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Interesting Internet stuff

May 22, 2011
by Erin B

Two very interesting things happened in my internet world yesterday.  First I was contacted by M, who lives in BC and reads my blog, after she had a bad experience shopping for a trike.  She wanted a pep-talk and shopping advice.  I haven’t seen M in years since I lived out in her town in 2001.  She is a really nice lady and was a very kind to me when I moved there.

After a few emails back and forth, M agreed to let me post her story here and (with a few identifier changing details) on the Bikeforums.  I give the Bikeforums in general a bit of flack.  I really do think they could be MUCH better moderated.  Except for the Clydesdale/Athena section.  There is actually a area in the bike forums for cyclist who are 200lbs+.  And they have zero tolerance for rudeness.  Zero.

I don’t really think about my size much.  I worry more about what I can and can’t do.  Which makes it odd to me that two different sets of people in the last month have referred to me as the “token skinny friend” or the “not so bitchy skinny bitch in the room.”  If you really pushed me, I would not describe myself as skinny.  Average at best.  But that is besides the point.  I think it’s a little freaky that more than one person would describe me that way in such a short time, one of whom needed immediate bike advice and one who had previously asked about it.

I like biking.  I think there is a lot you can do to make a chain driven bicycle-like device that will accommodate all different sizes, shapes and abilities.  I have previously mentioned that we get T a modified trike so that he could bike with Cerebral Palsy.  I don’t think I have talked about what we did to get it to work for him.

T started with a Norco Parklane because that was the only available adult trike we could find at the time.  Then we completely regeared it. When I say we, I mean the fine gentlemen at Bike Doctor.  The front gear was replaced with a bigger one with more teeth so he could go faster and the rear gears were redone so that he as one really bike cog that is about 1 – 1 gear ratio.  That means one turn of the pedals is one turn of the wheel.  This is a really, really easy gear.  He uses it for going up the steep bridges we have in town.  The other four rear cogs get him through the usual settings.

Only having rear gears is nice for non racers because it is like driving a car.  You start at one and as you speed up, you shift up to a higher gear.  The trick is remembering to shift back to first gear before you stop pedaling at a stop.

I have been completely spoiled in that until the Nishiki, all the bikes in my adult life have been internally gear hubs.  The advantage of that is you don’t have a derailler, so you chain never falls off and you can instantly change the tension in the gear box.  If you are stopped and you forgot to shift down, you click the shifter and the tension changes and you are instantly in the lower gear.  I really believe once you try one, you will never go back to a derailler for commute or city style biking.

Since we bought T’s trike, that internal gear system has become available for trikes too, it’s even now available with a coaster brake 3 speed combination.  Coaster brakes let you stop by pedaling back, like on kids bikes.  They take a little while to break (ha!) in, but once they do, they work in rain or snow.  They don’t experience the problems that caliper brakes are prone to.

Other things that have changed in trike construction since we were shopping for T are the electric assist kits are now more available.  This is a tiny engine that rides on your trike to help compensate for the extra weight of a trike compared to a bike.  In fact there is even one triker I see around town a lot who uses his electric assist most of the time to turn his trike into electric wheel chair that is easier on his pride.  When he can pedal, he does.  When he can’t pedal, he doesn’t have to worry about being stranded.

And where T’s trike is a front half and a back half bolted together, (which is fine) there are now industrial trikes out there with a single welded frame.  This means less maintenance making sure the bolts are tight and also lets the trike carry more cargo.

So cycling is low impact and you can get trikes that are traditional upright or recumbent or half way in between,  They come in all sizes and colors.   If you need one modified for mobility requirements and are a registered person of disability with Revenue Canada, you even get a nice tax deduction if your doctor thinks it could be helpful.  Plus there is a really great support system out there for any Athena sized gals who might be thinking of taking up the sport.  Why wouldn’t you give it a try?

Here it comes – the nasty side of real life.  M contacted me because her local bike shop is staffed by insensitive jerks.  Yes, I understand that no bike shop can stock all models, but the one she went to was just nasty to make her go away when she was asking intelligent questions about trikes for cuddly ladies.  There are people out there who I will only describe as door knobs because my daughters read this and I don’t want to go on record for using the kind of language that is going through my head right now.

I just … it breaks my heart and I don’t understand.  In 20 minutes of internet research (and I’m not THAT good at it) I found a few trikes that would be perfect for M.   If the shop had just said they would look into it for her and let her know.  They could have ordered something in with a mark up and had a guaranteed sale.

And bikes aren’t cheap.  A good bike in any category (road bike, city bike, mountain bike or trike) start at $1000 and go up depending on features.  Very cheap compared to cars, but very expensive compared to groceries.  How many bike bells would they have to sell to match the income from M coming in and saying basically “here’s what I want, take my money please”?

Never mind that I am average,  so are you, and you, and you and certainly M.  There are lots of women out there in every size.  The shop COULD have ordered two and used good word of mouth to become a plus sized bicycle shop.  M is no shrinking violet, she would have been such good press for them.  Heck, the first thing she said after hearing the term Athena (and realizing that is a real category) was how much she wanted to organize a Athena ride in her city.  She has the contacts to do it, too.

So M is getting trike, although she is not sure which one.  Last I heard she was favouring this model, because it comes in a selection of colours.  She likes the lavender and is thinking of a custom silver flame paint job (sorry honey, that is just TOO girlie for me).  More power to her!

Cycling is not just for skinny bitches and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!


In other news.  T bought me my own domain, set it up on his server and installed WordPress.  I don’t have it up and running yet and it isn’t Cast Iron Kitchen.  All will be revealed.  Just be patient.  I’m so excited!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Lorene permalink
    May 24, 2011 1:58 am

    Oh that ticks me off just hearing about it! I hope she gave that shop a piece of her mind.

    Exciting, your own domain! I look forward to seeing it!!!

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