OK, so back in November, 11/5 to be more precise, I was able to buy my first bike in about 35 years. Probably closer to 40, but I’m not counting. Last year, I did buy a used TerraTrike Tour and found that leaning back, plus the leg pain and all, was not for me.
Truth be told, I’m not sure how I would feel riding one now with the majority of the gut gone. It really had a lot to do with the troubles of riding the trike. Too, TerraTrikes just aren’t that great. Perhaps the newer ones are, I don’t know. Mine was about 5-6 years old and had maybe 10 miles on it when I got it. I did get that verified by a TT dealer. He wondered if it had EVER been ridden! The quality is very low on the older TT trikes. Again, I can’t say whether that trend continues. They are among the lower priced trikes out there but that does NOT mean they are cheap. You’ll drop an easy $1500 on a low-mid range model. Most of the 8-10 models they offer have different ‘trim’ levels, like a Chevy, so you can get a high trim line, lower end one for about $1500 or a low trim line, mid-range model for about the same. Most decent trikes are well over the $2000 mark. Many top $4000 and still quite a few are over $5000.
I know the same is true of high end bikes, but you can get a very decent bike for around $500-700. Which is what I did.
I went to the Giant and Specialized dealers. I also checked out the Trek dealer. I wish I had seen the Cannondale Bad Boy lineup, but I didn’t. Trek was the one that ended up catching my eye. Normally, I research the hell out of things on the ‘net before buying. Be it a flashlight, an incubator or a blanket, I check out reviews and web sites and forums. Why I did not do that first with my bike is still a mystery to me. Which, I guess, means I’m even luckier having bought the Trek. Cause it is one fine machine.
I ended up getting the Trek 8.3 DS or Dual Sport. The .3 is the third trim level of six available. They start around $500 and go up to nearly $2000. Between 3 and 4, the primary differences are hydraulic disc brakes instead of mechanical and better tires. The cost difference is about $2-300. Since I did NOT want hydraulic discs, I guess I was in luck.
I am jumping ahead of myself here. First, I should say I knew I did not want a ‘road’ bike. I knew I did not want a mountain bike, either. I wanted aspects of both. Living in the hills with lots of fire trails and such around me, I knew the skinny tired road bike with the drop bars (really never going to work with my back) was something I wasn’t going to do much with. I actually thought I wanted more of the mountain bike features than road bike. Really, I knew what I wanted more than I knew what I didn’t want.
What I knew I wanted was: disc brakes, shocks, and an upright sitting position.
Disc brakes are nice for up here – they work better in the rain and wet and won’t fail if there’s some mud or debris at the rim level. So I did ok there. Some would disagree, I don’t care.
Shocks, well, shocks were an absolute. One of the few things the sales guy actually told me – and it was very few – was that the shocks probably wouldn’t be that much help on the trails I wanted to ride. They would also (and I would have known this had I done research) take some energy away from my pedaling and put it into the pogoing of the shocks on level ground. This is the action of them going up and down as you pedal – fine when you’re on bumpy trails and off-road, not so fine on level pavement. I know now that I could have had a lighter bike with perhaps some better running gear for the same money. Trek makes the FX lineup and I could have bought the 7.4 disc for about the same money. Oops.
I will say that, even with what I just said and what I’ve learned, the shocks do help on the road to a degree: sometimes I ride the sidewalk and up and down over driveways, plus the broken concrete is much nicer with the shocks. Once spring comes and I can ride in the dirt a bit more, they probably will do a little more for me. So the shocks are a draw.
The upright position is also something I changed. Without some kind of beach cruiser setup, you’re going to lean over. Turns out my back appreciates that more than putting all my weight on it alone. Leaned over, you put 20-40% of your weight on your arms, which in turn means less weight on my bad back. Big plus. So… neither a win nor loss since I didn’t get the upright position I wanted. Win for the position I did get.
So I went in to the Trek dealer armed with these things I wanted. I also knew I wanted a triple up front and at least eight gears in the rear.
The fact is, I knew less of what I didn’t want and really didn’t know why I wanted the things I wanted. I knew (whether right or wrong) that discs were better than rim brakes. I knew this cause all the trikes had disc brakes. Well, most did. Some had drums, like cars from the 60’s. I didn’t know enough about what I wanted or why. My assumptions were just that and some, like the triple chainring up front and discs were holdovers from my trike days. I didn’t know enough about modern bikes to do comparisons or really shop.
The real reason I ended up buying Trek was that they offered me a credit card – no other maker has one! Sigh.
OK, the painful truth is out.
So, I went in knowing one other thing: I was getting a Trek.
The sales guy started out by suggesting a ‘comfort’ bike. I actually liked the look and all: big seat for my big ass. Shock under the seat. Upright seating. Oh no! No discs. Without telling him why, I said no. I went over to the mountain bikes. I had checked out the store and their inventory and saw a nice mountain bike (MTB) that was about $800 that had a nice Fox shock fork and disc brakes. Seemed good. I pointed that one out and he pulled it for me.
What should have happened here was some sort of measuring to see if the bike would fit me. Instead, he aired up the tires and sent me for a ride. Pushing it along (pedaling, not walking) just felt very difficult. I don’t know whether it was the bike MTB tires or what, but it wasn’t right. So he set me up on a slightly bigger model along the same lines. It was about $600, so it was cheaper. Did have disc brakes – that much I can tell you. Same thing. Pushing it along is just not fun.
While I’m out on this second ride, my sales guy goes on break. I talk to a girl when I get back. I say ‘it would be nice if there was something like a dual purpose bike’. She points out the dual sports or DS line. Hmm. AH! Disc brakes. OK. I’ll try this one. Still more difficult than I’d like. She finally pulls the bike that will be mine: the 2013 8.3 DS in Blue and White. OK, I wanted black and something but ok. This one rides so much nicer! I feel like I’m not pushing it along, but riding it. Not like I’m forcing it to move. I like the feel and the riding position.
One thing: I’ve not discussed it yet with my girlfriend. So, being a bit guilty, I decide I’ll come back.
An hour later, I’m back and I’ll take it. But it has a nearly solid plastic seat. No padding. And despite my huge weight loss, I still need some padding for my ass. So I pick…a woman’s seat. The girl helps me and shows me a man’s seat with some great padding. Lots of padding and gel. Perfect. What else? A small bag for my phone and keys. My plan is to ride the trails of Chico and so I’ll be driving down from the Ridge to the flatlands so I know I’ll need a place for my bit o’ gear. What else? Eh, that should do it.
A few questions about the warranty and they pull it in back to the shop to go over it and install my stuff.
Twenty minutes later, she’s back. I take her outside and realize…. I have no idea how to put this brand new bike in the back of my truck and get it home without scratching it! It doesn’t even have a kickstand. Which wouldn’t help much in the bed of a truck anyhow. I quickly find out that the bed of my Frontier is too short to just lay the bike down. CRAP! I really didn’t think this through. I get it in and get on home.
About forty minutes later, I’m suiting up. For me, I have a pair of bike shorts from my trike days – two sizes too big. Doesn’t matter, they have some padding. Pair of sweats over it. Plus a tshirt and I’m off. I’m not going to go over the ride since I do that at length here on the blog, but within a half mile, my rear hurts so bad I can’t sit down. I still manage almost three miles.
NOW I start reading. I decide what I need: tires and probably some pedals. Oh, and something has to be done with those grips! I check out the Trek website and find a set of integrated bars and nice grips. Iso-Zone is what Trek calls them. Again, a too-quick decision cause the construction of these bars means no bar end grips nor mirrors. But I KNOW what I want. Again.
I do some more checking and find my pedals: Wellgo B-67’s. Those actually ARE a great choice. I’m NOT clipping in, at least not for a good long time.
I do a second 3 mile ride and take her down to the shop. Shifting up to the middle ring on the front is a chore and I know that shifter needs some work. Plus my bars are in. I have the pedals in hand that I found only on eBay! The shop installs all this, plus my new seat (second new one). Today I ride in town.
My ass makes it two miles before the pain sets in but I ride seven miles. I decide I’m not going to find my seat at the store, so I do some research, discard what I learn and buy a Selle. Do a couple rides while I wait for it to arrive. Both in town and both around 4 miles. Ass is still hurting but each ride it makes it a little longer. The Selle arrives.
This time, I install the seat. Boy, I’m getting salty. I can install a seat. And my seat bag. Woohoo. I’m a real bike mech.
For my next ride, I head down to the flat land again. Now I have a rail-based fork mount in my bed. The Frontier has rails along the sides and floor which allow you to mount various things – like fork mounts. You pull the front wheel via the quick release – which isn’t all that quick, but that’s for another post – and mount the fork dropouts on this bar and a lock tightens down. NICE.
Down on the flats and ride my new seat. It hurts at about 5 miles. Improvement.
That takes us to now – new bars with grips (Iso-Zone), pedals (Wellgo B-67’s), bolt-on the seatpost rack plus my little seatbag. Just got my Niterider 500 headlamp and .5 watt taillamp. Going to return the tail lamp as I wanted the 2watt USB charge-able one. Without glasses, I didn’t notice that was NOT what I got. ARRRGGG!!!! And I did research it this time!!!!
So that takes us to today. I’ve got my Trek DS 8.3 with a few changes. Next has really got to be tires. Really. And maybe a Shimano Alfine 11 speed IGH.