Monday, March 24, 2014

I don't do hobbies very well

Years ago I got into rock climbing. Ordinarily this would be No Big Deal, as many other people were into rock climbing at the time. All I should have needed was a harness, shoes, maybe a chalk bag, and partial ownership of a rope. But that is not how I do things. I had to have my own rope, rope bag, helmet, spare harness (just in case), webbing, carabiners, ascenders, belay devices, and eventually a rappelling rope, because you know: the elasticity is different.

Then came computers. I worked as a tech at several PC shops around town, so I collected everything I could get my hands on, while my rock climbing equipment gathered dust. I had, at one time, a computer room with no heat or AC that stayed warm in the Winter and blistering in the Summer because it had 8 workstations in about 80-sq-ft of space. This obviously wouldn't do, so I built a rack with help from a friend, and grew my collection to 11 workstations, a KVM to manage it all, a domain (for educational purposes, dontcha know), a huge homemade L-shaped desk built on 4x4 posts, laser printers, color printers, laptops, Macs, and I think at one point a Linux box that I was never quite sure what to do with.

Then came fitness. In 2002 (I think?) I signed up for a gym membership. Numbers became my obsession. Weight, weights, reps, cardio. 3 nights per week, 2.5 hours at a time. Rock climbing equipment came back out for a brief foray, but how can you track numbers if you're out getting dirty on the rocks? You can't: that's how. So back into the shed it went, and over the next 3 years I got into a shape that I was VERY pleased with. I even ran my first 5K. Numbers were my life.

Then I found a new set of numbers. Horsepower. Torque. Lap times. Towing capacities. PSI. Fuel-flow rates. I (have) spent 8 years (so far) chasing automotive performance numbers, while blithely ignoring the financial numbers (I do track them, but it's far more depressing).

When the race car broke, that attention turned to slot cars. 15 digitally-chipped cars, ~80 meters of track, a purpose-built 8'x8' table, and 2 digital powerbases can attest to that. Since we won't have full-time access to the house until June or July, though, that's on hold. Le sigh.

So when I decided to buy my son a new bike a few months ago, it should have come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that I would obsess over it. They tell you to buy the biggest frame your kid can fit on, so that your kid will get the most use out of the bike. But at his size, he could barely hold the steel bikes that fit him upright. So I looked at aluminum and bought him the nicest thing I could afford: a Specialized Hot Rock 24'. It's nice, light, and while it's huge for an 8-year-old, the seat post fits low enough into the frame to just barely fit him. This bike should honestly last him several years.

So if he can have a nice bike, why shouldn't I? Uh oh.

I got it in my head about a month ago that my old bike, a Roadmaster Savage 21-speed, is just painful to use. It was inherited, so it was never sized properly, and half of the hardware has spent way too much time in the elements. Riding with my son would not be fun on the ol' rusty girl.

I started looking, and realized that I didn't want to spend more than $1000, because I know how poorly I do hobbies. I looked at Specialized, Trek, and ultimately a Giant Roam 2. It has hydraulic brakes, Shimano Acera shifters, all aluminum construction, a 27-speed drivetrain, and rang in way under the prices of similarly-equipped bikes from other brands.

But as soon as the credit card came out, I realized I'd done it again. 4 days have passed since I bought the bike, and in that time I've ordered luggage racks & luggage (for picnics in the park!), lights, lock, bottle cage, cell phone mount, tools, gloves, and I'm starting to look at cycling clothes (blech). I've found an app that can track my rides and report on fitness numbers (because after gaining ~20lbs in the past 2 years, that obsession is back in full force, too), and I'm actively looking for parent/child cycling groups. I found a bike-rack that Katelyn's parents gave me a couple years ago which now lives in the Miata's trunk, and Alastair and I went for rides both Saturday and Sunday.

And now that I've ridden with him, I'm getting itchy to upgrade his bike. With only 7 speeds, he does a great job climbing, but has no cruise speed to speak of (front derailleur: $$$), and his rim-brakes are always on, even when they're not, so he cannot coast very well (disc brakes: $$).

But so far, while my butt may be a bit sore, we are LOVING our bikes. Alastair has never really had an opportunity to get out and ride free, and the idea of tossing the bikes on the back of the car and just going out to explore has really resonated with him. And now that I can get my all-important data, I think we've found our 2014 obsession.

Maybe my 2015 obsession will be 'saving for retirement', because so far that's not a hobby I've excelled at.

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