Custom, Part 2: Is it Love or Just a Crush?
February 17, 2010
Total mileage: 57
My finger lightly tapped the mouse button without actually depressing it. Tap, tap, tap. Pause. Tap, tap. Would sending the email on the screen change my life, or only deplete my bank account? Tap, tap, sigh.
Readers of my last post know the source of my indecision–whether or not to purchase a custom bicycle. Late last summer, after years of hearing about my problems with three successive bikes, Mr. Spoked took matters into his own hands and contacted a bicycle maker in Portland, Oregon. She’d responded to his message, and now the follow-up was my responsibility. It was the email I’d just finished typing but hadn’t sent. In addition to the symptoms of numbness and pain addressed in a previous post, it explained other issues:
To keep down the knee pain, I have to accept a certain amount of lower back pain. And the foot numbness has never gone away despite fit adjustments. Furthermore, on both my Felts it has seemed like my foot is positioned too far back on the pedal, despite the fact that the cleats on my bike shoes are set as far back as they will go. I usually ride with my hands on the hoods because riding on the drops kills my back. In short, nearly everywhere my body touches the bike, it feels unnatural.
Tap, tap, tap went the finger on the mouse button. My hesitation partly sprang from the fact that this was likely the beginning of a long, expensive relationship. Backing out would be tough once things got started. Rereading the email, I suddenly couldn’t believe I’d put up with this mess for so long. Each year I continued to put up with the pain was another year wasted. What was I waiting for? The finger tapping ceased, followed by short silence and a resounding “click.”
Email’s the easy way to go. It buffers you from the real person on the other end. If that person doesn’t care to help you, they simply hit the delete button. Or they type a few words saying they’ll put you on their waiting list, dust off their hands, and wait for the down-payment to arrive in the mail. The real person on the other end of my email was Natalie Ramsland, and she did none of the above. Natalie called. She called.
Maybe I’m the only one who thinks this is special, but the fact that Natalie immediately picked up the phone and took the trouble to speak to a potential client had a big impact. That and the fact that she is such a likable person, she knows bike design inside and out, she understands women’s issues–the list is long. The bottom line is that she listened. After a summer of hearing male riders say “Suck it up, princess!” (albeit jokingly), I got a little emotional when Natalie told me:
- it wasn’t all in my head,
- the pain wasn’t going away if I just trained harder, and
- it wasn’t going to be solved by micro-adjustments to the seat or handlebars.
During the course of this first conversation, Natalie asked many questions and offered cogent thoughts on the causes of my symptoms. She explained they were not caused by muscle fatigue but by soft tissue problems, a definite no-no. No amount of fitness or mental toughness could stop this type of pain. She closed the conversation by encouraging me to come to Portland for a fitting.
I hung up the phone and felt a great sense of relief. This might just work.
Went for a 13-mile ride on Saturday, and planned to do the same on Sunday but was stopped by a freakish blizzard that dropped freezing rain followed by a couple inches of snow. Our winter so far has averaged 5 to 6 degrees colder than normal. In another two weeks it will be March, with enough daylight to safely commute to work.
Next week: Fit & fitness, or what it’s like to be fit for a bicycle.