On how I got my first road bike

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

My cycling mentor asks: How did it go? It looks like the weather was pretty rough, even for a Sequim. Survive ok? Get some good learning experiences?

My response:

Hey there! Oh my, yes. Lots of learning.

  1. I must pay attention to my gearing. Switching from big to small ring right out of a flat sprint can easily jam the chain. My chain got dropped at the end of the first lap and I stopped pedaling for a few seconds while I fixed it… was able to stay with the pack because I had been hanging in the middle.
  2. I must not hang in the back of the pack. The second time I had gearing issues (ended up on too easy of a gear going uphill at the end of the second lap) I did not have the same buffer so I got dropped and could not catch up. I ended up riding the last lap by myself, as fast as I could. 
  3. I don’t think I should go on a hard, albeit short uphill ride 16 hours before a race 😊.
  4. I.must.train.harder.

The day before I had completed my first ever road race, Tour de Dung, a 36-mile course over 3 laps in Sequim, Washington. The weather had been okay, not too cold and not too wet. I was surrounded by four of my Thrive teammates. I could definitely have done better.

Us cat 4s and 5s at Tour de Dung 1 (Sequim, WA). Photo courtesy of the Audi Cycling Team’s photographer.

Yet I know I have to give myself a break. A year ago, becoming a cyclist had never crossed my mind. I had never owned a road bike, and could not tell the difference between the ‘lifestyle’ bike I had (and had not ridden in years) and anything fancier.

My life outside of work for the past five years had been focused on mountains. Reading about mountains, climbing mountains, and daydreaming about mountains. As an alpine climber and class 3 scrambler, I had been climbing Washington State peaks, including four of the five volcanos (I still have unfinished business with Glacier Peak).

When I was ready for a bigger challenge I went on a guided climb of Mexico’s tallest mountain: Pico de Orizaba, 18,500 feet high. That trip inevitably led to higher dreams. In 2015 I spent a month hiking in the Khumbu region of Nepal. Even though a storm thwarted our efforts to reach the top of Lobuche Peak, it was the experience of a lifetime. I came back with a permanent smile on my face. Soon after, however, I realized hiking and alpine climbing was not as fulfilling as it had once been. I had plateaued on my learning curve and needed a new challenge. Rock climbing seemed like a natural progression that would help me reach a wider variety of mountains, but something inside me had always been afraid of it. I ruled it out.

In May of 2016, ten months ago, a good friend signed up for Flying Wheels, a popular bike ride in my neighborhood. I told her I would walk over to meet her at the finish line. I arrived early, so had the opportunity to watch the happy and exhausted faces of dozens of finishers as they completed their century and were greeted by family and friends. That moment started it all. I desperately wanted to be one of them. My next challenge had found me, sitting in the shadow of a tree at Marymoor Park.

Now the question was, which bike to get? It turned out to be more complicated than I expected. Do I start out with a less expensive aluminum frame or do I go straight to carbon? Between a Fuji and a Cannondale, how much does brand matter? What is this Shimano 105 everyone talks about? I had entered a whole new world of gear.

On training hikes for a climb of Rainier I attacked my friend Heather with my newbie questions. I quickly noticed how passionate she was about cycling, because we would not run out of topics to discuss; from bike clothing brands to the different types of pedals (really, you’re saying I have to have my feet attached to the bike?), to the many bikes I would eventually own, to the magic of electronic shifting (you lost me there!).

Knowing that I would enjoy this sport longer than one summer, I decided to invest in something more than an entry-level road bike: a Cannondale Synapse Carbon Women’s 105.

Riding on Bainbridge Island

Shimano 105 components were a given because of their great reputation for reliability. The lighter carbon frame would give me more room to grow before I had to replace it.

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