The ‘pea and me
December 31, 2010
Total mileage: 3,132
I’m thinking of changing my nom de plume to Sweetpea.
All season long, since I took possession of the bike in late March, other riders have called me “Sweetpea.” This is rather typical cyclist behavior. We refer to each other by the frame manufacturer because most of us perceive our bikes as extensions of ourselves. For some riders the bike trumps the self: “I am my bike; l’vélo, c’est moi.”
So it has been with the ‘pea. Every morning in the Nebraska Sand Hills last summer, greetings pushed to my ears through the headwinds:
“Good morning, Sweetpea!”
“How’s it hanging, Sweetpea?”
“Hey, Sweetpea, get rained on last night?”
I’ve got to admit, I really like being called Sweetpea. This bike is a happy machine, such a beautiful color, and all tricked out with her bamboo fenders. It’s a pleasure to be associated with her.
But was it worth it, spending all that money on a (semi) custom bike? Shouldn’t a bicycle be more than just the sum of its gorgeous parts? After nine months of riding the ‘pea, I can now categorically state that I’d do it all over again. And not just because I ride a work of art.
Sure, it took me awhile to get used to the Sweetpea’s geometry because it’s so different from my old bikes. But once that happened, there was no turning back. About mid-summer, after finishing the last of two week-long recreational rides, I resumed commuting to work on the old Specialized Crossroads and found myself hating every minute of it. One morning I’d finally had enough. I looked down at the frame and growled, “You piece of *!!#%, this is the last time I’m doing battle with you.” And I haven’t been back on it since. It’s been the ‘pea and me every ride thereafter.
What makes the Sweetpea so special? Because it was made for me, it suits me to a tee. At first I felt awkward and uncertain on the bike, but after I’d adjusted to the changes I realized that everything else I’d been riding was wrong, horribly wrong. The Sweetpea is the first bike that I usually don’t notice is there. Seriously, I don’t even think about it. It’s a part of me in a way I’ve never experienced with any other bicycle, and certainly in a way I never expected.
Hmm, how to explain it? Last summer I took a cyclocross clinic, the most difficult thing I’ve ever done on a bike–riding obstacle courses, jumping on and off the bike, bumping into other riders–and all the time I had my hands in the drops (the lowest position on the handlebars). It just felt right, and I didn’t even notice it until one of the instructors told everyone else they should be riding in the drops. And here I was doing it without even thinking. Thank you, Sweetpea.
And another thing. Mr. Spoked and I used to be the first in line at the massage tables after a long day on a recreational ride. Last summer, it was just him. He’d push his body to an upright position from the chair he’d occupied since finishing the day’s mileage. Before shuffling over to the masseuse’s table (moaning and groaning), he’d ask if he could pay for my massage, too. Only since riding the Sweeptea have I been able to respond, “No thanks, I’m good.” Not a twinge in the back, no shoulder stiffness, and hardly any muscle pain in the legs–after riding 80 to 90 miles. Admittedly, I was always ready to get off the bike after a long day, but I felt good as soon as my rear left the seat. That has never, ever, happened before.
These are just two examples of how the Sweetpea has revolutionized cycling for me. I haven’t calculated if it’s made me a faster or more efficient rider; I just assume that’s the case.
So, if you’re reading this because you’re wondering if a custom bike is right for you, well, I can’t answer that question. I only know it was right for me. If you want to talk to me about it sometime, I’d be happy to engage you in conversation. Maybe I’ll even let you look at the ‘pea. But you can’t touch her, because l’pea, c’est moi.
Mileage update: This is the last blog post for 2010, and I’m happy to say I beat my goal by over 100 miles. Stay tuned for next year’s plans.