Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Spinning in the rain

I've been putting it off forever, but it was bound to happen sometime—I was going to have to learn to bike in the rain. While I've been planning to get a good rain-biking plan set up since 2015, somehow I've been able to avoid it for just as long.

When I lived in my old house, I could catch the bus in bad weather, and it only took about 10 minutes longer than biking, which was a fair trade for staying warm and dry. For most of the past three years, I've had a friend who worked near my office who was happy to give me a lift when the rain was falling. But since said friend rudely got another job that is miles away from where I work, I can no longer count on a free personal taxi to drop me right at my door. And unfortunately, the commute to my new house on public transportation is much less efficient than the old one—it gets me home almost 25 minutes later than if I bike!

I've wasted enough time sitting on the bus, missing my workout and watching life pass me by (and then still having to walk 10 minutes in the rain!), so this morning, when rain was in the forecast but it hadn't (literally!) dampened my motivation by actually starting to fall, I sprang into action.

I packed up all the gear that I've been hoarding for just such an occasion. I packed a pair of clear glasses to keep falling droplets out of my eyes, and a raincoat to keep most of me dry. I decided not to pack the bright yellow rain pants that I purchased last fall, because it's still not cold enough out to have to bother with that encumbrance. I expected I'd only get wet on my ride home, and by that time, I could just change into something dry more easily than I could lug around an oversized pair of knickers.

Come afternoon, when the world was dreary and drippy and any sensible person would probably be wishing for a warm blanket and a quick teleport back home, I knew the rain couldn't get me down—I was prepared! In fact, I was almost excited to get started on my soggy commute.

But, I shouldn't have been.

Here is what my rain gear did to my dignity.

And here is what it did to my hair.

I don't know if you're catching my drift here, but my rain coat was not waterproof! I spent 18 minutes very publicly biking around looking like a day-glo tortoise, and for what!? I didn't even stay dry!

Now, this raincoat kept me not so warm but plenty dry on a very rainy trip to Oregon in 2010 (and I have the photo to prove it), but I guess the past 7 years have not been good to it, because in my short ride, it became absolutely soaked. By the time I was home, all my rain gear was good for was taking a few self-mocking pictures (the glasses did their eye-protecting job fairly well, I have to give them credit for that).

That is really the conclusion of my tale of woe, but it is not the end of this story. I'm going to figure out a way to successfully bike in the rain if it's the last thing I do. Stay tuned for Chapter 2!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

2017 Football Preview

By request (from someone who thinks my writing is so good, I can even make football sound interesting!) I am penning a preview of the upcoming NFL season.

As we all know, NFL stands for "No Fun League," and this season is shaping up to be even less fun than usual.

I have it from reliable sources that the two greatest teams in the NFL have suffered the loss of their star players due to injuries, which no doubt means a more boring year than normal. I predict lots of moaning and groaning and catastrophizing from Football Fan A and a fair amount of "Honey! My team lost!" from Football Fan B. "Our quarterback sucks," will be a common line heard during game time.

Although the outlook is bleak for all involved, some mid-season trades have the potential to turn this whole debacle around. I will undoubtedly advise Football Fan A numerous times to trade their loyalties to a team that wins once in a while, although my suggestion will most likely be met only by increased moaning and groaning.

Though game time this year promises to bore us all to tears, we can at least look forward to the nail-biting soap opera of off-the-field controversies that add further credibility to the venerable sport. Who will refuse to stand during the national anthem and get blacklisted? Is it safe to mention that's a very fitting choice of word? Who will be the next former player to go crazy from repeated head trauma? Why are fans leaving the league in droves (other than the obvious boredom factor)? Is MMA the new NFL?

These questions and more will be answered, not on the gridiron, but in bits and pieces gleaned through eavesdropping, headlines that pop up in your Google feed because someone once used your phone to look up something football related, and the occasional reluctant conversation with Football Fan B.

So, there you have it, folks! With my in-depth knowledge of this sport and my brilliant analytical abilities, I can promise you that the next, um, certain number of weeks are sure to, um, include some football, which will result in a lot of angst. Maybe if we're lucky, they will also result in a couple of dinners at your local sports bar. Everyone knows that's the best thing about football—appetizers and alcohol.

Editor's Note: This article was carelessly written and even more carelessly researched. Should anything be found in it that might pass for a fact, it should under no circumstances be interpreted as such.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Bike Backslides

I've had my new bike for long enough now that it doesn't really qualify as "new" any more, but when it was new unquestionably, I made a vow to myself that this time, I would do things differently. The things to which I was referring were 1) ongoing maintenance and cleaning, and 2) weight reduction.
Ongoing maintenance and cleaning are concepts that even a non-biker can appreciate. Normally people who live in houses clean their houses regularly. People who drive in cars wash their cars once in a while (or do they? Neither my boyfriend nor I have washed our cars in all the time we've been living together, and we are the only point of reference I have). People who ride bikes should probably, reasonably, expect to keep their bikes clean too. Except that I never did. My old bike, Greenie, though ostensibly one of the loves of my life and certainly worthy of a little TLC in return, got ridden every day in all sorts of weather, but only got unceremoniously hosed down once in a blue moon when I absolutely couldn't stand the dirt any more. I always felt ashamed when I had to take him (yes, he's a he) into the bike shop, and every moving part was positively caked with dried mud and grime.

With my new bike, Snowflake, I promised that this time I would do things differently, and clean her more often (she's a she!), keeping her lovely white frame lovely and white, and saving myself the embarrassment of dragging a filthy heap of rust into the shop when it came time for repairs. At first, like all kinds of "New ___ Resolutions," it went great. During the splashy rainy weather of early spring, I religiously wiped down my bike almost every morning when I arrived at the office, carefully removing splatters of mud from the frame, sides of the wheels, and as much of the gear assembly as I could reach. I left a hideously blackened rag in a corner of my office just for this purpose (I have to wonder what the cleaning staff thinks of that, since they never actually see the object it's there to clean!)

But then I took her down to Georgia, and nothing was ever the same again! The bike rack which conveyed her to my destination ended up viciously scraping her frame, leaving black smudges of rubber which I couldn't seem to buff off, and even more permanent gouges in the paint. After that damage was done, I lost interest in cleaning my bike every day. Getting up close and personal with all those scars had just become too painful.

Now my bike is lucky if it gets a cursory wipe-down after a downpour. Sorry, Snowflake. Pretty soon I'll probably have to call you "Ucky Old Pile of Snow That's Been in the Corner of the Parking Lot for 2 Months."

So, I failed on the cleaning front. Maybe I did better with my other resolution, weight reduction. Let's check it out.

First, a little explanation. Greenie was what you'd call a behemoth of a bike. Too old to find the specs on, and too cumbersome to place on a scale, his exact weight may never be determined, but you can rest assured that between his steel frame and the mountain of accessories I piled on it, he was quite a load to pedal around. Part of my reason for buying a new bike was the utter inadequacy I felt whenever my boyfriend and I had to pick up our bikes. He could lift his fancy racing-hybrid bike with one finger, while I, meanwhile, would be using all my strength just to awkwardly keep mine a few inches off the ground—or me! I still have the scar from when I dropped it, gears first, onto my calf while I was offloading it from a Metro bus 4 years ago.

My number-one goal for a new bike was to get one that I could transport without causing myself permanent harm—and that meant aiming for a bike weighing less than 30 pounds—the lighter the better!

At 26.75 pounds (advertised by Fuji) Snowflake fit the bill. The only challenge was to keep her under 30 pounds. As soon as I went to pick up my newly arrived bike from the shop, I failed in my objective by adding a (to my credit, totally necessary for any commuter) rear cargo rack before I'd even left the store. From then on, it's been a steady downslide into the biking behemoth-hood again. Obviously a rear rack is worthless if you don't have anything attached to it, so I ordered a folding basket. Then I got a lock (again, to my credit, another necessity) that I affix to the bike frame when it's not in use. Additional gear that has somehow made its way onto my poor overloaded steed is: a couple of bungee cords for unplanned hauling, a pair of lights, a couple of reflective slap bracelets for holding my pant legs away from the chain, a bell, and, most recently, a digital wristwatch which I've been using to help me determine the fastest routes from Point A to Point B.

That's a lot of stuff, but seeing as most of the items weigh less than an ounce each, I'm having trouble feeling too guilty. And thus far, I've done myself proud by refraining from attaching a water bottle cage (I've never had a bike without a water bottle before, but I figured since I do most of my biking in a 16-minute spurt between home and the office, there's not a whole lot of need to be carrying around that much hydration) or fenders (the bike shop attendant was nice enough to mention that my rear rack could double as a fender, and, while it doesn't keep as much water off me as my old real fenders did, good enough is good enough). I've also been tempted to put some kind of small carrying container on the handlebars (for when I suddenly realize I need to take my earrings off mid-ride, and don't want to have to stop to dump them in the back), but I haven't yet given in.

Overall, I give myself a 6/10 on the weight-reduction front, but I don't really see how I could have scored any better. Since, as I mentioned, it's rather hard to get a bike onto a scale and have it stay there (also, I don't recommend trying to suspend it from a luggage scale, which I also tried and regretted), I'll probably never know whether my bike is as light as its namesake or just another, slightly smoother-riding version of my old clunker. It doesn't really matter that much. Thanks to my attached stopwatch, I know that regardless of Snowflake's weight, I can get from home to the office in an average of 16.83 minutes, which is 2 minutes less than Google Maps estimates. My bike might not be as light as I would have liked, but it's as fast as I can reasonably expect it to be.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

If dogs could talk

You already know how I give my pets a downright litany of nicknames, but what you might not know is that I also give my pets a voice.

I mean that not in the figurative sense (as do, say, the animal rights organizations), but in the literal one: I speak aloud what my pets are surely thinking, and each pet gets a voice tailored specifically to him or her.

The voice development process usually happens organically. I start out with a pretty generic voice every time—A slightly deeper tone than my own for the boy pets, a slightly higher and sweeter one for the girl pets. Yet somehow, over time, every pet's voice morphs into a perfect representation of their personality.

A never-before seen picture of these two clowns. Jack Jack is, as usual,
more asleep than not, while Bubalou is begging, "Tummy rubs!"

Our two dogs now have very different voices. Jack Jack, the one whose dominant character trait is laziness, got a low (but not too low) voice with a distinctly whiny edge to it and a hint of a lisp. Bubalou got a high-pitched, fast-talking squeaky voice, inspired by his boundless enthusiasm, pervasive anxiety, and (extremely piercing) yip that he lets out when he's especially distraught.

Once your dog has a voice, it just follows naturally that he will have a tagline or two. Here is the story of Bubalou's. 

Bubalou loves to go in the car. "We're going someplace!!" and "I'm coming with you!!" are two of his favorite lines when he can sense that we're getting ready to leave the house. He loves to be taken pretty much anywhere — for a walk, just outside, to the bathroom with you — but he really gets pumped to go in the car. After some observation, it became obvious that his favorite thing about being in the car was smelling the air around him. He could be perfectly calm, lying down obediently in the back, and you could crack the window and he'd be up like a shot, sniffing the air, clambering over everything and everyone to get his nose closer to the window. And what does he say while he's indulging in this little display of unbridled excitement? "SMELLS!" Loud and squeaky and with every ounce of enthusiasm a dog could muster. Bubalou can be quite talkative when he's excited, and much of his verbiage boils down to his enthusiasm for smells.

Another thing Bubalou likes to say is "I'm a bad boy!" He says this with great pride because, while cute and puffy and completely incapable of committing a vindictive act, Bubalou likes to think he has a wild side. He would never overtly disobey his humans (although he's stupid enough to misunderstand pretty much every command you give him), but he doesn't necessarily like to come when called. So when he's out wandering in nature, if he's far enough away from you, he'll pretend he doesn't hear you yelling his name. He'll just keep happily sniffing the ground, ignoring you completely. You know he can hear you, but he knows he's just far enough away to get away with it. Likewise, whenever he's out of sight, he takes advantage of that solitude to pee on something. Other than cuddling, his favorite pastime might very well be depositing his bodily waste in as many locations as he possibly can. When you come home to his latest masterpiece, he'll come running up to you, tail wagging, with a smile on his face, and you can just hear it in your head: "Look what I did! I'm a bad boy!"

Jack Jack, on the other hand, seems to have a healthy fear of being a bad boy, as evidenced by his submissive cowering when I come home to a mess (even if Bubalou made it!) so he would never go around congratulating himself for his misbehavior. Although personally I think his tagline should be, "I don't wanna do it," because he never wants to do anything except lie on the bed, that is not how things shook out. Instead Jack Jack's personal phrase is any variation on "I love grass! And girls!"

Jack Jack has an inordinate love for grass. If you take him outside (provided it's not raining, in which case he'll turn in to a statue and pout), he will shed his normally prissy demeanor and have an exuberant roll in the grass. The other thing he really likes is girls. He loves getting attention from any human really, but he gets so excited about meeting "pretty girls" that he loses control of his bladder when he sees them. Can you imagine what happens when he meets several pretty girls while he happens to be in a grassy area? Well, it has happened on the university campus, and I've seen him get so amped up that he's suddenly blasted out of the crowd and done a circuit around the mall that would make a greyhound proud.

Although Jack Jack has no chill around girls and grass, generally he thinks pretty highly of himself, and assumes that he is a necessary part of every activity. No matter what you are doing, he will stride right up to you and stand in a regal posture while staring you directly in the eyes. "I'm here," he'll say, with the unspoken part being "What are your other two wishes?" He uses this line especially frequently when you are eating, because he knows that it is his divine right to be fed your human food bite by bite, until it is all gone.

If subtlety fails, he will continue the conversation in a very courtly way: "I'm here, Daddy. I don't know if you noticed, but you have forgotten to feed me any of that delicious turkey you have on your plate. I suggest that you rectify this oversight promptly. I'm right here, waiting. I'm right here. I'm here."
"I can't believe you're taking all these pictures instead of feeding me."
Well, now, I could go on and on and on about the fictitious conversations I've had with my dogs, but I guess I'd better wrap this up into some kind of takeaway. And that is the following: It can be fun to have dogs. It can be fun to talk about your dogs. But the funnest of all is talking like you are your dogs!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Loves and Loathes of my life

It is time to rhapsodize. Naturally, it is also time to complain, but we'll get to that in a minute. First, I'd like to tell you about some of the loves of my life.

Loves of my life

  1. Bubbles

  2. As in air bubbles rising up through a liquid. While floating soap bubbles are fun to create and chase around like a toddler (yes, I'm 33, and yes, I still sometimes chase bubbles), I am particularly amazed by how bubbles look when you're underwater and you see them rising up around you. They don't look at all like those perfect round bubbles I'm always doodling—rather, they flatten out like mushroom caps and wiggle their way awkwardly to the surface.They remind me of cute little jellyfish. When I first conceived this list, I thought that was all I was going to have to say about bubbles, but then I noticed these in the bottom of my Diet Coke on an airplane.

    Aren't they just the most lovely little spheres?
  3. Lists

    While we're on the topic of this list, let's talk about how much I love lists in general. I have a whole category for them in my blog. I have 199 notes in Evernote (at this very moment), many of which are lists. I love articles in list format (they call them "listicles" now, though I'm not sure I'm ready to adopt that term into my vocabulary), I love keeping lists to keep me organized, and even the way a short, concise bulleted list looks. Whoever thought up the idea of a list surely deserves a spot in the top ten greatest inventors of all time!
  4. Color gradients

    There was a time when color gradients were a very popular thing to do in design (it happened to be while I was in design school!)—so popular that our classmate who was already a professional designer warned us all against using them (that and drop shadows) unless we had a very good reason for doing so. For a few years, that scared me off of using gradients, but I love them! Who am I to go against my true nature? There's something inherently soothing about the smooth progression from one color to another that I can't explain, but only enjoy. To celebrate, here's a picture of one of the first digital gradients I ever employed in my art!
  5. The heater in my office

    It's summer now, but winter will be here soon enough, and rather than find something about it to complain about (as I usually do in my "loves and loathes posts), I'm going to take the positive route and mention something that's nice about it: my personal heater in my office. Despite the wide variance in comfortable human temperature preferences, most office buildings nonetheless try to set a sitewide temperature that suits a majority of the inhabitants – which never includes me – but in our building (or at least many parts of it), each individual room has its own heating/air-conditioning unit. This means that I'm free to set my office temperature to 80 in the winter (it never quite reaches 80, but at least it tries) and turn off the air completely in the summer. Of the many things I really appreciate about my job, this is definitely up there near the top. One can be so much more productive when one's fingers are not frozen stiff!

Loathes of my life

  1. Clattering dishes together

    I absolutely can't stand the sound that occurs when I am putting away dishes and I accidentally knock two of them together. Strangely, I used to work in a restaurant and the sound never bothered me, even though it was a pretty much constant racket. I am fairly good at ignoring loud noises, as long as they are occurring ambiently, but apparently, one type of noise I can't tune out is one that I make myself. It's enough to make me want to replace all my dishes with plastic!
  2. Everything about sunscreen

    Sun avoidance is a regular part of my lifestyle these days, but it's somewhat disheartening that I have yet to find a sunscreen I don't despise. The skin experts annoyingly bombard me with reminders that "even if you're in the shade, you're still getting exposed to UV light," and "windows don't block out harmful rays," and "You should be wearing sunscreen every day—no exceptions!" These reminders are annoying because they put me between a rock and a hard place—between blatantly ignoring the advice that could save me from both visible aging and cancer, and having to wear a nasty goop on my skin all day every day! Ugh! Don't try to offer a suggestion for a sunscreen that's less disgusting than the others, because they're all disgusting! Texture not even withstanding (although I have lots of complaints in that department too), they all stink, and I mean that literally. The chemical sunscreens smell like chemicals, and the physical sunscreens smell like dust. No matter how much perfume has been added, there's no getting around the fact that the active ingredients make me feel like I've doused myself in my own personal nightmare. Why does living healthy have to be so unpleasant!?
  3. Going to the bathroom at class-change time

    While it's great to have a personal heater, there are of course things I dislike about my job. One of them is the very people that make my employment possible: the students on campus! Again, because it is summer, at present I don't need to deal with this problem, but during the semester I am routinely inconvenienced. Like any normal human, I prefer to perform my bodily functions in private, but more often than I can explain, just as I am heading to the loo, I am rushed by a stream of students all leaving class at the same time, crowding into the bathroom and completely ruining my peace and solitude! I actually memorized the university's class schedule so that I could save my bathroom breaks for an off-time, but it seems like at least once every day, I slip up and have to face the herd. Sometimes when I get up to use the bathroom, I immediately turn around and go back to my office, to wait another 10 minutes until the hallway has cleared. Speaking of bathrooms...
  4. People playing on their phones while leaving the bathroom without washing their hands

    No, really! This just happened yesterday! I was in the bathroom washing my hands, when a person left the stall and passed me (and all the sinks) to go have a look in the full-length mirror, poking away at her cell phone the whole time. Like, ew, which hand did you wipe with, because you're using both of them on your phone right now! I cannot say for sure that this particular person didn't return to the sinks after I left, but I do know that it was already too late for her phone. I can't believe that educated adults (hello, this was at a university!), living in a world with ebola, still aren't washing their hands after using the toilet. This could possibly be the absolute number-one item on my list of loathes...ever.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Turn and face the sprain

When I was a kid, I thought it would be the coolest thing in the world to sprain a joint or break a bone. I saw so many friends and classmates with their (signable!) casts and their finger splints, and I wanted a piece of that action! When it finally happened, it was anticlimactic (my brother stepped on my little finger, and I didn't even know it was broken until a doctor confirmed it looked like an old break, long after it was healed). Now that I'm a seasoned connoisseur of musculoskeletal injuries and they just keep on coming, I'm pretty sure it's not cool at all.

When I was young and all starry-eyed about the idea of showing up to school in a cast, I thought it would be a sort of badge of honor—like, "Look at what happened to me! I was doing something so awesome and exciting that I caused serious damage to my body in the process!" However, in real life, I've never acquired an injury in an awesome or exciting way. Among my most notable injuries: I broke my toe getting out of bed, I sprained my back because I coughed while bending over, and I sprained my ankle dancing to Gangnam Style. These kinds of mishaps do not serve to bring me the glory I always imagined. In fact (dancing to Gangnam Style!?), they're downright embarrassing.

My latest injury was acquired in an equally unimpressive way: I sprained my ankle falling off the couch.

At least I can say that this injury was caused by altruism. I was giving the dogs water when I noticed one of their bowls had quite a lot of hair and particles floating around in it. Rather than force the dogs to drink hair and particles, I thoughtfully dumped the bowl into one of my plants so I could give the dogs fresh water. The plants, as you might recall, sit in my bay window behind a grate, requiring anyone who wishes to water them to stand on the couch and lean over the grate—a precarious position to say the least. I handled this acrobatic feat with aplomb, but the trouble came when I turned back to return to solid ground. As I was lowering my left foot in preparation for landing, it got caught on the yoga mat that I use as a waterproof pad under the slipcover. The slipcover was not on the couch at this time, because it had recently been washed (removal of a urine spot courtesy of Bubalou), so the yoga mat was free to fold upward under the pressure of my right foot, and snag my left foot on its descent. My left foot did not handle this acrobatic feat with much aplomb, as it twisted quite painfully before my knees collapsed. The subsequent tumble was surely a sight to behold, as the half-full dog-water bottle and dog bowl I was holding all went flying to the ground along with my body. So to recap, I get karma points for suffering this grievous injury whilst providing water to both dogs and plants, and the dogs get all the blame.

Dogs. Ruining my life on a regular basis!

In case you were worried, I don't think this is a very serious sprain. I can still walk (limp) on my foot and run it through an approximation of its usual range of motion, and I was able to bike (slowly) to work today. I'm sure I'll be back to my usual tricks in no time flat, but in the meantime, "flat" is the operative word. I am pretty certain that all those lovely high-heeled sandals I have been so excited about wearing are going to have to go into hibernation for the foreseeable future.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The art of compromise: a bike-shopping story

As I mentioned in my post about switching from Greenie to Snowflake, when I was shopping for a bike, I wanted everything to be perfect. I had a long list of criteria to meet:

  • It had to have a step-through (women's) frame, since I do a lot of riding in skirts
  • It had to have fat, durable tires, since I'd seen other people's road bike tires go flat over practically nothing too many times
  • It needed to be able to accommodate my front basket, rear rack, and fenders
  • It could not be a "cruiser" —they are for people who want to ride slow, and I have places to go!
  • It had to be lightweight—my old bike is a monstrous clunker, and I've had enough of wrestling that around Metro to be ready for a change.
  • It must not have a front suspension, which just adds weight and yet another moving part to keep maintained.
The preceding criteria were basically must-haves. I would be very reluctant to compromise on any of them, but there were a few other things I wanted that were really just strong preferences.

  • I wanted lever shifters instead of twist shifters, because I'd used another bike once where I was constantly changing the gears by accident, just by leaning too hard on the handlebar.
  • I preferred V-brakes over disc brakes since I understand how to maintain them.
  • I wanted a fun color. Though I was willing to consider dark and boring colored bikes, I always felt reluctant to make a purchase, because they didn't spark joy!
  • I preferred fewer gears. My last bike had a lot of problems with shifting, and I basically only ever used 3 out of my 21 gears anyway, so anything more seemed like overkill.

Turns out, a lot of these criteria are mutually exclusive. Try finding a bike with fat tires but without a front suspension. They are few and far between. Try finding a speed-oriented bike that also carries less than 21 gears. I still haven't!

As I shopped (over a period of years), eventually, I had to give up on some of my less-important criteria to make room for the most important ones, which I distilled down to light, fast(ish), and durable enough for jumping curbs and surviving stretches of loose gravel in my commute.

I stopped worrying (as much) about getting fat tires and started looking at hybrids with "32c" tires, which are narrower than my old ones but not so crazy skinny that they'll go flat hitting a bump on the pavement (as happened to my ex-boyfriend once!). I considered frames with a horizontal top tube (and started brainstorming ways to still be able to ride in a skirt). I conceded that maybe a front basket wasn't the best method of transporting stuff, and started looking at bikes with less clearance between the handlebars and front tire. 

This was also when I added the price limit I mentioned in my last post: Although at first, I'd been mostly looking at fairly costly bikes from REI, this round of shopping, I decided that my new bike had to cost under 400 dollars. Those who know my shopping habits might be shocked that I'd even consider a bike in that price range when you can get a bike for less than 200. But those who haven't been shopping for bikes for the past few years might be excused for not knowing that every bike in the low price range gets terrible reviews. Apparently they go out of tune very rapidly (if they can ever be properly tuned in the first place), and after having spent the last 3 years on an out-of-tune bike, I wanted something that I could keep in good working order with minimal effort. It seems to be true that in the bike market, more expensive bikes have better components, meaning less finicky maintenance. The 430-500 dollar range seemed to be about the MSRP of a decent bike with some measure of reliability, and of course, after I started finding those models in end-of-season sales for 300-400, I decided that was the range for me. Not so cheap that it would fall apart right away, but not so expensive that I would regret it forever if I hated something about it.

And no matter what bike I picked, there was a good chance I would hate something about it. Since none of the bikes I found met all my criteria, I was considering the purchase to be essentially an experiment. I would find out what I liked about the new bike and what I didn't, and then after a suitable amount of time, if I didn't like everything, I would trade up to a more expensive (better made) bike that ticked exactly the right boxes.

So after years of deliberation, and several months of this-time-it's-for-real hardcore shopping, in the end, I decided on Snowflake.

Snowflake was a pretty good compromise at $295.74. Way cheaper than I ever expected, it also was better than a lot of the bikes I had considered in a number of ways. It did have the women's frame and it had some of the widest tires (at 36c) I've found, barring a mountain bike (and it turns out I rather like these tires. They have a bigger rolling diameter than my old tires, making it easier to move fast—one of the most important criteria in my daily commute).

True, I had to take the twist shifters (which I still dislike) and the white color (which is better than black or grey, but still less preferable than any other color I can think of), and the excessive number of gears (which have proven to be my least favorite thing about this bike—more on that later) but I feel like I spent a little money to learn a lot, while simultaneously getting a bike that's a solid improvement over the last one.

Committing to purchase something is one of the scariest things I ever have to do (just under making phone calls), so I'm relieved that this purchase went off without a hitch (that is, unless you count the failed purchase from Amazon). Now that it's over, I can focus on riding. Guess what I'll be blogging about next!