Fortune Favors the Bold
This super-exciting event started with a routine administrative procedure. Last November I renewed my membership to Austin’s biggest advocacy and educational bicycle organization, Bike Austin. A merger of the former League of Bicycling Voters and Austin Cycling Association, BA came to my attention due to a past landlord (who shall remain nameless and faceless, at least until I can unearth a photo he okays). I finally joined, began volunteering, entered a raffle and voila! I won a BRAND… NEW… BIKE!
First I got a phone call inviting me to a BA meeting, because “they had something to give me.” I declined and said see you at the next one. I tried to guess what it was, and even guessed correctly, but they were mum. They sent me a video link with the director reading the answers, and I realized she said my name! Lucky me. So now I have it, and I’ve begun riding it. Much gratitude goes to Hill Abell with Bicycle Sport Shop and the shop staff, plus the hard working folks at Bike Austin like Julia (with A Dude below) for this wonderful gift.
The machine in question is made by Austin-based Fairdale Bikes. You can read all about them and the Weekend Archer at the links provided. What I can tell you is, a) I am one lucky sum’ a bitch and b) this is an awesome bicycle!
Before my trusty Fuji Silhouette, which I have been riding for over a year and a half and have put an undetermined number of miles on (around 7,500 is my guess), I rode a GT Arette (GT stands for founder Gary Turner). This was also a heavy, steel frame, street bike. I rode it in my first Hill Country Ride for AIDS for 50 miles. I also had it modified with a stem extension, so the handlebars were much higher. I now have that back and am thinking of selling it. But I digress, because I can. So any digression haters know this: I’m just going to shake it off.
A Sexy Beast (the Bike is Awesome Too)
The point is that a sturdy commuter bike is good to have in a town like Austin with less than perfect streets. I find that if I have to go off a curb unexpectedly, there’s some gravel in the road or bike lane, or other obstacles, I’m not too worried. The FWA can handle it, with aplomb and composure. It’s tires are not the skinny girl, skinny jeans or skinny lattes of the world: they are solid, without being humongous. Tonight I took it downtown to the BSS for an event, and discovered that despite its 28 pounds, it could still move. Even without clip-ins, I was able to power up and down some hills without much more trouble than on my hybrid. That is to say I still downshifted all the way, but wasn’t in danger of having to dismount.
One of the features that had me worried was only 9 gears on one chain ring versus 27 on three rings on the Fuji. But they are spaced apart so that there is a broader range of choices than on just one ring on the old bike. It also has bigger cassette, so there is more power. Add in the weight, my weight, and momentum on a flat or downhill, and it really flies. My maximum speed on both trips was an identical 28.2 mph. Pretty, pretty, pretty good! Other differences include a wider, more relaxed handlebar, disk brakes (which I’ve never had before and have amazing responsive and quick stopping power), the aforementioned sturdiness, and really smooth shifting and overall feel. That could be from it being new, but I just think it’s a well-engineered machine.
Aside from the weight and smaller gear selection (and sometimes I was wishing for a smaller and also a larger gear), I cannot think of any other drawbacks, except that I don’t want to get it dirty or damage it. But a few people I passed looked at it enviously. Another cyclist outside Trader Joe’s expressed admiration for it. The color, a vibrant but easy on the eyes sea green, probably has something to do with its sex appeal. Or maybe that’s just A Dude Abikes who’s the sexy beast here. Naaah, it’s the bike. But hopefully it’ll rub off.
Assuming it passes the test this week and I keep it, I’ll be adding accessories like clip-in pedals, grips with wrist rests, water bottle cages, and maybe eventually a rack and lock holder. I intend to use it for running around town, and possibly on some longer rides. Maybe I can even work up to touring out to a park and camping for the night. Ever since my trip to the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming last summer, where I met touring cyclist Neal and friend, I’ve kinda dreamed of doing that. Now I have the bike, maybe someday I will.
My Score of the Weekend Archer: Solid A
Of course winning a bicycle in a raffle is not your every day sort of experience, and that aspect of it might affect my judgement. (I do feel I earned it through all my biking and volunteering, for what it’s worth.) But it’s not a bike I would go seek out because of the weight and only a passing awareness of Fairdale. However, it’s actually pretty darn close to what A Dude needs for most of his in-town cycling: a dependable, sturdy, but nimble workhorse. It’s not every day someone hands you something worth $850, no strings attached, either. So that may color my opinion some. OK, alot.
But when you buy a bike at BSS, you get two free tune-ups, minor adjustments as needed at no charge, and discounts on stuff in the shop. There’s enough A Dude Abikes to share the love at original shop The Peddler Bike Shop, a newer addition, Sun & Ski Sports, where I’m a brand ambassador, and Bicycle Sport Shop. (Actually, the first shop I probably went to was Ozone Bikes. Well, sadly, it’s no more. But BSS is in the exact same spot. So, more good bike-ma [instead of karma, get it?])
In the end I have no complaints, and believe this bike may help take me to another level of cycling. Like ankle weights, when I get back on the Fuji, or its inevitable replacement someday, I will feel lighter. It should also make me stronger, due to the weight and gearing. Plus if the bike or I or both get a few more looks, I’ll take it.
The Moral of the Story
Being part of the bike community has some great benefits. Not everyone will win a new bike, but if you get out there and ride, go to shops, get involved (or start) your own local bike group, you’ll meet some great people, make some great experiences, be in better shape, and usually have a blast doing it.
So get out there and start — or keep — riding, and A Dude Abikes will keep doing that as well as writing. I’ll have some other news soon, so I hope you’ll pedal on by my blog. Like, follow, or email follow if you’re not on WordPress. Bring a friend. And by all means, let’s go for a bike ride!
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