Monday, March 9, 2015

The Rodriguez Rainier: An Update/Mini Review-to-Date

Sometimes, it's actually quite difficult for me to articulate how I feel about a particular bicycle. Generally the words and thoughts come together at some point in time, but there are certain bikes that seem to need more time and clarity than others. Often, this has little to do with the bike itself, but has more to do with my bodily injuries at the time or my mental state of being. Such has been the case with the second-round custom road bike.

When we left off last year with my apologetically long posts regarding my first custom built road bike, I wasn't sure where anything was headed. I hoped for better results during the second go-round with the Rodriguez, but I hadn't quite received the new ride, so I couldn't provide any sort of mental relief for anyone reading along and/or sympathizing with my bike plight.
The bike arrived in November, just as we were hunkering down for a bigger snow storm. It was cold, icy, wet, and I didn't get to ride it much at all. In fact, I only took it out for a quick spin initially around a couple of blocks, just for my own sense of (at least some) satisfaction. Of course, pedaling around two neighborhood blocks does not an opinion make (or at least not a very practical/usable opinion), and so I tried to steal some time away to figure out exactly how and if this new experiment was going to work for me.

A day came along that was clear enough that I could take a 10-miler without too much trouble, but again, it still wasn't enough to form any thoughtful opinions. A few weeks later, I managed a 15-mile ride, but none of these were long enough or close enough together that I could really feel my way around this new bicycle. I was getting frustrated.

Then, we started in with home renovations and the move, and riding a bicycle was about the last thing I had time to do. It was unfortunate to say the least.

In early February though, we had an unseasonable warm streak run through the state and I finally had a break from the long days of renovating and enough time to head out for more than a dozen or so miles. Of course, now the issue was my body. Not only was I aching from the projects at home, but I hadn't ridden more than a few miles in months. I also hadn't formally exercised in nearly the same amount of time, so to head out on a longer ride seemed nearly impossible.

Rather than stress myself out or feel some sort of imagined pressure to do a long distance, I decided to just take a shorter ride (about 15 miles) so that I wouldn't fatigue too early and lose any sort of objectivity in regard to the Rodriguez.

Unfortunately for me, my powers of calculation were severely lacking on this particular day and the ride ended up closer to 30 miles. This is what happens when one has no sense of distance traveled (and when one puts the GPS in her back pocket and cannot see it while riding). If it hasn't been made clear from previous posts, I am a horrible, horrible guesstimater of mileage. On many occasions I have believed Sam and I have traveled but a few miles, only to quickly be informed that it is many more than I'd thought. Something is definitely off with my mental distance calculator, but I'm sure it has more to do with the fact that I'm generally lost in my own thoughts and paying little attention to the mileage traveled. It works both to my aid and detriment, depending on the situation.
It's difficult to get a good photo of the colors. They are so gorgeous in person, but I find that it just doesn't quite translate with the camera.
Anyway, as I was on this would-be-15-turned-30-miler, I focused on paying attention to my position, the way I felt and any problem areas that might exist. From the start of the ride (before the start of the ride, I should say) my hands were in some severe trouble. I'd been having a lot of problems with hand cramps from renovation work and often woke with hands I could not move or flex at all. I'll admit, this was probably not the best time to be taking the Rodriguez out for a test spin, but I just needed to know that everything was going to be okay as spring was getting closer every day and I still wasn't sure what I thought of this bike.

As I traveled down the road, I was aware that my hands were having issues, but I also noticed how comfortable I was on the Rodriguez. Despite all of the self-inflicted body pain, it was easy to feel just how well this bike fit me. I was actually - dare I say it - comfortable. Given that I hadn't ridden a bike at all for any purpose for nearly two months, I was shocked. I expected to feel some kind of need to adjust something, but it seemed as though if my hands hadn't been in such dire straits, I'd actually have a winner here.

Could it be? Could this actually fit properly? It seems improbable that a person could hit the nail on the head without having ever met me, nor had me ride one of their bikes, nor had I gone through any kind of elaborate system of tests; but here I was, pretty sure that this bike was turning out to be pretty fabulous.

The Rainier model is advertised as more of a Randonneur bicycle. It's intended to be a quick bike, but it's also stable and allows for fenders, a triple crank, or pretty much whatever one might need to make for a pleasant ride.  I honestly didn't think it was possible to have a bike that would feel perky and stable - and actually fit well - all at the same time.

For those who read my original post about the former custom, you may recall my concern with removing a hand to grab my water bottle when riding. It's not even a hint of an issue on this bike at all. I can descend with ease, remove a hand (or even two) to fetch what I need and not feel as though I'm going to lose control at any moment.

There was some discussion initially about whether to build this bike with a double or triple crank. Obviously, this could be an argued topic, but since I have issues climbing (and living at the base of the Rocky Mountains doesn't exactly help matters), it really made sense to make my life easier with a triple.

I also debated for a bit whether or not to put fenders on the bike, but given that it arrived at the end of the autumn season, it seemed like a good idea. Although they can easily be removed, I have a feeling I will just leave them on year-round as they really don't add to the weight and it's always nice to stay a little cleaner when riding.

The drive train is set up with a mix of parts from Campagnolo, SRAM and Origin8. The wheels are 650c and are working out pretty great to this juncture. Given that the budget wouldn't allow for the finest/greatest at the time of purchase, I think it's actually a wonderful set up; and, over time I'll be able to upgrade things like the crank and so on as funds become available (Are funds ever "available?"). I was really grateful that the shop was very willing to work with me in the budgetary constraints, point out the items that I might personally find beneficial, and remind me that parts can always change down the road.
Since that slightly longer test ride, I've been able to pedal more miles and I am still really happy with the decision to go with Rodriguez, and to give a custom build another shot. I really wish that I hadn't gone through the first round which would've saved both physical pain and money, but I think the experience was a valuable one (Plus, I have the added bonus of sharing all the "fun" with all of you) and definitely added to the bike-knowledge/experience reserves.

This process renewed my faith in bike builders (or at least in this bike builder) and has helped remind me why I love to ride. I was reaching a point that I wasn't sure I would ever ride a bike again for more than a handful of miles, but this Rainier really fits better than I could have hoped. It can't fix the ailments my body has, but I am convinced that the work done prior to the build and manufacture to make those problems less of an issue has made all the difference.

I have named the Rodriguez "Neo." The original intention was not to name him after The Matrix character (Though, as he was known as "The One" it is just as applicable), but rather after Neapolitan ice cream (leave it to the chubby kid to name her bike after ice cream, I swear [shaking head]). Although I chose the color combination, it didn't really dawn on me until it arrived how much it reminded me of the tri-colored ice cream. But, since the thought was then in my head and it seemed to fit, I decided to simply go with it.

This bike truly could be the one though, and that makes me smile. I won't win any speed records on this bike, but that has far more to do with the rider than the bike, and I've always enjoyed rides (be it errands, fitness, or otherwise) when I take things a bit slower and enjoy the scenery along the way. If I want to push myself, I can, or I can simply pedal along. It's always nice to have that choice though.

I'm anxiously awaiting warmer months and the opportunity to really get out on a more regular basis, but until then, I'm thankful for the days that allow me to just get out and enjoy. I'm sure I'll have more opinions as I'm able to ride more regularly, but it's such a relief to know this wasn't all in vain.

17 comments:

  1. Phew!!! I am relieved -- and so happy for you -- I actually shed a tear while reading this! I know from personal experience how hard it can be to identify and assess the characteristics of the first bike that does not hurt you. I got out on my own for a few hours yesterday - like you, body and fitness has suffered a lot this winter but I arrived back home remembering all the reasons why I love riding my bike. I don't think I'd have been thinking that, in my state, if it'd been any other bike I'd been riding.

    And I totally love the name - I'd been thinking chocolate and strawberries from the first photo you posted all those months back but hadn't really noticed the vanilla as well! :)

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    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who went to chocolate and strawberry. It honestly didn't cross my mind until I physically saw the colors together, but, you know, all good things. :O)

      I'm glad you were able to get out and ride a bit. I get a bit frustrated through winter because it's very hit or miss and I start missing a lot more than I'd prefer. We're warming a bit this week though so I'm excited to be able to get out more.

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  2. I am so glad it is working out well for you, GE. You deserve it after all that heartache with the Indy Fab! From what you say, this new bike is fast, stable and comfortable ... Seems to be what you were hoping for. Hope your renovations get done in time for spring, so that you can get out for longer rides on the new bike!!

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    1. Thanks, Stephanie. It is definitely becoming everything I'd hoped for, so that is exciting. I'm definitely excited to get in some longer rides in the near future. :O)

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  3. Congratulations, the Bike looks absolutely fabulous. The only thing it needs now is a lovely basket. Hey, you can snag that one off the Betty Foy!

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    1. :) Hmmm...not a horrible idea - though it probably should stay with the Betty.

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  4. How did you hear of Rodriguez bikes in the first place ?

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    1. I believe the first time I discovered Rodriguez was actually back when I was doing research before I purchased my Rivendell in mid-2010. At that time, I wasn't ready to seriously consider a road bike, so I didn't think much about it, but I kept coming back to them time and again for answers about other issues or questions I had (there's a lot of information on their website).

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  5. I love seeing a set up like this with the bars above the saddle. I think this would help my own tingling hand problem. Enjoy.

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    1. Sharon,
      Thanks! We spent a great deal of time talking about my hands because of pre-existing damage. For the most part, I've always tried to keep my handlebars at least level with the saddle, if not higher to help with these issues.

      While tingling hands can be caused by a variety of things, if you don't experience any other problems or pains while riding, raising the handlebars might very well help out.

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  6. Wonderful! I'm so pleased that it seems to be working for you so far. Neo is an absolutely gorgeous bike. I'm eager to hear more after you've had a chance to make some longer rides. Spring has finally arrived in Memphis, so I'm hoping that you are also starting to get some lovely days.

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    1. Somehow, the weather app on my phone got changed to Nashville, TN the other day. I was looking at it thinking nothing of it because the temperatures were so similar to here. Then I noticed some rain the following day and finally took notice that it wasn't set for the right city. I have no idea how that happened, but it was funny to see that the temperatures really weren't far off at all. :O)

      I am pleased that the bike is working out well also. I got in another ride this afternoon on him, and thus far things are going well. It was a good test today because I was kind of cranky and not wanting to ride. It was a slow ride (as it was an "errandonnee" activity for Chasing Mailboxes current fun), but regardless it was nice to ride it to have another chance to check things out. I look forward to sharing more down the line.

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  7. If I may, I'd change the crankset with a more leg-friendly 46/36/24 combo and a compact handlebar such as the FSA Omega model.

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    1. +1 for compact bars. I wasn't entirely happy with the FSA Omega, which I used for about 18 months on my Pacer - I didn't find the curves/shoulders very comfortable. On myEnigma, I have another FSA compact bar, a now-discontinued model from their Wing range with the flattened tops which I absolutely love and highly recommend.

      As for gearing - it all depends on how steep GE is willing to go and how fast she likes to cruise on the flats/rollers. I spin out far too quickly on 48x11 (my Cross Check which has 48/36/2 triple) and on 50x12 (Pacer) so for the Enigma I went with a 53/39/30 triple and 12-36 10-speed cassette. Incredibly versatile and thankfully low enough for the Chilterns where I live.

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    2. For the record, the handlebars are FSA compact K-wing's (which were the recommendation of the builder). I have not been at all fond of them and it will probably be one thing that will get changed out. I just cannot find a good hand position (for me, regardless of the changes I make to them) and while they were recommended because of my hand and wrist issues, they have actually not helped matters. The photo of the whole bike makes the bars look gigantic, but I think it's because of the angle. They are not at all as big in real life.

      As for the crank, Rebecca is spot on. I've had 46x36x24 on the Hillborne in the past and it's just not quite enough to get me going when I would like to move a bit quicker. The Rodriguez currently has 52x42x30 and it seems to be working well. The Hillborne currently has a similar set up with an old triple we had sitting around and when it gets replaced (soon, because it's worn out and rusty) I will likely replace it with the same.

      I appreciate the ability to spin with the smaller teeth on the rings, but it simply doesn't work for me on flats and rollers as I find myself getting frustrated with spinning. Having the triple though gives me enough on the low end to be able to get up hills that I would have a much more difficult time climbing.

      It's all preference, of course, and having smaller rings is sometimes beneficial, depending on the bike, situation, rider, etc. Some want a standard double crank instead because it forces him/her to work harder. Some prefer a compact double (which is better for me, but still not ideal). My personal preference is to be able to spin when I'd like to and work harder (or move quicker as is often the case) when desired.

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  8. Replies
    1. Thanks, Cecily. I'm really enjoying it. :O)

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