Saturday, August 27, 2011

New Wheels, Old Attitudes

I picked out a new bike yesterday!  Happy birthday to me, I'm quite excited.  My old bike had mouldered in the shed ever since before our son was born, and is essentially a rustbucket now.  Overhauling it would have cost just about as much as a new bike.  I've been riding my husband's bike this summer, and I decided I'd really like to have a new one of my own.  Thanks to some birthday money from my parents and my husband's parents, I could go looking for one.  Now we can ride together as a family, and I can ride for exercise more comfortably.

I looked quite a few places:  big box stores, toy stores, professional bike stores, and sporting goods stores.  I discovered that prices vary wildly, from "cheap" bikes for adults starting around $125 (no gears to shift, no hand brakes, for flat terrain only) and going up quickly to decent hybrid and mountain bikes ($189-$300) and into the stratosphere for bikes for serious athletes ($500-$1500 and more).  I realized right away that in a big box or toy store you're on your own for your purchase - you just pick one out and hope it's been assembled correctly and safely.  Thankfully my husband can trouble-shoot bikes, and would check over anything I bought to make sure it was safe. 

I also discovered something quite unpleasant in the process of looking for a bike.  I realized that because I am overweight, some stores catering to "serious" cyclists will not encourage my patronage.  That is, they'll ignore me and apparently hope I'll go away quietly.  Only one store did that to me, but it was a most humiliating experience (especially since I had my daughter with me).  There were a handful of staff in the store, and not all of them were busy with other customers, but no one even greeted me as I looked around.  Part of me would like to generously think it was just a bad day for them, and that they just weren't paying attention.  A much larger part of me strongly suspects that to them I didn't look like someone that would be serious about purchasing a bike.  Their loss - neither I nor my husband will go there again.  My husband has been a "serious" cyclist in the past, and would like to take up the sport again.  He needs his current bike tuned up/overhauled now, and he will need a new bike in the not too distant future.  He won't be refitting the old one or buying a new one at the store that snubbed me.  No wonder people "of a certain size" don't like going in sports stores, if that's how we can be treated.  I was (and still am) quite annoyed with their weight prejudice.  Everyone has to start somewhere - why not with good advice from experienced cyclists?  At least they could have given me their courteous attention, instead of making me feel like I had no business being in their store because I don't look like an athlete.

Fortunately, I also had some very good experiences while bike hunting, particularly with Syracuse Bicycle on Erie Boulevard, and at Dick's Sporting Goods in Clay.  Both stores were immediately helpful and friendly, and their salespeople took the time to suggest bicycles that would suit my height and my anticipated riding needs.  Both stores had a large selection of bikes in a wide range of prices, and the salespeople didn't have any "attitude" about my perceived fitness level.  In the end, I purchased my bike from Dick's. 

Tonight I think I'll go for a nice, long ride.