After three years, not sure why I had not considered it before a couple of days ago. Living in Upper Jibbip, ROC, I’ve been commuting every day on my 27-speed, all terrain, Merida workhorse. It’s mounted with saddle bags and gets me everywhere I need to be while lugging paraphernalia of all sorts.
For some reason, all the bicycles sold here are one of three types; 1) road race with thin tires (although I never see them on the road), 2) local upright cruisers 1-3 speeds, or 3) all-terrain with triple front sprockets and large cassette for lots of gear options. The local cruiser style with the upright riding position would be my preference, but they are not durable enough for daily abuse. Forget the road racing bikes which are impractical for functional use. That leaves the all-terrain, except that the landscape here is flat as a pancake, and there is no need for all those gears, the excess metal, and added weight. But most importantly, the bars are rigged for a heavily tilted riding position. Bottom line, there are no ideal utility city bikes sold here.
In NYC, for example, there are many utility city bike brands, sturdily made, minimal gears, with upright sitting positions. One of my US bikes, ironically, made in the country where I wish I could find one, is one. It is a practical city bike, with a single front sprocket, belt drive, internal 8-speed rear hub, and a semi-straight riding position. But it doesn’t make sense to bring it here as the transport cost would exceed the bike cost.
More often than not, we learn to live with what is available. Even though my ROC bike has 27 gears, I use only one. It’s comforting to know, though, that I’ve got 26 others in case mountains suddenly appear between home and work. Still, the bent over riding position has been slowly nagging at me. Having ridden enough miles down in the drops of road bikes, the aerodynamic position instills a need for speed. And sure, riding sitting straight up hands-free is an option, but the erratic traffic and people movements prudently drive the hands to the handlebars much of the time.
So the other morning I pop into the Merida dealer where I bought the bike and did a scan of the showroom for a quick check of possible city-bike newness. None.
After asking what I was looking for, I tell the sales guy that I’m hankering for a straighter riding position. He immediately goes behind the counter and pulls out a stem extension as an option. My eyes lite up. I bought it, he installed it, and five minutes later it was wham bam thank you ma’am, my handlebars were raised a good three inches.
It’s not quite upright like a beach cruiser, but my handlebar position went from 65 deg bent over to about 25 deg. That’s an improvement to be tickled about.
I road away from the shop somewhat giddy, thinking how the simplest or seemingly smallest actions can make a big difference. It took me almost three years to raise the bar. If I’m smart, I won’t wait for another three to do it again.
A recent conversation between Freddie Spaghetti and occasional Blog Reader:
BR: Freddie, I enjoy reading your weekly grainy thoughts.
FS: Thanks Blog Reader, much appreciated. It means a lot.
BR: What will you write about this week?
FS: I think the topic will be “raising the bar.”
BR: You mean like raising the level of performance?
FS: No, I was thinking of my bicycle handlebars.
BR: But why not raising the bar of what we do in life?
FS: Because, although a cute title, as a metaphor it may not translate.
BR: Why not?
FS: Actually, it may be more appropriate for many to lower the bar.
BR: You mean not try to do as much? Or lower goals?
FS: Precisely. Not that there is anything wrong with raising the proverbial bar, but many times the net effect is nothing more than a higher bar elevated with unnecessary anxiety.
BR: Do you think that would be similar to lowering our expectations?
FS: Possibly even eliminating them and focusing on improving small things, with raising the bar an afterthought.