Are you riding the right bike? How can you tell?

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2 Headlights, 2 taillights, camera, Garmin computer, what, me, geeked out?

Many people, perhaps most, aren’t riding the right bike. Know how you can tell? Could be because you’re not on it right now. Do you look for reasons to ride someplace? Or do you drive because it’s more convenient?

I bring this up because this morning by daughter, who works in our Redwood City store, had to drive to work today (ear infection so she’s been told not to ride, and, unlike me, she’s sensible and does what the doctor says). It would be super-easy to just get in the car with her and go to work, and later drive home. Avoid the 400ft climb home and having to take a shower before dinner.

Umm… no. I’d much rather ride. I feel alive on my bike. It fits great, it feels like it wants to fly with every pedal stroke. My mind is engaged as I share the road with others, whereas in a car I’d be in drone mode.

On my commute home I often tell myself that I’m going to take it easy, but after the first two stop lights you get to are green, it’s inevitably all-systems-go for a fast ride home. My bike expects this. It’s dark, but I’m lit up with two tail lights, two headlights. Cars see me from a distance, and I live for that sound of their tires over bots dots, telling me they’re moving over to give me room. A long day at work and my bike has put me in the zone.

I get home breathless (I live at the end of that 400ft climb) and I’m still breathing hard when I enter the house. My wife asks if I’m OK, and I’m thinking, day after day, this is what I am, this is what my bike and I do, I’m not only OK but I’m alive.

So what is the “right bike?” It’s the bike that you can’t walk past without wanting to get out and ride. It’s the bike that you go out on a 70 mile ride earlier in the day and then later you might be running errands in a car, seeing other bikes on the road, and asking yourself why you’re not out riding. What makes such a bike so special? It’s the way it just seems to become a part of you when you’re on it. The feeling that IronMan gets when he puts on his suit. Maybe it’s super-light, maybe it’s got a custom paint job, maybe you live for that perfectly-shifting gear change you get with electric Di2 shifting.

It doesn’t have to be a fast high-end road bike. It might be a hybrid commuter, or a beautifully-styled cruiser. It could be a kid’s first bike. But I’d be really happy if it’s a Trek (or an Electra if a cruiser) from Chain Reaction, because that means we didn’t just sell a bike… we helped create a happier, healthier bike-person.

So where should you buy your next bike? From us, of course, because this is the dream we live for. If you just want to buy a bike because it’s the thing to do and everyone else has one, and it’s just going to sit around like so many other short-term “seemed like a good idea at the time” things, well, there’s lots of places for that. It would be a failure on my part for that to happen. But if you want to risk a life-changing experience, come to us. That’s what we live for. –Mike Jacoubowsky, Partner, Chain Reaction Bicycles

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Sometimes you throw away the planned ride and improvise on the fly

Interesting ride, to say the least. The plan was to ride up Page Mill, down West Alpine, and back via Tunitas. That would have been about 62 miles, maybe 6200ft of climbing. A normal Sunday ride for Kevin and I. No biggie.

Yeah, that was the plan, which started falling apart on the climb up Page Mill. Page Mill wasn’t my idea; it’s never my idea to climb that beast. It’s mainly the lower part, below Foothill Park, that kills me. I just can’t get any kink of rhythm on it. No difference today, but I did fine, as usual, once we got to the “real” parts. Including the steep section between gates 3 & 4. But Kevin was not having an easy time, lagging behind a bit.

By the time we got to the top I knew wasn’t in for the full ride, asking if we could skip the coast today and maybe head south on Skyline, a direction we very rarely ride. OK, that’s fine, we might still get about a 50 mile ride in, heading to Saratoga Gap and down Highway 9, then Hicks, followed by The Maze and eventually stopping for lunch at our Los Altos store.

And, as usual, the ride got better as we went, with Kevin getting progressively stronger. Eating lunch at Peet’s even had a vaguely-similar feeling to eating at a French cafe in the middle of a ride! After lunch we bounced around the local roads a bit, mapping out test ride loops for the Los Altos store, before heading north on Foothill for home.

Things got interesting on Foothill. A fair number of other cyclists out there, enough to start feeling a bit competitive, so Kevin and I start hammering at the front of a small group, putting out quite a few watts and feeling really, really strong. Where did this come from? Don’t know, but it felt good. We looped back home through Arastradero and Alpine but, just a few miles from home, about to pass the base of Old LaHonda, Kevin and I both had the same idea at the same time. Why not climb Old LaHonda before going home?

It was a bit of a nutty idea, made more sensible by agreeing that we’d take it easy, maybe a 27 minute pace. Oh yeah right, like that was going to happen. We finished in 22-something (OK, almost 23, but much faster than 27).

In the end, instead of 62 miles, we rode a more-challenging 73 miles, and had a really great time. Just goes to show you should never give up on a ride. Let it play out. Things almost always get better. –Mike–

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