This was the question posed by Giant Bicycles, a major sponsor of YSC's Tour de Pink, to breast cancer survivors participating in last year's fund-raising bike series. The rules of the inaugural contest were to paint a picture of your ideal two-wheeler—using a provided paper canvas of a blank bike frame—that best embodied the spirit and cause behind the Tour. Along with their ideas, people were asked to share their survival story. The prize: Not only would the winner get to see their dream bike come to life, but they would also receive one of the very first models of this special-edition run. And 10 percent of the sales of each bike would be donated to the Young Survival Coalition (YSC), a community of support for young survivors of breast cancer.
The winning bike design, which would become known as the Liv/Giant Avail/Inspire, happens to be my sweet ride for this year's event. It's easy to see how it earned its name. The empowering word “inspire” is emblazoned on a sleek black frame featuring colorful dots and cool hot pink handlebars. The visionary behind this beautiful aluminum steed is a mom, dancer, and career-woman from West Hartford, CT.
Emily Gresh was diagnosed with breast cancer just days after her 39th birthday (one year before women are recommended to start getting annual mammograms). Two months later, she had undergone a double mastectomy and was in the process of reconstructive surgery when she discovered the Young Survival Coalition and its fund-raising rides, the Tour de Pink. She began training to help her get through what she called her “darkest hour.” Though she knew how to ride a bike, she had no experience riding in a multi-day event like this one. But when she met the other women doing the Tour and saw herself in them (they were also young survivors), she found the kindred support she needed to rebuild her post-cancer life.
“Riding, like recovery, involved waiting for myself, waiting for others, and letting the people who I was closest to help me; telling others the truest and most difficult realities of what I was facing, so we could experience all of it together,” Emily explained to Liv/Giant as part of the contest. “That is perhaps the most powerful and inspiring thing in all of life.” This year, after riding from Philly to D.C. with the Tour de Pink East Coast crew in late September, Emily will roll out her very own Avail/Inspire again on the other coast for the west side ride from Thousand Oaks, CA, to Foothill Ranch, CA, from October 12 to 14. And I'm so excited that I get to ride my matching bike right next to her. That is, if I can keep up!
Even though most of us can't design our own bike, we can certainly buy the perfect one. Here are some shopping tips from Jackie Baker, a Liv/Giant marketing manager, for selecting the the best bike for your needs.
Shop for the Right Shop
Buy from a bike retailer that makes you feel comfortable and has a clean, easy-to-navigate store. Ask yourself: Are these bike shop guys people who I can build a relationship with? Once you buy your bike, you’ll want to be able to return with questions and use this retailer as a resource.
Make a Priority List
Put bike functionality first: Will you be riding on pavement or dirt, commuting to work or using it just for fitness? How long do you plan to ride at one time? One hour versus three makes a big difference. Once you know what you want, focus on fit. If you’re not comfortable, you won’t want to ride—and that's when your bike becomes a secondary coat rack. Pick one that fits the best “out of the box” without a lot of tweaking or replacing parts to make it comfy (the bike shop will help you decide). Next, consider your budget. Obviously, cost is always a factor, but if you put it first, you may end up with an ill-fitting bike that doesn’t meet your functionality needs. You'll get your money's worth if you check off the first two on your priority list.
Pimp Your Ride
Don't judge a bike by its color. There are a lot of ways to accessorize a bike so you’ll love its look. You can customize the grips or bar tape, water bottle cages, saddle, bike pouch, tires, and more. Plus, you’ll be looking ahead while you’re riding, not at the bike.
Take 'er for a Test Drive
When you’re shopping for your bike, wear comfy shoes and shorts, and if you have a helmet, bring it. After the bike retailer shows you how to shift and brake, and makes minor adjustments to ensure a proper fit, go for a spin around the block. You’ll know by feel if it’s “the one.” Once you've met your match, consider investing in a pair of padded cycling shorts. Wear 'em without undies and you’ll be pedaling comfortably, safely, and, best of all, happily!
Photo: Marco Quezada
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