Maybe It Is About the Bike

There’s a Subaru commercial where the guy says, “I LOVED my first car. Then I didn’t.”

I felt the same way when I rode my old bike today. It had been my trusty ride for some 11,000 miles, ever since I discovered that Terry made bicycles just for women, and particularly ones appropriate for my five-foot-nothing body.


Terry pioneered women’s specific bicycles, and as you can see, the front wheel is smaller than the rear wheel on my 2002 Terry Symmetry. The thinking behind the design was that when you shrink the top tube to accommodate the shorter reach of a small woman, you have to shrink the front end of the bike to avoid overlapping your toe and front wheel on sharp turns.

For some reason, Terry doesn’t make bikes with a 24-inch front wheel anymore. I admire the company and its founder, Georgina Terry, for their commitment to women’s cycling. Georgina is steadfastly loyal to steel frame bikes, and I was quite happy on mine for some time. Strength is one of steel’s attributes, and I never appreciated it more than the day the bungee on the bike rack broke while I was driving down the freeway.

Then last fall, I test rode a carbon frame Specialized, and had to get me some of that. It too, is a woman’s specific design with narrow bars and a shorter reach. The bike arrived just in time to have it fitted before I left town to ride in El Tour de Tucson the next day. Friends had talked about how great it was to have a bike professionally fitted, but I always thought my bike fit me just fine. Over time, I had tweaked the seat height and handlebar height until I felt comfortable. During the fitting of the new bike, the seat was positioned higher than I initially felt comfortable, but I trusted the process.

It's hard to tell, but I am sitting up higher on this bike. I'm not sure if it's due to the design or having it professionally fitted, but I feel better balanced on this bike. I couldn't do standing climbs on the old one, and always thought it was because of me, not the bike.

Initially, I didn’t gain much in speed on a lighter bike, but I definitely felt less fatigued after a long ride. Hills became easier. I didn’t miss my old triple crank one bit.

I debated whether to sell or keep the old bike. I thought about using it as a spare, a training bike (does a heavier bike really make you stronger?) or as a commuter bike. The frame is scratched and quirky enough that it wouldn’t attract thieves, and even if someone did cut the cable, I wouldn’t lose my “good” bike.

Today I aired up the tires, raised the seat, and rode the Terry to Pilates class. It was good to leave the car in the garage and burn a few extra calories, but it felt awkward. It didn’t seem heavier, but I wobbled when I tried to stand, and it didn’t take long before I felt a strain in my shoulders and recalled the pain I’ve experienced on long rides.

It’s even clear in the pictures — I’m smiling after 60 miles on the Specialized.



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