I love my bikes – I love all of my bikes

As memory recalls Santa brought my first 2-wheeled bicycle at age 5. It was a blue Schwin with a white banana seat, sparkle flecked grips and tassels on the handlebar ends. Often colored straws decorated the spokes and cards clothes-pinned to the forks added an audio component to my rides. Although at the time, I was still rather fond of doing donuts on my big green trike until the day it was run over.

Bicycle lesson 1 – vehicles can crunch bikes.

I eventually graduated to my first 10 speed, a silver and maroon Columbia purchased for $129 at the local Zayres. I road that bike everywhere, although it was very poorly equipped for cow fields, trails through the woods, going over homemade jumps in the driveway and through every mud puddle I could find.

Bicycle lesson 2 – Umbrellas and bicycles do not compliment one another – into the spokes and upside down I went.

I upgraded to an entry level Diamond Back mountain bike my freshman year of college for a very brief amount of time.

Bicycle lesson 3 – Use locks, many locks, different locks, locks and locks or start to enjoy walking to class.

My first “real” mountain bike came along with my first “real” job. The bike was a Specialized Rockhopper aluminum comp with a Rock Shok on the front – circa 1995. At the time it was worth more than my car. (Some things don’t change – my bikes are still worth more than my cars…) I was working for Jager DiPaola Kemp Design in Burlington, Vermont as a graphic designer. One of the first projects I worked on while there was selecting paint colors for the 1995 line of Specialized bicycles. The studio philosophy was that if you wanted to understand the mentality of a core rider you needed to be a core rider. A mountain biker was born. I loved trail riding in Vermont. Mud, rocks, dirt, streams, trees, and obstacles everywhere – I embraced the “bring it on” attitude.

One can only imagine how giddy I was when I decided to move to the Bay Area – the motherland of mountain biking. My first ride was remarkably disappointing and ridiculously humbling. An exposed, hot, dry, pebbly, wide, fire road that went up, and up, and up. None of the up, down, around, over, through that I so loved in Vermont. Nope just up, up, up, and up then down, down, down, down. Needless to say – I had not found the cycling utopia I had expected, nor was I in the physical condition to climb for hours. The bike immediately went back into storage where it remained for many years.

In 2007, I spent the summer in the Netherlands at an artist residency on the German border. My bicycle became my best friend. I went everywhere on my Dutch bike. I was in-love all over again. As soon as I returned home I bought a beautiful white Gary Fisher with light green fenders and a big basket. Despite it having an 8 speed internal hub, I still lived up Mt. Tamalpais. I had to face the facts – it was time to get in shape so I could haul myself up the mountain. Ever since, I have been going up hills.

My Gary Fisher City Bike

So tooling over to Sausalito or cruising out to Tiburon on my bike with my dog in the basket was fun and all, but if I wanted to increase my range I was also going to need to add to my bike quiver.

It is amazing how well not so subtle hints work, for my birthday I received my Ruby road bike. She too is beautiful and she fits like she was made just for me. Specialized knocked it out of the park with this bike. It is based off the men’s Roubaix but they re-engineered the bike to actually fit the proportions of women. It has fantastic components, a carbon frame, and nice rims. AND if you spend enough money on it you can eliminate all of the pink and teal.

*** Karrie Pet Peeve – so what is it with athletic companies adding pink, powder blue, teal or purple to everything that is women specific? Do you really think we like it? No. No. No. I don’t want my bike to “look” like a girlie bike I want it to **be** a women’s bike, a bike that works with my body. Just stop already. Happily, there is a temporary work around until marketing departments catch-on to the fact we are not 10 year old girls. Spend more money. Once you hit a higher price point, I guess they figure you might not need the cutesy crap to convince you to buy into womens specific technology. Downside – you spend more money. Upside – you get a better bike than your husband… Charlie knew better than to even suggest a bike that had hot pink details on it. Wink, Wink – “the white one is only another $600 and look how much better it is spec’ed out.” No argument there. A bike I wouldn’t be caught dead on vs. a bike with the components he wants. I win.

You can’t help but to get into shape on a road bike. You rack up the miles fast, you become stronger, your endurance increases and suddenly you have a “hah – you call that a mountain – it’s hardly a hill” attitude. You set milestones you thought previously insurmountable and tick them off like they are projects on the honey-do list (wait those never get checked off, cross them off like items on the grocery list). With my newly found confidence and healthfulness, my Rockhopper was retrieved from storage, given a little tlc and I started going back up the very same fire road that caused the bike’s earlier banishment. The ride still wasn’t fun – it is a wide dirt road that only goes up but with each loop, I went further up and the further up I went more options became available. The next goal (because I always need to feel that I am achieving something) was to ride the famed Flume Trail that goes along the eastern rim of Lake Tahoe. Every one of those damn trips up the Railroad Grade suddenly became worth it. The Flume Trail is phenomenal — Absolutely magnificent. I became a mountain biker reincarnated.

And hey – if I am going to take this riding thing seriously, I really needed a new bike – right? Seriously, I couldn’t be expected to be hanging out on a 15 year-old guy’s frame with old school grip shifts, friction brakes and a first generation front fork. Especially after knowing how amazing my women’s specific road bike is. Big puppy dog eyes, an approaching birthday, by gosh, there is yet another perfect bicycle and wow, Mike’s Bikes is having a sale. My Specialized Safire joined the fleet.

This bicycle is awesome. I love my Safire. It was built for all mountain, all terrain riding and it excels on single-track and making the corners on tight switchbacks.

Side note – Ok so I do have to give a nod to the marketing department at Specialized for the naming of the women’s bikes – What women would turn down rubies and sapphires after all? Granted the Ruby is named after the Roubaix, it is a women’s name and is a variation of the dreadful pink color – but I’ll give them kudos for a good name.

Then the Safire is a matte black with sapphire blue – still, a good name.

The bikes are true gems. Every guy knows they are supposed to buy their ladies gemstones, (and heck, in comparison they are cheaper-J ) unfortunately, Specialized didn’t expand upon the naming convention for their newest bikes. (Regardless, they have Trek beat with the “Lush” and the “Lust”.)

Next up is still a rumor… Rumor has it that a carbon fsr may be arriving. My local bike shop says it isn’t in the book but my other local shop swears they saw one in the Specialized van. I’ll know in September whether my Rumor 29 will be carbon.

Update: The Rumor is not going to be available in carbon but there is the Specialized Era that is a carbon FSR to consider. I have yet to have a look at this one but it should be in the shop at the end of October. Purchased delayed.

(or dare I say I may need to look at a Santa Cruz/Juliana Joplin – I have a slight issues with this one though – it’s a tallboy frame with women specific components – gotta give it a ride. I’ll get back to you after my factory demo next week. I am tall enough to ride a men’s frame but I want to support true women’s specific technology and geometry even if a guy’s frame will fit.
Update – the fit of the bike did not work so well for me – guess that it might need more than a paint job, a different saddle and a marketing spin to be women’s specific…)