Sunday, May 3, 2009


First things first, I needed a bike. I wasn’t sure, though, about what kind to get or where to get it. Naturally, my first concern over the kind of bike was that the bike not crumple beneath me. I started out googling things like “overweight bike” and “bikes for fat people.” I found forums where there were tons of people expressing their similar fears. Many offered suggestions, but it felt a bit like the blind leading the blind. I decided that finding a good local bike shop with knowledgeable, experienced bikers would be a better place to start. As usual, I turned to Yelp.

Roscoe Village Bikes was highly recommended, their website was well designed and they were just a few blocks from my house. I emailed the shop with some general questions and background info before going in. I needed a bike for everyday use; commuting to work, hauling groceries, and fun. The owner, Lesley, made some suggestions and assured me that my weight was not an issue. Sure, some parts may wear down over time, but a well-crafted bike would carry me just fine. I went in a few days later to take a look at the bikes and maybe test ride a few. At that time I was pretty sure I wanted a steel bike, most likely a hybrid commuter or a flat-bar road bike. Lesley showed me the KHS Urban Xpress, the Jamis Coda, and the Redline 9. They all seemed to meet my needs, but none really stood out to me. I went home with their catalogs, resigned to do some thinking and internet research.

I mulled it over for about a week (or two...), going back to the shop and doing multiple test rides. I spent every spare moment looking through the catalogs and at the manufacturer websites. I began to lean toward the Jamis Coda. Jamis seemed like a good company and all of their bikes looked great. During one visit to the shop, Lesley mentioned they had an ’08 model of the Jamis Satellite Femme, a steel road bike, in my size. I took it out for a spin fully expecting to not like it, but the super thin road tires, the dropped handle bars, the teeny-tiny saddle, they all made for a really fantastic ride. The bike felt so quick and responsive. I realized that while the Xpress, Coda and 9 could all get the job done, what they were missing was the fun. That particular bike had a few cosmetic defects that kept me from purchasing it, but it did lead me to try another Jamis road bike that ended up coming home with me that day.

Behold, the Jamis Sputnik.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

'About me' and LA

A few weeks ago John and I took a short vacation to Los Angeles. We went to see the World Baseball Classic Finals and took a few extra days to see what LA was all about. I was really excited to go to the WBC again and it looked like USA might make it to the finals this year. However, the idea of spending time in LA wasn’t too appealing. All I knew about the city was what I’d seen on TV. Desperate Housewives suburbia, glimpses of hotspots on TMZ, 90210? None of it had any character and, aside from hitting the beach, I couldn’t think of anything to do. So, I turned to Yelp for help. Armed with the recommendations and reviews of fellow Yelpers I dove into our LA vacation and ended up having a blast. In the end, I learned two things about myself on that short trip. The first was that I love riding a bicycle. The second? I want to move to LA.

On our last day there we spent the morning at Santa Monica Beach. John rented rollerblades and I got a beat up, dirty mountain bike for an hour of fun in the sun. We cruised down to Venice Beach in true tourist fashion, taking pictures of ourselves and getting in the way of locals. That hour was incredible, though, because remembering how fun it is to ride a bike inspired tremendous change in my life. As soon as we got home I put my bus pass in the shredder and set out to buy a bike. Without a second thought I became a cyclist. Saving money, living healthier, commuting faster, doing more for my community and the environment; it was all just right for me. I had no idea what I would need or how I was going to do it exactly, but I’d figure it out. I love riding a bicycle.

Winter here in Chicago is sometimes hard to bear. It is brutally cold and it seems to last for six months, give or take a month or so. The winter does have its fleeting moments of beauty. There are a few peaceful minutes when the city is painted white with freshly fallen snow. However, those minutes are usually followed by long weeks of dirty, gray slush and mud. Being able to escape the gray grip of winter and enjoy those few days of warm, green spring in LA was awesome, but it turned out to be a mixed blessing. It was just the break I needed to survive the rest of the winter in Chicago. The downside was that I was hooked. Who needs 60 inches of snow and temps below zero? I want to move to LA.