La Belle Jolie By: Mike Courteau

The French word for pretty is jolie. That’s right, as in Angelina.

Why do I know this? Because I have had my nose in a French dictionary lately as I look up words that I encounter while watching the Tour de France. Jolie also happens to be the name for my new Look, carbon-fiber French racing bike.

Previously in this column, I have written about the itch I get each spring when the weather takes a turn for the better and many of us cyclists start to fantasize about buying new bikes. I had all but concluded that such a purchase was beyond my reach this year and, if I remember correctly, I cited Ben Franklin in making a pragmatic case for staying penny wise.

I wrote: whatever perceived shortcomings she [my Fuji] had in March do not seem quite as short now in April.

Things have changed so much since then. She has become he. That is, I decided that the moniker most befitting my Fuji was Bashō, after the Japanese haiku master Mastsuo Bashō. Certainly, Bashō (my bike, not the poet) was designed more for leisurely tours of the countryside than keeping up with a pack of riders. But, unfortunately, my narrow road to the interior became too narrow. That is to say, I participated in my first group ride.

I struggled to stay in contact with the peloton on that trip, and I was quick to assume that it was my set of legs that were to blame. “Though green leaves guide us / to St. Bonifacius my / pedals are rusty.”

Post-ride analysis revealed that I did not have trouble staying in contact with the peloton when they were at full gallop. It was the stopping and starting, rather, that did me in, since Bashō’s (the bike, not the poet) mass was difficult to bring back up to speed as quickly as his carbon-framed kin.

Still, I tried to shrug this off and not blame Bashō (the bike, not the poet) for my lack of form, for, admitting that it was my bike at fault would have sounded like an excuse, plus, I didn’t have the cash on hand to plunk down for the kind of performance I wanted out of a bike anyway.

My fatal mistake was test riding carbon frame bikes. On a slow day a couple of weeks ago, I decided to visit a few shops and test ride entry-level carbon frame bikes. I rode a Specialized Roubaix, which I liked, at Erik’s; I rode a Trek Madone, which I really liked, at Penn Cycle; and I rode a Look 566, which I positively lusted after, at Freewheel.

It was clear I had met a girl.

She was pretty and responsive to my needs and (this is where the relationship analogy ends, or does it?) I felt like I could climb Alpe d’Huez with her.

Still, I didn’t want to troth my plight to her without courting a couple more carbon frames.

At Now Sports, I rode a Jamis, which underwhelmed me; I rode another Fuji, Bashō’s (the bike not the poet) younger, fitter cousin, which I liked very much. Very much. But, but, they were asking the same price for the Fuji at Now Sports as they were asking for the Look at Freewheel.

With the help of Stephen Cottrell, the Sales Manager at the Cedar-Riverside Freewheel, I bought a new bike.

Her name is Jolie.

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