That New Bike Smell…

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 | Cycling, Personal Flaws

…in which I talk about how sometimes good enough just isn’t good enough.

Even though I may regret it, I am somewhat of a “grass is always greener” kind of person. I know how to be happy with what I have, but I’m always looking at what I could have, instead. A year ago, I bought a new bike. I fretted and waffled over several options and finally settled on the Trek PDX. In all honesty, it was my second choice bike. My first choice bike was the Trek Portland but at nearly $1,100 difference, I couldn’t conceivably go with the Portland. I settled for the PDX as a kind of “builder” with the intent to either adapt to it, or make it adapt to me.

Unfortunate placement

I do wish there was a better place to keep my bike at work.

I had set out with a series of priority items I wanted on a new bike, and the top two were disc brakes and road bars. My previous bike had been an older (1996) Trek Mountain Track 800 that was an out and out Mountain bike that I had slowly converted over to a semi-decent commuter. When I got a bonus from work, I decided it was time to trade up, so I moved to the PDX, believing that after a year or so, I could start doing replacements and conversions to it, to basically build my own Portland.

This week, I finally decided I was going to start genuinely researching the conversion options. Turns out that I should have done that before buying the PDX. The primary conversion I wanted to do was replacing the funky “commuter” bars with road bars. Unfortunately, as I dug deeper, that meant replacing the shifters and brake levers, which meant replacing the brakes and front derailleur, which meant adding on a cable re-router, etc, etc, etc.

I got a lot of my info from a great forum filled with avid cyclists of all breed and experience. After two days of going back and forth with various members, there came the final, most sound response: “Maybe you like your current setup more than you thought you did.” While that may be true (the cheapest conversion to road bars was going to be well over $200), I’m still not 100% happy with my bike. I’m starting to attribute it to my general philosophy on everything, though. New is only new for so long before it becomes the norm.

When I first started riding the bike, I was thrilled with it. Yes, it took a couple of weeks to get accustomed to the new geometry (and those wacky “commuter” bars), but I was so psyched. But as the years have passed, my appreciation of it has waned to the point where it’s now my commonplace bike, and I’m starting to see room for improvement. Yesterday, I went so far as to visit my friendly local bike shop to talk about the possibility of a trade-in. I was considering buying a whole new bike. Drastic!

Fortunately for me (and my budget), the option of a trade-in is borderline nil. These bikes come with a lifetime warranty on them, but it only applies to the first owner. So as soon as they change hands, they’re considered “used,” in the worst sense of the word. So while they would have worked with me and given me whatever they could, I was fairly discouraged to pursue that option any further.

In other situations, I’ve found ways of making something that is slowly growing commonplace into something “new” again by adding on. I can install a new OS and add some RAM to my old computer and it becomes “new” again. I can buy a new controller and my Xbox becomes “new” again. I even bought an iPod to make my car “new” again. More recently, I landscaped the area around our patio, and the result made it all feel “new” again. So I have to start thinking about my bike in more reasonable terms.

So I started looking at other options. The root of the matter came down to those handlebars. My ultimate desire was to get rid of them and replace them with something more ergonomic and sporty, so I started l researching other replacements and add-ons. My first thought was something called and aerobar but I was quickly discouraged by the fact that they’re really not effective, and definitely overkill for my 4-mile commute. Then I started looking at these wacky “drop bar ends” that turn your regular straight bar into a road bar. They get decent reviews, but I still think they look kind of “fiddly.” Finally, I felt like I had settled on some simple L-bar attachments, but even today, I started to doubt that decision.

Earlier this week, I had written off the possibility of changing out the whole handle bar because I either wanted a road bar, or nothing. I had nixed the idea of any other alternative bars. They all screamed “hipster” to me. Not that that’s a bad thing, not that I wouldn’t be a hipster if I were 15 years younger, but the point was, I really thought they kind of looked silly. But I shouldn’t be concerned with looks, I was going for form and function and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, the “butterfly” bar looked really good. It is compatible with all of the parts I’ve already got, it’s a simple swap out, and the main benefit I was looking for from a road bar (multiple hand positions) was in full effect with this bar.

So today I spent my free time (what little of it I had) looking at bikes with butterfly bars, just to see how it looked, aesthetically, and it really wasn’t that bad, especially with mountain bike gear on it rather than road gear. I realize I’m still in that position of trying to re-new something that I should appreciate having in the first place, something that should be good enough, but I’m cursed with being able to see potential in things to be better. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe not. But that, combined with my irredeemable materialism, it’s definitely something I need to learn to tame.

When it comes down to it, I’m a “glass half full” kind of guy, but at the same time, I’m looking at that glass thinking “I can’t help but notice there’s still more room for liquid.”

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