Cycling with Sookie and Sophie: The Saga Segues

I found a picture of both Sookie and Sophie, my two bikes. (A third bike is elsewhere; that one was ridden pre-blog/Strava.) The photograph was taken at a community event sponsored by Bike Austin that I helped with. It was attended by several dozen people concerned about bike lanes and sidewalks on two busy and dangerous roads and Austin City Councilmember Greg Casar in April of 2017. Why on earth did I have two bikes at the same event? Well, former BA Campaigns Manager Miller Nuttle forgot his bike, so needed to borrow mine. Something inspired me to snap this shot, and I really like it alot. With the recent news about Sookie, the Fuji Silhouette (left) having a fatal crack in her frame, causing me to have to ride Sophie, the Fairdale Weekender Archer all the time, it got me thinking more about my journey. Keep reading to hear more about this passing of the torch.

A Tale of Two Bicycles

Sookie and Sophie
Sookie and Sophie, hanging out and posing pretty

Both bikes were given to me; Sookie as a hand-me-down, and Sophie as a new bike I won in a raffle from Bike Austin and Bicycle Sport Shop. So I’m lucky to have received and been able to ride them both. I have put almost 13,000 miles on Sookie, though, so I have had alot more time on her. Also since she’s lighter and faster, I don’t see going as far on Sophie in a comparable amount of time. I will hopefully come up with a new bike soon because I need a back-up, and to be able to do longer rides on the weekends. Especially as I hioefully become gainfully employed, I will not be able to do much during the week, sadly.

One interesting thing about riding Sophie for a while then switching back to Sookie is that it’s like taking off ankle weights: I feel and probably am faster. But now, I’m only going to have the heavier steel and reduced gearing of Sophie. That means more work and less speed so fewer miles. That’s ok as long as I meet my goal, which I’ve passed a couple of times because I keep revising it. Over time, I’ve become very familiar with the Fuji, and somewhat so with the Fairdale. Comfort is important on a bike.

I haven’t hit 3,000 miles yet with the latter, but I will very soon. What’s important to know is that both bikes are fun to ride, just in different ways. The Silhouette has 27 gears so is much easier on hills. The Archer has only 9 gears so is alot harder to get up hills and also my speed tops out going downhill. I want to turn it up to 11, but I can’t – not without major reconfiguations to the derrailleur and cassette. But it floats along on flat roads, has disc brakes and wider tires, so is safer in the rain and gravel. But any time spent on a bike is time well-spent. Some well-off people have a whole stable of bikes, but I’m not one of them. Yet.

It Kind of Is About the BicyclesIMG_6878

One of the first photos of Sookie, spring 2015, when Thad showed me to her in his storage. Flat pedals, torn seat, bad grips and cables. You’ve come a long way, baby. Quite literally, almost 13,000 miles!

Sookie’s story is one of slowly building up the miles from having done 50 and 57 miles in two charity rides to the 202 in 2 days in the MS 150. Over time, through what Team Sky calls marginal gains, I added improvements as the budget allowed and the need arose. Mountain bike extender grips. Skinnier tires. Better wheels (thanks to a gift from Bryce). A mountain bike derailleur and a front middle chain ring that was smaller, both to help with climbing hills. Three or four chains and numerous tires and many tubes. I lost count. Sookie was not built for all this distance and hard riding, but she took it like a champ!

With Sophie being new as of spring 2017, all I’ve done is have some extenders and grips put on, and a new back tire. Her story is more of enjoyable flat rides as opposed to the faster and steeper shop and training rides. Over time I expect matching her front tire to the rear, and replacing whatever else wears out. Now that I don’t really have a choice except to risk catastrophic failure on Sookie, I expect I will just keep riding Sophie, slowly and steadily. Alot of the sliwness is fatigue and cooler temperatures, or rain, plus being more careful at night, especially on sidewalks. Since I have to get a job, and winter is coming, commuting will be more of the kind of biking I do, especially in rain and possible ice (though probably little to no biking in the latter case).

So while I lament the loss of the Fuji, I’m happy to at least have the Fairdale. The history of Sookie has been one of building up over time to do what for me have been extreme distances. In fact, earlier this year I put Sophie on hiatus for about six months expressly for the purpose of attaining 10,000 miles with Sookie. I did take Sophie on some of the training rides leading up to the MS 150 I did last April, (202 miles in 2 days). But with Sookie, I kept making small improvements as I had money. It’s what British pro Team Sky call marginal gains. Skinnier tires. Better wheels (gifted by awesome cyclist Bryce.) Mountain bike extenders. Ergon grips. A new chain (actually three or four, I lost count). Mountain bike derailleur and smaller middle chain ring to help my fathlete self on hills. All made her faster and easier to ride the longer distances.

New Year + New Goals = New Bike?

Sophie striking a pose in her early days, spring 2017.

So while I haven’t said a ton about the journeys with both bikes — you’ll have to go back and read all my previous posts and wait for the book — the year 2019 will bring fresh opportunities. I expect that after 2018, in which I have written every day in this blog or my book, walked what will be over 550 miles, plus the daily yoga and biking, in the new year I will have to dial back the extracurriculars for basic needs. Instead of biking 4,000 miles in 12 months, I’d like to make at least $4,000 every month. Ironically, that may mean using cars more, which I’d rather not. What I need tis to buy, build, or beg a new bike. We shall see.

On the other hand, I kind of like the idea of keeping going. If I get a new lighter bike, that may make it easier to go farther and faster than even Sookie. (No offense, girlfriend!) Either way, biking will continue to be part of my life as long as my legs and other parts allow it. I’m very mindful that my biking, walking and yoga could all be taken away at any moment, as it was for a friend who strained his knee badly yesterday and has to recover for six weeks. Or due to commitments to work, illness, or even death, like it was for teenager Minh-Tan Pham whose tragic tale I wrote about recently.

In the final analysis, there were other bikes before, and there will hopefully be others after these two. But they have both given me some great exercise, experiences and opportunity to make new friends and also to fundraise. So I can’t pick one over the other as a favorite — they’re two different to compare. I’ve been lucky to have even one of them.

November 30 is the Last Chance to Donate to My Breast Cancer Charity Fundraiser Ride!

Which reminds me that although #GivingTuesday was yesterday, tomorrow is the last day to donate to the Mamma Jamma Ride to Beat Breast Cancer. For more about my 40-mile ride, see this post. So far, I’ve raised over $2,400. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO DONATE NOW! if you’re able to pitch in. The proceeds go to eight Central Texas non-profit organizations that help the one in eight women who get a breast cancer diagnosis. Read more about the beneficiaries. Thanks as always to you, dear readers, for your support, moral, financial, or bloggal. Hasta pronto. Until soon (Friday).


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