I just can’t get rid of it. It rested in my garage for months, unused. It’s hopelessly outdated. It’s ten years old. It’s a little bit on the dirty side. It’s not comfortable on long rides. Though I’m a big guy, it’s actually a little too big for me. I’ve blown through about a half dozen spokes so the wheels need to be replaced. But I can’t get rid of it. So, what do I do with it?
In the past, I’ve written about the virtues of recumbent bikes, and how much more comfortable they are compared to traditional bikes. This is a picture of my bike (or a model very close to it). As you can see, it’s a traditional road bike.
The frame is completely aluminum. It’s very stiff, which is good (all the energy you put in the pedals gets transferred to the bike, so when you pound the pedals, it can really go) and bad (there’s nothing to soak up rough road surfaces, which is fatiguing). Really good road bikes are now, at least in part, carbon fiber or something more exotic, titanium. They soak up some of that road roughness, making for a smoother ride.
But my bike has a good set of components (a Shimano 105 set up, if you’re interested). I like the colors. It handles great. It’s got a fairly new set of tires (Michelins, no less). It’s got some flavor. The Specialized logo is big and bold. The down tube (which connects the bottom bracket where the chainwheel is, to the head tube, which contains the front fork) isn’t round and boring, it’s an aerodynamic, oval shape. However, in the end, it’s just metal, rubber and plastic.
But for me, it’s much more than that. I bought this bike after my first go round with cancer treatment. I had a hybrid bike (one you could ride on road and off) that I only rode on the road. I wanted a road bike, and this is the one that was on sale at the bike shop that March in 2001. I was putting cancer behind me, getting fit and healthy. Because of that treatment, my co-workers, not knowing what else to do for me, gave me an envelope stuffed with cash as a ‘get well’ gift (cash is always a good gift). Also in the envelope was a $200 check from one co-worker I barely knew. I used this money to fund about two-thirds of the bike purchase. So when I ride it, in a way, I’m riding with the good will of friends and former colleagues. The bike, and riding it, didn’t prevent two subsequent relapses, but I kept on riding.
Without this bike, I would’ve never met Lance Armstrong. No, I wasn’t a professional bike racer (especially with this bike). After moving to Pennsylvania in 2004, I got more serious about biking and started riding many more miles. I signed up for the 2008 Philadelphia Livestrong Challenge, riding the 45 mile course (due to the hilly course, the bike’s, and my, shortcomings, I felt like I fell down a flight of stairs after that ride) and raising money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
I won the Philadelphia Livestrong Challenge Award (no, I wasn’t the fastest rider, it’s an award given to an event participant who goes the extra mile (as it were) to help cancer survivors (which I did professionally and in my spare time)). Mr. Armstrong was nice enough to hand that award to me himself, and it hangs in our Livestrong yellow hallway (just outside the bathroom, so I see it every day).
I have three bikes. A hybrid, to ride on the nearby Delaware River Canal tow path. My recumbent, for long rides. And with a new set of wheels and some other improvements, I plan on riding my road bike fairly regularly. With my new job, I have time for short morning rides, and this is a fun, around town, get some exercise kind of bike, despite its shortcomings. Also with the job, comes a pay check that helps pay for the new set of wheels and some other improvements.
Like many other, inanimate objects, this one has a lot of feelings and emotions tied into it. So I can’t let it go. One phrase that gets tossed around is one’s “cancer journey”, one’s experience from diagnosis, to treatment and (hopefully) cure, along with all the personal, family and professional issues that are part of the deal. In a way, this bike “personifies” my journey and the journey isn’t over yet.