After a lovely lunch with Catie and Buddy at Los Nopales (which is de-freaking-licious), we headed over to Performance Bicycle in Lincoln Park. I mostly chose to go there because of Dawn's generous gift certificate, but also because in my very limited experience (direct personal experience, and from what I've heard from others) independent local bike shops can be Very Intimidating for extreme beginners. Even the little shop that Clau and I went to in the suburbs - the guy was nice, but I couldn't help picking up on a strong undercurrent of impatience and slight disdain. So I figured I'd start at Performance first and at the very least learn some stuff in a hopefully less-pressure environment.
And it was great. I explained my situation to the salesguy - name of Cory, by the way, in case you ever want to go in and deal with a knowledgeable, patient, and all-around decent guy. He explained that there really isn't one single bike that would be perfect for all the purposes I had in mind (the century ride, commuting, general errand-running, etc.) but that I should really consider a road bike. He did his best, but in the end I explained that I just could NOT get over those super skinny-ass tires and the whole hunched-over position. I do not aspire to become Lance Armstrong, okay. What I want is to sit upright and feel stable, and I want to be comfortable but I don't want it to weigh a ton - and I don't want to spend thousands of dollars. To find a bike that fits this description was Cory's mission, and he acquitted himself with full honors by eventually taking me over to the road bikes that have some mountain-bike features to them. (See, it gets really complicated as there are a jillion styles of bike. For instance, I also learned that the cutest bikes - which "cute" was one of the things I wanted, though it was much lower on the list of priorities - are generally really, really unsuited to this century ride endeavor.)
The first one he pulled down from the display felt exactly right to me and I got quite attached. However, since it's the end of the year, stock is Very Very Low and there was only the floor model to be had, none could even be shipped to the store because they are All Out. The floor model was pretty grubby, so he said he'd give me a bit of a discount. I waffled a bit, but none of the other bikes really appealed and it was a SUPER-sweet price even without the floor-model discount. (End-of-year clearance event = $200 off original price!) So I went for it.
And I must say to all you contributors to the Beth Bike Fund that when I handed over all the gift cards and cash, I wound up paying only $100 for a bike. THANK YOU. It was the best time I've ever had at a check-out counter, let me tell you. :-D
So we hauled it home and, with much fumbling, I locked it up downstairs. But only after I took a super-blurry picture!
That is my adored nephew (well, one of them) holding my trusty steed. I still haven't ridden it yet, mostly due to crappy ass weather. Also because I was a GENIUS and wore a short skirt with tights to the store, so a test-ride was kind of out of the question. But honest to god, since I haven't ridden a bike in eons, I can confidently say that riding it would tell me exactly nothing since I have only the vaguest notion of how a bike "should" feel. But hey, Catie and I think it's a good sign that it's white and will match the helmet Laura &her mom are contributing. Buddy, less impressed with accessories, thinks it a good sign that the brakes are tight. Clearly I chose the right shopping companions.
Hey, I also learned: no kickstand! Wha? But apparently the kickstand, like the banana seat and the pedal-backwards brakes, are mostly only standard on kid's bikes. I look forward to dressing it up eventually, with fenders and a rack and maybe a front basket, and a bell. Perhaps one day I'll go wild and attach streamers to the handlebars and playing cards in the spokes but for now, it's just the bare necessities. I'm quite happy with it.
Also bought a bike rack for the car (had to get it home somehow), an adaptor (because the crossbar slopes down in that girl-bike way, see? and it needs to be straight across to fit onto the rack - OMG LOOK HOW MUCH I LEARNED), and the bike lock. So now all that's left to do is actually ride the damn thing.
Anyway, I had meant to comparison shop more, but since the people at Performance were so great - very welcoming and not at all condescending, extremely willing to walk me through the most basic stuff, and just unbelievably good-natured - and the price was extremely right, I figured why not. So now I am the proud owner of a bike.
YAY NEW BIKE. I may actually give it a name. I've never felt the need to name a car (I don't get people who do that), but a bike feels different. Far more personal, and like a friend/pet/whatever. Like if I had a horse, I'd name it.
Anyway, that's the latest. And now I shall go back to being on lazy vacation. Happy New Bike and Happy New Year!!