There’s something about looking at a ridiculously expensive bike leaning against the wall of a dingy, cut-rate motel room that just feels a little dirty.
I was sitting in a tiny, dark, airless room in Cortez, wondering whether I should put the bike in the bed and just take the floor for myself. After all, I didn’t want to ding her. Or get dirt from our crunchy little carpet on her flashy Zipp wheels.
Really, what’s a fine bike like you doing in a place like this?
Let me tell you. Since my ancient Jamis is starting to fall apart, I decided this tour would be a fine time to test out some new wheels — not to buy, but just to use for free and give my old girl a rest on a few days. So Monday, I slung my leg over this high-end SRAM — a beautiful, slick bike with high-profile Zipp wheels and shifting that is so smooth I’m not sure I’ve even changed gears.
When they were measuring me up for my temporary ride, I casually asked how business was doing. “Oh, we’re usually a bit slow on registration day,” said my helpful SRAM tech, “but once word gets out that we’re offering free test rides on $12,000 bikes, it picks up a little.”
My jaw dropped to my knees. $12,000? My car’s not even worth $12,000 at this point.
“Just bring it back by 1-ish tomorrow, or we’ll charge your credit card,” he added, as I gingerly walked the bike away.
That’s the downside of these free rides: you’re petrified of leaving so much as a ding in its carbon-fiber frame. I brought it back to our dingy little hotel room and leaned it up against my bed, where I stared at it through the night, trying to establish that it was still there. During the ride, I would pass people and leave about 20 feet between me and the other riders; at aid stations, I almost left the Portajohn door open a crack so I could keep an eye on it while I did my business.
And when I finally wheeled it into the vendor lot at the high school in Durango, I was a mix of bereft and hugely relieved. They asked me how my ride was, and I replied that I loved it and was going to miss it.
“Would you like me to take a picture of you with the bike?” the kind tech asked.
“Sure!” I said, and dutifully posed with a big smile.
Well, I got my picture. Of the bike, anyway… it’s a little more expensive than me, after all.
— Ingrid Muller