How did I get here?
Tomorrow I am getting the first bike fit of my life at Le Beau Velo. You see, I've been getting pain in different spots in my left leg for years now. It's brought on by different things: jumping lots in my 'power pump' class will make a point behind the outside ball of my foot ache; a couple years ago cycling to Mersea Island made something on the outside of my left knee ache horribly for weeks; and a recent trip to Mersea island yet again triggered pain, this time in my left Achilles tendon.
Logic would say well, just don't cycle to Mersea Island anymore. But I think there's something deeper here. You see, I am the proud owner of the very first Hartley Cycle. It was paid for by very kind donations from very kind people when my beloved Lemond (her name was Iris) was stolen.
Grab a cup of tea, and I will tell you the story of my Hartley. I remember it as if it were yesterday: On the night of the Dunwich Dynamo in 2013, I decided not to ride, and instead to stay at the shop and make sure that others were prepared. (I know, selfless me). It was a hot day, and for some reason I locked only the Brooks saddle that I was breaking in, but not my frame in front of the shop (I know, silly me). We were busy, and I figured I was there at the shop - no one would dare try to take it. But as we were closing, I got a phone call from my dear sister, who likes to talk A LOT. I decided to be a good sister, and as I closed one of the shutters, I went back inside to listen to her woes. An hour later I emerged from the shop, glanced at the bike rack and thought, "That's funny, I'm pretty sure my bike was here. I must've put it out back." I ran to the back, but no, it was not there. I ran again to the front, this time looked closer, and there was my stupid Brooks saddle, still locked to the bike stand, but my Iris was gone. My darling Iris - the bike that made me love riding bikes. The bike that got me to Brighton for the very first time. The bike that made me an official 'Cyclist' with a capital C. I cried for a week. I even wrote a poem entitled 'Centaur', for that is what I felt when I rode her - that we were one. She was an extension of me, and now she had been kidnapped, torn from my heart, never to be seen again.
Of course I don't have insurance - when you make £8k a year, you spend that on rent and food and pretty much nothing else. I rode a shit Dutch bike until I had an accident (and it truly was an accident) with the bottle cage boss of the bike. I was tired, it was the end of a long Sunday shift, and the mechs and I had gone to get falafels and chill. While getting off the bike my leg caught on the downtube bosses - I must've jammed my leg into one, for when I pulled my leg back I had a huge gouge and blood was piling up with plasma. I required 7 stitches and antibiotics.
Beth (@velobetty for those in the know), was angry that I was riding such a shit bike, and put together a crowdfund to raise funds for me to get a new one. I was touched, but didn't think it would work. I would soon eat my words, for within 24 hours, she raised £1k. I was flabbergasted. The comments were even nicer than the cash. "You helped me with my bike, the least I can do is help you with yours." "My new saddle can wait another week." - these are word gifts that I will keep with me forever.
But I was still in mourning, and it took me a few months before I could even think of moving on. Time heals all wounds though, and soon I was taking sneaky peeks at other bikes. Oh the new bike excitement! I wanted something steel, something that could ride for a long day or two out, something that could take a rack. But of the bikes that I liked, few existed in my size - it was appalling. I needed a 52cm frame because of my short torso, but loads of the so-called 52cm frames actually had quite long top tubes, which would make me overreach.
My friend Caren Hartley was a sculptor, teaching people jewellery classes with Made By Ore. She and I had become friends after a ride to - where else - Mersea Island, and we bonded later on over wine and (lack of) men. She had mentioned in passing that she was interested in frame building. I had seen her skill with fire in a headbadge making class she taught - actually in awe of how well she could handle a torch. I was a total scaredy cat but got the idea that maybe I could send her to The Bicycle Academy so that she could learn how to build a frame, and then I would get the bike. She readily accepted.
Fast forward to March 2014 - we were camping in a field somewhere in Frome, my leather boots so sodden, mud was seeping into the soles. Robin Mather was Caren's teacher at TBA - he's a very experienced frame builder, so she was very lucky to get him - BUT - their bike fitter was out that day. So Robin did the best he could with fitting me on the bike. I remember him being a bit like, "yeahhhhh that looks ok" and that's not what I wanted to hear. But I didn't know then what I know now, and so I didn't demand more metrics The bike came out just fine - it looks like a bike, feels like a bike, smells like a bike. But I never got that pro-fit feeling - the one where they perfectly adjust your saddle height and angle, your stem length and angle, your handlebar position, the position of your levers, your cleats...
And so is it any wonder that I am having trouble with my bike on long (100k) rides? I want to be able to do these in multiple succession, so it's time to bite the bullet and get a bike fit. Stay tuned for some insight to the experience, and then analysis over the outcome.