I’ve ridden my bike a lot less this year than last. I’m not happy about it. There are a few causes:
I have less time to ride. In 2020, I worked from home every day and my duties were lighter. I could get out every day the weather supported it. Last year I worked in the office occasionally. This year I’m in the office every Tuesday and Thursday, which takes two days out of the mix. I looked into commuting by bicycle, but ruled it out. The office is a solid two-hour ride from home, and large sections of the ride are on roads and streets that are unfriendly to riders.
It’s wicked hot this summer. Some days it’s dangerously hot. Even when it’s merely very hot, I come home drenched to the bone in sweat. I don’t enjoy that at all, and for me, riding is supposed to be fun.
No extrinsic motivations propel me anymore. In 2020, I was stuck at home a lot because of lockdown. Riding was a great, pandemic-safe way to be out of the house. In 2021, I was building strength and stamina for my Ride Across Indiana. I’m glad I did that four-day tour, but I feel the same way now as I did when I reached the end: I never need to do anything like this again. This year there is no extrinsic motivation to ride.
My bike feels old and tired. My bike is a 1986 Schwinn 3-speed that I bought used in 2009. It was in good condition and rode well, and I’ve loved riding it. But after all of these years of service, culminating in my 150-mile trek across Indiana last year, my bike feels worn out. It’s just not the pleasure to ride it was even last year at this time.
I rode more in 2020 and 2021 than in the previous ten years combined. The pandemic rekindled my desire to ride, and I want to keep it going. I may not ever ride as much again as I did in the previous two years, but I want to ride a lot more than I did in the ten years before that.
It’s time for me to build the intrinsic motivation to ride, and to block out time for it rather than let it happen when I come upon a hole in my schedule. I have always loved to ride, and I think the more I plan for it the more of a habit it will become.
But I also think it’s finally time for a new bike.
I haven’t bought a brand-new bike since about 1990, when I upgraded my beloved 1982-ish AMF Nimble 3-speed for a shiny new Schwinn hybrid bike. You still had to buy Schwinn bikes from Schwinn dealers then, but the bikes were all made in Taiwan and China by this time. Within a couple years, Schwinn would be bankrupt.
I was excited to own that Schwinn at first, but as the miles rolled by I increasingly realized that it wasn’t the right kind of bike for me. It was my first derailleur bike and I didn’t enjoy the times the chain wouldn’t cleanly slip from one sprocket ring to the other. A few times that the chain bound up on, or fell off, a sprocket ring. I also didn’t need 21 speeds. I found myself using the same four or five gears all the time. I missed the simplicity of my old 3-speed’s internally-geared hub. I also came to see that I was a road rider all the way, and didn’t need the frame geometry or knobby tires of that hybrid. My lower back didn’t enjoy the riding position that hybrid bike forced me into. After a while, I wished I had kept my AMF Nimble.
Remembering all of that, I’m looking for a modern version of the traditional 3-speed. I’d like it to have a lighter frame than my current bike’s all-steel frame. I’d also like it to I’d like it to have a first gear with a much lower ratio than that of my Schwinn so that I can handle steep hills more easily. On my Ride Across Indiana, I had to walk my bike up some hills and that made me crabby.
Unfortunately, internally-geared-hub bikes are hard to come by these days. I know of only a couple manufacturers that still feature them. Right now I’m weighing two models from Public Bikes. The first is the V7i, a bicycle with traditional frame geometry and a 7-speed internally-geared hub. It is offered in this nifty British Racing Green. It’s also $900, which to me is an eye-popping amount of money for a bike like this.
I’m also looking at Public’s D8i, which has an 8-speed internally-geared hub plus disc brakes, which promise sure stopping even in the rain. That would have been a huge help on my Ride Across Indiana, as it rained on me most of the last day and my bike’s stopping ability went to nil. It comes only in one color, chrome, which isn’t my favorite. It’s a lot more expensive than the V7i at $1,400.
If I buy one of these, I’ll have them fit a rear rack onto it, which will add $60 to the total price. But first, I have to get comfy with what these bikes cost. The most I’ve ever spent on a bike is about $250! Maybe I’ll stumble upon a sale.
I’ll stick with my 3-speed this year, but next year it’s a new bike for sure.