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yoonanimous goes bike shopping

I still think bike commuters can be obnoxious. But I admit that I have long coveted a bike. It’s just worked out that every time I want to buy a bike, I don’t have the money, because I need it for other trifles, like heat, and water.

I started getting serious about a bike after spending $120 on a shitty rental over vacation. Buying a bike made a lot of sense. In Portland, the bike lanes are wider than the car lanes. Finn rides like a fiend, and is always asking why his parents walk so slow. I shop for groceries European style, which just means that I can’t predict what I want to eat in advance, and end up going to the store daily–a trip that would be more fun on a bike. But the last straw was when my genteel cousin Emily and her boyfriend Kevin bought a tandem. They have been riding jauntily around town toting baguettes and having impromptu picnics. I mean, I can barely picture Em OUTDOORS. That settled it. I was getting a damn bike.

Having made the decision, I perked up, as I always do, at the thought of buying something. But it’s been a slog. I’m usually an efficient shopper. I don’t equivocate, and I don’t waffle. But with bikes, I was like a retiree with all the time in the world—puttering around the shop, kicking tires, accidentally knocking bikes over, and asking annoying questions like “Can I put a bell on this? and “Why is this here bike so big?” I wish I had better questions, but I had no idea what to ask. When friends would ask “what type of bike” I wanted, I got tetchy. What the hell did they MEAN what kind of bike? The kind with two tires, a seat, and some handlebars. Duh. But I had to answer, and unfortunately, all my answers sounded really dumb. “I want a bike that won’t make my crotch sore.” “I want a bike that comes with the cool orange bags that hang on the back.” “I want a bike with medium fat tires.”

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an early contender: the globe daily 2

Anyway, the technical stuff was besides the point. I wanted the bike for my kids and groceries, but my priority was to avoid buying an uncool bike. I’m no Jay-Z, but I like to think I at least know what’s not cool. With bikes, I had no idea how relatively cool or uncool my options were. But make no mistake, you can’t go into a bike shop in Portland and ask for a “cool” bike. I know this because I did just that at River City Bikes and the salesperson visibly cringed, which looked painful with the eyebrow rings. My general impression of bike shop employees, btw, is that they exist to make you feel lame and under-pierced.

I couldn’t even rely on brand names, because I have no idea what brand names are cool in the bike world. Don’t give me any of that BS about brand names not being important. Brand names are important. To argue otherwise is to mess with the penultimate value system in my life, so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t go there. I didn’t like the sound of some brands: “Giant,” “Surly,” “Globe,” “Cannondale.” Finn has a Trek and that sounded ok, but who wants to ride the same bike as their kid? It would be like buying a car made by Tonka, or Stride Rite pumps. I liked the sound of other brands: “Linus,” “Jamis.” I thought the brand “Specialized” sounded pretty special until a friend implied that Specialized is the Gap of the bike world. The Gap!! I didn’t want the Gap. I wanted A.P.C.

tate, my biking style icon

I knew a couple other things. I knew I didn’t want a girl bike—which, I was surprised to learn at Clever Cycles, is not the technical term for such a bike, which is instead known as a “step-through.” I wanted the crotch bar. Gotta have the crotch bar. To me the crotch bar is the difference between having curly streamers coming out of your handlebars, and not. Speaking of handlebars, I also knew that I didn’t want those tall, curvy handles that you see in old French movies.

But I was weak. Presented with curvy-handled, step-through options, I was tempted. A beautiful Linus Mixte 3-speed came in a color called “Rosewood,” a deep burgundy that called to the very core of my being. The salesperson assured me I could ride in a skirt. I nodded in appreciation, forgetting that the last time I wore a skirt in my downtime was…never. I wanted to buy that Linus, bad. And yet, something felt wrong on my test ride. I felt too upright, like a bear on a tricycle. Worse, I couldn’t shake the annoying feeling that I should be wearing mime makeup and handing flowers to passerby. It was cute, but I didn’t want cute. I wanted utilitarian. Functional. Something I couldn’t easily fall off of. A Linus might be in my future, but first, I needed to find out if I could really ride a bike.

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the rosewood linus mixte 3

In the end, I bought the cheapest option–the first bike I tried, a Globe Work I, in plain black. Globe is owned by Specialized, but I prefer to think of the Globe as my Piperlime bike, not my Old Navy bike. The bike felt good, and solid, like I could run over it with my car—just saying—and it might still be ok. I jazzed it up with a seat for Tate, in chartreuse. With the child seat, basket, and bike lock, the whole thing weighs approximately 120 pounds, but it’s ok. I don’t plan to go up any hills.

If the biking thing sticks, I’m getting this dream helmet next. My boss Keith, a cyclist, helpfully suggested it because he knows that my primary anxiety about riding a bike is helmet hair. A helmet that’s really a scarf! Brilliant. Now I just need to save the $700.

Anyway, if you see Tate and me on the road, give a honk! Just don’t make any sudden movements, because we are newbies. So maybe a light, non-threatening beep. Or maybe just flash your lights. Or maybe, just wave. Or maybe, just ignore us.

Wish us luck.

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i guess finn needed to pee

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35 Comments Post a comment
  1. dave chorlton #

    You guys are too cute!

    October 12, 2012
  2. Jrdpdx #

    When you get irritated at a driver and start blowing stop signs because they don’t apply to you, you will have arrived

    October 3, 2012
  3. Bike buy ftw!

    It is always daunting going entry-level into any activity requiring new vocabulary. I avoid buying sporting equipment in shops with salesfolk younger than my own kids (which includes nearly everybody these days) the same way I avoid calling in for tech help. Once we get past the initial greeting to the specifics – did I want “blahdy freeple or am I more interested in going waingle ponker” I’m immediately in over my head and feel a deep need for adult beverages followed by a good lie-down.

    If I want to feel bad about myself I’ve got a full length mirror and a bathing suit. Much quicker.

    (Helmet hair is not nearly as bad as post-head-injury hair. Pinky swear. Stick with your wonderful cabeza-protection. Turns out everybody is more attractive with their brains inside their skulls.)

    October 2, 2012
    • yes, that’s it, I hate entry level anything. that is the main impediment to my dream of learning how to tap dance

      October 3, 2012
  4. Great choice! By the way I think my husband might argue that Specialized is the “Gap” of the bike world. lol I personally loved my Trek cruiser bike but in those days we lived in a pleasantly, lazy rider friendly city in Ontario. When we made the move to a region in Germany that is so hilly that I get dry heaves even thinking about it, I needed something with actual gears and breaks. However, I was not willing to compromise on the cruiser look and comfort. Thankfully Electra makes the perfect solution, the Townie. So my bicycle crisis was averted and I’ve been riding my Townie happily for three years now, in fact we just had our bikes with us in Munich during our annual Oktoberfest pilgrimage, and I have to say that is the most bike friendly city I’ve ever had the pleasure of peddling about in spite of the fact that the locals make me feel very much the same way the bike shop employees made you feel. They just zip around in skirts, heels, and flip flops with reckless abandon all while toting around surfboards or with their Louis Vuitton & Prada bags strategically placed in their front baskets.

    October 2, 2012
    • lots of townies here in Portland, they are so…cute?! i strive to look like one of those european bikers on the sartorialist…probably not in the cards for me

      October 3, 2012
  5. Don’t you both look cool in your helmets on that bike? Don’t really get the weather for a bike here in the North East corner of England, too many hurricanes, too much rain and its never warm enough! (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it). Hope you keep enjoying the bike and I love Finn’s helmet!

    October 1, 2012
    • we just need an arsenal sticker for his helmet and it will be complete

      October 2, 2012
  6. Courtney #

    If you ride that bike more than 3 times, I’ll eat my shoe. If you ride w/ your children on any surface streets and I am driving my monster truck, there is a high likelihood of major injury. That is why I condemn anyone who rides anywhere but the Esplanade or other no-car zones. Seriously, it’s like playing Russian Roulette. I take comfort in my belief that this hysteria (yours, not mine) will quickly pass and you’ll drive safely back to Zumba and stow your kids in childcare.

    October 1, 2012
    • I’ve already ridden it more than three times. So will it be your louboutins?

      October 1, 2012
  7. sbt #

    Maybe you won’t need to worry about the helmet soon: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/30/sunday-review/to-encourage-biking-cities-forget-about-helmets.html?pagewanted=1&ref=general&src=me
    Also – in the future – if you need anything bike-related and have questions or need something researched you can ping Thor. Seriously. He LIVES to do comparative internet shopping/research for anything bike related. Sometimes I’m not sure how he keeps up with his day job.

    October 1, 2012
    • I thought of you and Thor. But the more the friend knows about bikes, the worse the conversations have gone

      October 1, 2012
  8. gina maria #

    girl, you look FABULOUS on that bike! be careful out there…you know how maniacal ppl in cars can be…and while i’m on the subject…stay out of the way, OKAY?? alas, my cycling fantasies involving a tangerine Public Standard step-though will NEVER be realized as long as i live in hilly, windy san francisco. it’s a small price to pay to call this beautiful, world-class city home, but it does bum me out some times. enjoy & be safe!!

    October 1, 2012
    • my friend Kim told me this morning that public bikes are the apc bike–bike number 2 perhaps!

      October 1, 2012
  9. Becca #

    Woohoo! Welcome to the road!

    October 1, 2012
  10. Love Tate’s helmet!

    October 1, 2012
    • thanks. i wanted one but thought that tate would be annoyed that i was biting his style

      October 1, 2012
  11. That helmet is WILD!
    I just recently bought a bike, too, but I’ve only been out twice. I want to get one of those fancy kid seats like you have – my dad bought us a trailer to tow the kids behind us, but it’s WAY too big for me…I don’t feel like I’m safe with it.

    October 1, 2012
    • It’s a Yepp. His is the max, good up to 45 pounds or something. There’s a smaller one for the wees

      October 1, 2012
  12. I’m currently on the bike hunt as well!! Such a pain in the butt. Expensive and so many options! I’m jealous you have committed already. I’m on month 2 of the hunt..

    October 1, 2012
    • you sound pickier than me, or perhaps more patient. if you lived in portland i could suggest a couple salespeople who were helpful. good luck with the hunt!

      October 1, 2012
  13. Congrats — I know that was quite the odyssey for you. See you on the road!

    October 1, 2012
  14. I am in the same boat! My friend owns a bike shop here in Seattle and I long for the shiny blue Linus in the window. It’s brown, leather grips, bell and headlight call to me. My fears of getting hit by a crazy bus driver or not being able to peddle my butt up all the hills are holding me back, but you may have inspired me to just go for it. Thanks and happy riding!

    October 1, 2012
    • kelly, we rode all weekend and i know my most notable feeling, after happiness, was regret, at not having bought one sooner. so do it!

      October 1, 2012
  15. Ashleigh #

    I love your dream helmet. God, that’s good stuff right there.

    October 1, 2012
    • ridiculously cool, right? tom says he would never trust that the helmet would inflate in time, but he is generally opposed to technological advancements

      October 1, 2012
  16. Israel Askew #

    I like the bike. Biking is not happening too much in Houston, but Houston is not as bad as you might think.

    October 1, 2012
    • texas…we have to catch up. twentieth reunion not far off, right?

      October 1, 2012
      • Israel Askew #

        Ya, 3 years. It would be nice to catch up.

        October 1, 2012
  17. Israel Askew #

    Off topic, but are those home made cut offs or did you buy them somewhere. I want to see if I can convince my wife to get some.

    October 1, 2012
    • homemade dude. store-bought cutoffs never work for me. tell her to start with a pair that are big for her

      October 1, 2012
    • also fashion is never off-topic

      October 1, 2012

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