This post was supposed to be about the beautiful sunset rides I took this week with a friend, but it turned into a story about how buying my first road bike turned into a love affair with cycling. I hope you like it.
^^^ My second CX race last year.
I rode and raced my gravel bike so much over the past year that I wore the bearings into nothing. And right now she’s in the shop waiting on that pesky T47 piece for my bottom bracket to get delivered. (Why oh why did I go T47?) So lately I’ve been on my road bike and I’m really enjoying the bonding time we’re getting. I’ll tell ya, it’s way more fun descending Flagstaff rd. on 25mm tires than 40mm tires, that’s for sure!
Road biking is really what started it all for me, you know. But you’d never know it from my Instagram because I fell in love with gravel riding when I moved out to Colorado almost two years ago.
I bought my first road bike over 10 years ago—a Scott Contessa Speedster with Shimano 105, for $1850 at a local bike shop in East Aurora, NY. It was a healthy portion of the money in my bank account at the time, but it seemed like a worthwhile investment.
I was home for the summer after my first (I think?) year of college—before heading to my family’s lake house in New Jersey like I did every summer for the first 20 years of my life. I’d been thinking about getting a bike for a couple weeks and one evening I decided to check out the local bike shop in my town. I headed down there a couple hours before they were closing to check out what they had in stock. Like every newbie, I only knew what I knew and that was whether or not the bike was pretty.I slowly walked between the rows admiring the paint jobs on each bike hoping I looked like I knew what I was doing—and then I saw it. The Speedster was hanging on the wall in a sea of women’s drop bar bikes. To me, it stood out. It had a shimmery white paint job with lime green and light blue accents, a white seat and white bar tape. Surely I had to know those things wouldn’t stay that crispy white forever, but I didn’t care. The shop owner told me it was likely my size and let me take it out for a spin. I strapped on their junky test ride bike helmet with a visor, swung my leg over the side and took off. Immediately I knew I wasn’t leaving that shop without this bike.
I rode it around the block a couple times on a too-high seat, shifting up and down willy nilly because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? I loved how the wind ripped through my hair. I loved the feeling of pumping my pedals up hills and out of turns. I loved hunching over my handlebars like a lion on the prowl.
Thirty minutes and $1850 later, I had a bike in the back of my car and a stupid grin plastered to my face. When I got home, it was already getting dark outside, but I couldn’t wait! I rode my new bike up and down one of the busiest streets in my neighborhood in a pair of unpadded spandex Under Armour shorts and Asics sneakers (I didn’t get brave enough for clipless pedals until a few years later) absolutely loving every minute of it.
^^^ Visor helmet. Target tank top. SNEAKERS.
I brought my Speedster to the lake in New Jersey that summer; I rode it early in the morning before work and in the afternoon on my days off, exploring nearby towns in a whole new way. When I went back to college in Florida, I brought her with me using it for cross training during cross country and track season. Then one night during a late work shift at my restaurant job in downtown Tampa, she was stolen.
I felt like my world came crashing down around me. I felt ripped off and cheated. I felt violated. Mostly, I just felt sad and truly heartbroken about losing something so special to me. It never occurred to me to get bike insurance, so nothing was covered. Though I had worked so hard to get that bike, I wasn’t sad about losing the money. I felt like I’d lost a best friend.
I did do one thing right, though: I wrote down the serial number. And when I filed a report with the police, I gave them the number to pass on to places like pawn shops where a thief might try to turn in the bike for cash. What would they even get, I thought? I couldn’t put a price on that bike if I tried.
Weeks and months went by with no word on her whereabouts; I just imagined her getting dismembered and sold off piece by piece. It broke my heart. Eventually, I felt it was time to search for a replacement. Even though I’d been riding that bike for quite awhile, I still had newbie knowledge of bikes, in general. I didn’t know models or components or even what frames were made of. But I knew how my bike made me feel and that’s all that mattered. So I found a Scott dealer near me in Florida and ordered yet another Scott Contessa Speedster just a couple models newer. The same familiar, shimmery white base coat had a new paint job with varying shades of blue accents.
“I don’t need to test ride it,” I told the shop guy as I looked over the bike, running my hand along the top tube. It felt the same even though it wasn’t. He looked at me a little funny with an expression that said, “This girl is about to drop almost two grand and she doesn’t even want to get on the bike?”
I told him my sad saga and he understood.
“Ah yeah, been there,” he sympathized. Then he sold me the bike and a bomb-proof lock.
^^^ OMG I was the biggest newbie ever. But I loved that damn bike.
It was like déjà vu driving home with Contessa 2.0 strapped to the back of my car, but it was a new beginning, and I was so happy to be riding again.
These days, Contessa 2.0 is hanging, pedal-less, in a closet in the back of my basement next to my roommate’s crusty 1990s mountain bike. Five or six years and thousands of miles and memories later, and when I had adult money to invest in a serious upgrade, I got my third ever road bike: a Trek Emonda SL6 Pro. It’s a speed machine if I’ve ever ridden one.
I went from Shimano 105 to Ultegra, external to internal cabling, a lighter seat and pedals, a white aluminum frame to a deep midnight blue carbon one with firey orange accents that just scream fast, and I got professionally fitted this time.
Until recently, I had almost forgotten how good it feels to cruise along the road on smooth pavement. I spent so much time getting rowdy on the gravel roads around Boulder that I forgot about what really kickstarted my love of cycling. It was the road bike.
I thought about all this on my past couple evening bike rides around Boulder. I’m trying to fit in more rides in the evenings when I can get off work early enough since I’ve got a big 100-mile ride coming up in August. It’s been really lovely staring down at those skinny tires lately and I think I’m going to do it more often, especially since my gravel bike isn’t due back to me for another week.
I loooooove my Emonda, but I’m sure I’ll upgrade again in a few years when more cool colors come out (joking). For now, I feel pretty lucky that a simple thing like riding bikes has brought me the biggest, most passionate and welcoming community I could’ve ever wished for.