Florence is the bike that started it all.
For five years, I lived in a bike-friendly city. While I was there, I didn’t bike a mile. My apartment was the so small that I didn’t have room for a sofa, let alone a bicycle. (Or so I thought at the time.) But the seed was planted. I moved away to a smaller town and a larger house, and I felt that it was time to get a bike.
I wasn’t sure how much I would really use a bike, though. Hence, Florence. A nice, mid-level, off the rack bike. The parts were so-so, but easily upgradeable. I couldn’t ride drop bars, hence the flats, though the geometry is more road than hybrid. She’s technically a man’s bike. Research indicated that, at this price point, “women’s specific” meant a different saddle and paint job. The women’s version of this bike had flowers painted on it.
Florence has been a nice, stable, practical bike. We know each other’s quirks. She’s seen some pretty serious upgrades, but also still has some really cheap original parts. This has made her a little bit of a handyman’s special. The stock wheels were embedding metal fragments in my brake pads, so the wheels got a major upgrade. The drivetrain is a complete mish-mash. The original flat-bar shifters were too stiff for my hands, so I switched to twist. I replaced the front derailleur, hoping to solve some major shifting problems. When my husband got a new mountain bike, I got his formerly-top-of-the-line rear derailleur, which for some reason made my right shifter work backwards. Thanks to this bizarre blend of parts—some road, some mountain, some SRAM, some Shimano—my shifting took a lot of tweaking, but now it does just what I ask. Well, know that I know not to ask certain gear combinations. There are a few other mountain bike hand-me-downs, as well. The seat post and handlebar are, again, the best money could buy five or six years ago. (From what I gather, no “real” mountain biker would be caught dead with that diameter bar these days.) The grips are Ergons, which solved a problem I had with my hands going to sleep.
Now that I have a dedicated road bike, Florence is due for another round of part changes. As soon as those blue tires wear out, if they ever do, I’m going to find something a bit wider. They’re Panaracer T-serv messenger tires, and while they are both flat resistant and jaunty, they aren’t doing my stiff aluminum frame any favors. The blue was something of a joke, by the way. The blue saddle was such an incredible deal that I couldn’t leave it, and after that the blue tires were just oddly fitting. Something also needs to be done about either the stem or the bar, because this frame really is a smidge too long in the top tube for me. I’m thinking about a more traditional “city bike” look, with a swept back bar and a pair of folding baskets. We’ll see.