.

On my breezy trip around the block, I was struck by two thoughts.  First: This bike feels great!  As promised, I could reach the handle bars without feeling off-kilter.  The brakes worked.  The wind whistled.  I was loving it!

Original image here.
Second: Wait - didn't somebody else tell me that I have short arms??! When was that? Who was that?!?  And then, just as I arrived back at the bike shop, I remembered: When I worked at Abercrombie & Fitch one of the designers measured me to see if I could substitute as a "size medium" fit model.  Turned out that even though my "boobs were in the right place" (which, by-the-way, isn't difficult to accomplish with itty-bitty-titties and a push-up bra, emphasis on the UP!), my arms were, unfortunately, "1/2 inch too short."  Seriously.  1/2 inch too short.  My life of (fit) modeling was.... ruined!

And so, walking back into the bike shop, I knew that it must be true.  I had been assessed by two distinct and unbiased experts, so it was official: I have a short torso, with arms to match.  I didn't know whether to laugh at the ridiculousness or cry in frustration.  I still wanted to look in the mirror, but instead I just bought the darn bike and got the heck out of there.

The good news is that I love my new bike and it was totally worth it!  No accidents so far, and (even better) I've come to terms with the weird news about my torso.  As annoying as it felt to be told about my body by people I didn't know very well, I take comfort in the fact that neither person acted as though I should be embarrassed by the news.  It wasn't like they said "You might want to sit down.  I don't know how else to say this, but ... you have a short torso!  Here, take a tissue."  Nope.  It was just matter-of-fact.  No biggie.  So that's how I'm trying to approach it.  :)

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  1. I remember feeling the same way about the news that I have "gorilla arms." Too long for my torso. Thank goodness for 3/4 length sleeves.

  2. I walked into a store and was promptly told I had linebacker shoulders. Needless to say I went all pretty woman on their ass and got out of there without buying anything. I don't see my shoulders as linebacker but strong and sexy from helping my family survive on the farm doing the "boy" jobs. I love my shoulders!!

  3. Amazing how something someone says can make us feel insulted and makes us doubt ourself.

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