Between the Seattle International Film Festival, my younger sister visiting, my older sister arriving from out of town, a birthday event for myself, visiting my friend Ian, rain, etc., I did not get out cycling at all last week. I did manage to kayak a few mornings. Anyway, since my 100-mile ride last weekend, my hope was to somehow maintain my fitness level, so the "Flying Wheels" event might be a little easier for me.
The rumor was that "Flying Wheels" had a large number of hill climbs, somehow making 100 miles feel like 200. But after even going 70 miles (I went the wrong way out of Duvall, adding 4 miles to the 66 mile course) I didn't even feel it was in the same league as last weekend's century ride or quite as difficult as the hilly roads on Orcas Island. I wasn't disappointed about the event, it's just the emphasis was put on how hilly it was, but there was only about 5-6 miles of hill climbing, and only really one very long ascent.
I finally pointed out to Hitomi that on her bicycle were new lightweight Velocity Aerohead wheels I bought for her, which were on there since our Orcas Island trip. Although they are a different color and better built than the cheap wheels that came on her bicycle, she still hadn't noticed for a month that there were new wheels on her bicycle. I was hoping she'd eventually discover it, and appreciate it — and maybe give me a hug. But of course her reaction after I told her this was: "So what? My handlebars are too low." The theme has been, she wants a more relaxed frame, though I suggest we look into them, she isn't interested in really looking at bicycle shops locally, though she eventually sent me this link of city bicycles after I asked what she might be into.
Let's take a look at those frames: Japanese like the small 20" wheeled bicycles, which are stylistically interesting, but small wheels require additional suspension to ride smoothly, which adds weight. And I'm not sure how well small wheels would handle at high speed descents and hitting a pothole or curb. Some of the other frames on that site look pretty much like Hitomi's bicycle, though are equipped with straight handlebars and fatter tires. A straight handlebar is more casual-friendly looking but you lose a lot of possible handlebar positions. Additional hand positions helps on long rides and climbs. And although the tradition is a drop bar, there are many possible shapes. Take a look at Soma's handlebar selection in their store. Basically, for 20-30 minute rides, some of those "city bicycles" are perhaps more comfortable, but wouldn't really be too great for touring.
My idea of the perfect city bicycle would be: A relaxed "road frame" like a Soma Speedster, wider (28-30mm) slick tires, full fenders, a rear rack, metal toe clip pedals, a Shimano Nexus internal 8-speed shifter, a dynamo hub for the front light, bullhorn handlebars, a chain guard, and maybe a basket for the front. And maybe disc breaks for those rainy, muddy days? The internal shifter keeps it mechanically simple, and allows for a chain guard. With a dynamo you don't have to worry about battery power riding home at night. Though I like clipless pedals, maybe I'd like toe clips better, so I can wear my city shoes whenever.
(My dream city bicycle would be probably cost around $2500. And so I guess it wouldn't be fair to complain such a bicycle to the ones on the website, which are around $500.)
Despite her lack of love of her bicycle, Hitomi has been doing fine on it. Last weekend, she was climbing past many cyclists, who she said were a little surprised at getting dropped by somebody under 5' tall. (Or maybe because she's so casually dressed?) I, too, have been impressed at her climbing rate, especially when she took the first hill. Her cycling class is paying off. And even after 50 miles, she didn't seem especially tired, and managed to stay awake during our evening movie, Evening. She is definitely ready for the STP event.
One more note: The Flying Wheels ride had a lot of cyclists, maybe 1000 or more, and with all the traffic, there's a lot of people passing each other. Some are more impatient than others, especially the fastest of the groups. It would have been appreciated by both of us if some of the pack leader said "On your left" (with maybe a count of the group size) when passing, as we both were attempting to move left to pass cyclists as well. Unfortunately, given how the courses were designed and the times assigned. The longest distance (fastest) cyclists left earlier, but the return route was the same. And so in some cases 100-mile course groups ended up stuck behind many of the 50 and perhaps even the 25 mile course groups. All the bicycle traffic plus the car traffic on busy East Sammamish Boulevard got on my nerves a bit.