May 15, 2002

The young bike shop technician is horrified.

"I am NOT putting THIS SEAT on THAT bike!" he sputters indignantly. In his hands he holds a plump, overstuffed bike saddle roughly the size of a small Sealy Posturepedic. Nearby, my fresh-off-the-showroom-floor Trek 7500FX stands propped against a wall, waiting for this minor bit of cosmetic surgery. From the young technician's aggrieved tone, you'd think we'd just asked da Vinci to put a red rubber clown nose on the Mona Lisa.

"Oh yes you are," I reply. My tone is pleasant ... but firm.

At the sound of my voice, the young technician whirls around in alarm. Obviously he didn't realize that The Paying Customer was still within earshot. (Why isn't she off on the other side of the store, measuring herself for a sports bra or something?) He at least has the good manners to look embarrassed. 

"Sorry, Lady," he says sheepishly, and he picks up his wrench and gets to work swapping out the Ultra-Snooty Avocet *Your Comfort Is None Of Our Business!* 2002XXXS for the huge, old-fashioned Butt-D-Luxe I dug out of the discount bin. While we're at it, we're also going to have him attach end grips to the handlebars and mount a water bottle cage to the frame.

I've got to tell you: I'm really liking this 'The customer is always right' stuff.

In the meantime, the calculatedly earnest sales guy who sold us the bike, moments earlier, sidles up to me and shrugs apologetically. "Kevin built this bike himself," he says in a low, soothing voice. (Subtext: So who could blame him for not wanting to deface his masterpiece with this ridiculous obscenity of a saddle?) "Don't take it personally," he adds, as much out of concern for his commission, I'm sure, as for my feelings.

But I'm not offended. I understand that *my* idea of the perfect bike saddle and a nineteen-year-old bike shop technician's idea of the perfect bike saddle aren't likely to mesh. As a matter of fact, the earnest young sales guy himself tried to talk me into one of those skinny little bazillion-dollar bike seats, not twenty minutes earlier. 

"In terms of physiogeometry," he said -- showing me a saddle shaped like a turkey wishbone, only not as roomy -- "it makes sense to create a balance of sit-bone support and parallel flange indicator equanimity." 

My brain glazed over the instant he began to speak. It's essentially the same schpiel I heard at the groovy Berkeley bike store ... the same schpiel I've read on every cycling website I've visited in the past year ... the same schpiel I find in my mailbox every time I write about bike saddles. 

"I don't care about physiogeometry," I told him. "I care about 1500 miles' worth of comfort." And I handed him the Butt-D-Luxe.

It was a moment of triumph for this reformed Easy Sell.

As a matter of fact, the whole replacement-bike-shopping process was a triumph, from start to finish. I walked into the bike store, less than an hour ago, with a clear, precisely-formulated idea of what I wanted in my new bicycle ... and, more importantly, what I didn't want in my new bicycle. God knows I've had plenty of time and opportunity to think about it lately, as I've dragged forty pounds' worth of Schwinn over (Moraga) hill and (Iron Horse) dale. 

For instance, I knew that I didn't want a mountain bike, or a standard road bike, or another bazillion-pound cruiser. I wanted a hybrid or "sport comfort" bike, preferably one I could lift with one finger. I wanted a more relaxed frame geometry, this time around: no more thigh-high top tubes, threatening to derail my romantic Saturday night. I wanted comfortable, one-click index shifting, with a maximum of 20-25 gear combinations. Any more than that and I need a calculator just to get over the fudking bike bridge. Toe clips were negotiable -- I'm actually beginning to *get* them, believe it or not -- but only as long as they're adjustable, and as long as they're easy to slip in and out of, and as long as they fit comfortably all the way across ingrowns and bunions and assorted other middle-aged podiatric deformities. Cleated pedals, on the other hand, were definitely out. Locking me into place at this stage of my cycling development is just asking for a Saturday afternoon Emergency Room run. I wanted straight handlebars, rather than those curvy ram-horn handlebars like David has. I wanted end grips added to the handlebars, so I can change my wrist position whenever my hand starts going numb. I wanted a slightly upright posture: none of this laying down across the handlebars stuff. (Unless I'm posing for the cover of Bay Area BOOBS Magazine.) And I wanted Shimano components ... mainly because it makes me feel like I'm riding the hip curve to say "Shimano components."

I wanted a pretty color: something to match my varicose veins, maybe.

But more than anything else, I wanted to find a bike that fits: one that fits my lifestyle, fits my apartment, fits my budget, fits my very special riding needs. I figured it didn't have to be the most expensive bike in the store ... or the trendiest, or the prettiest, or the most aerodynamically-advanced.

It just had to be a good *fit.*

A few minutes later, as we're wheeling my brand-new bike outside to the car, I ask David if I sounded snooty or high-handed or rude when we were inside the bicycle store. I wouldn't want the young technician to lose his job, just because we overheard him making an impolite remark. (Giving us the $20 bargain-bin saddle for free would have been a nice gesture, though.)

"No," David says. "You sounded like a customer who knows what she wants."

I look at my sleek, elegant new bike, as we carefully lay it in the trunk of the Subaru for the drive home. I love it. I love everything about it. I love the fact that it's a Trek, a slightly lower-end (but far less formidable) model than the one that got stolen. I love the fact that it weighs half as much as the Schwinn: I was able to lift it into the trunk of the car myself, with only minimal help from David. I love the more relaxed top tube, the 24 different gear combinations, the straight handlebars (with the added end grips), the nice wide toe clips, the Shimano components. I love the pretty blue color. I love the fact that I marched into the bike store, pointed to the bike I wanted and said "I'll take it."

I love the modifications that *I* specified.

In fact, I love it all so much that I can't wait to get back on the trail and start chipping away at those last 1,500 miles in earnest. I'm jazzed! I'm equipped! I'm rested!

I'm ready!

And so is my Butt-D-Luxe.

note: big fat cushy seat
~ the little bike that *footnotes* bought ~

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