Sunday, 15 July 2012

To the bike shop!

In which our heroine spends a Sunday morning trying not to have a full on diva tantrum in a well-known bike shop...

I travel back in time in my mind.  Like the way a certain smell from your childhood instantly takes you to a moment you can picture with such clarity it shocks you, the word 'Unisex' has the same effect on me.  Without fail it transports me to 1991, the car park of St James Community Centre in Exeter, which on a Friday evening is the local youth club.

Picture the scene.  My mother has procured from dubious sources a highly flammable shell-suit each for my younger brother and I.  They are matching, and slightly too big.  They are a colour between sky blue and turquoise (Pantone 0821-U), and have neon rainbows up the side.  They are the very height of sophistication.

We had rocked up to Youth Club strutting like Huggy Bear (I had a side ponytail and everything), to find that Friday evening was a disco.  I drew admiring glances in my get up, and was soon surrounded by a gaggle of other 12-year-old girls to discuss fashion (clearly I was quite the authority) and boys (not really much of an authority at all, but I wasn't going to let that stop me).  My brother had, however, attracted a lot of attention for all the wrong reasons.  Cornered by a large-ish gang of bigger boys (he would have been 8 at the time), demanding to know why he was wearing a girl's shell suit, all that could be heard was a plaintive wail.

'It's not a girls one.  It's UNISEX.'

Yes.  That told those bullies.

The cyclist has, of course, heard this one before.  'Unisex' has become a bit of an in-joke, particularly used to describe someone wearing something they ought not to be, that we suspect they have been conned into by a wily shop-person.  'Ah yes, sir, the full length leather coat.  An excellent choice.  And, of course, it's Unisex.'

And it is 'Unisex' I think of while in a well-known bike shop.  I'm about to slag it off to hell and back, so we'll stick with the moniker of 'well-known bike shop' for now.  And yes, I was expecting it to be a bit crap.  And a bit crap it is.  We have our reasons for being here, mainly the discounts available and range of stock.  Although when I say range of stock, I should make it clear that I explicitly refer to the range of stock they advertise they carry, not that which it appears is available in the actual store.  Additionally, the well-known bike shop is less than 10 minutes away, and there's a coffee shop next door.

I have come tooled up.  I have with me a secret weapon, the cyclist and his list.  The cyclist has been meticulously researching and detailing the replacements he needs following his crash, and along with this he was challenged to find me a bike and the associated bits and pieces I would need to get started myself.  Following a number of 'musical differences', we have produced a final and definitive list of kit, chosen me a bike, and agreed on a 'reasonable' amount of replacement wheels for the one that he smashed (three for one, something to do with aerodynamics).

And if it wasn't for the list, I would be all at sea.  The well-known bike shop appears to be staffed exclusively by morons and dimwits, determined to sell you whatever's easiest for them, not the stuff you actually want or need to buy.

The cyclist wants me to 'try on' my chosen bike in the shop to make sure it's right.  We have taken a stab at frame size, which I'm confident is accurate, but he is right, I need to make sure I am sure.  The very thought of putting my bum on a bike in a shop full of cyclists chills me to my core.  The last time I sat on a bike roughly coincides with my brother's 'Unisex!' outburst.  There will be wobbling.  A lot of wobbling.  In the event, I am saved from the indignity by the well-known bike shop's lack of provision for women.  Despite my being a woman, and trying to buy a women-specific frame (by name and stock number), three times the shop assistant offers me the men's version.  Unisex.  Not only that, they want to charge us fifty quid (fifty quid!) to get the correct bike into the store for me to try (not cancelled, merely postponed) in a few days time.  For fucks sake.

They haven't got any women's cycling shoes in my size for me to try (I actually even wore matching socks), these will have to be ordered too.  I try on helmets and make a selection (the one with the colour scheme to match the bike, obviously, and women-specific again - it's got a gap for a ponytail) - shallow little cow that I am I am hoping I will look a little less like Mrs Mushroom Head in it once I'm in the proper kit and on the bike rather than jeans and t-shirt in a shop.  And I gulp, and can put it off no longer.  To the fitting rooms go I, like Anne Boleyn to the executioners block, with a pair of bib shorts (the only pair in the entire huge shop for women in my size) and two jerseys to try on.

The bib shorts fit fine, they don't even look too shocking (they do feel like I'm wearing a nappy, but I think I'll have to get used to that).  There is the suggestion that beneath the lycra my body has been inexpertly fashioned from grey play-doh, but given the amount of exercise I have been doing recently (er - none), it's the very least I was expecting.  The first jersey, a reasonably tasteful black and white one, looks terrible and is enormous.  The second, a lurid purpley-pink I am not expecting to like, actually looks ok and fits well.  I choose some socks (I'm not prepared to get into the sock debate here, contentious issue that it is) and some gloves, hand the shorts and jersey to the cyclist, grab the kids and get out of his hair.  It's his turn to talk to the dim assistant about the stuff he wants to order (none of which they carry in store, obviously).

And so we shall return in a few days time, to see whether any of the stuff they are getting in on our behalf is actually the stuff we asked for, or want to buy.


  1. Tomorrow I take my partner to the local bike shop as she needs proper clothes for cycling. I wonder how similar our experience will be.

    1. Oooh, best of luck! Let me know how you both get on, and if you've got any recommendations!

  2. Hmm. Green sign, yellow writing.

  3. I found your xmas gift guide an hour ago (damned If i can remember how now.. getting old) and have spent most of the time since working my way down your 'Popular Posts' and chuckling out loud. Can't believe your blog hasn't been picked up by a cycling magazine or website yet, it's hilarious. Then I got to this post and discover you must have grown up within a mile or two of me - though a decade later! (PS you do realise you've given away your age in this post?)