Apart from a brief afternoon fling with a chunky Dutch cruiser in Rotterdam a few years back, I've been with the same road bike since I started riding around San Francisco four years ago. We've got a great thing going, but I had grown complacent. I was ready to see what else was out there. So it was with a tinge of giddiness (and slight apprehension) that I made the decision to go on a break.
The perfect opportunity for a swap came a few weeks ago, when a pal at Public reached out and asked if I would be interested in taking their new and improved D8i 2014 commuter for an extended spin around the city. The company, also based in SF, wants to get more folks navigating the urban grid on two wheels, with an emphasis on making newbies who might be intimidated by the established, über-cool bicycle scene more comfortable and confident to get out there and hit the streets.
Public has, by design, a friendly, casual, Euro-inspired vibe. Every bike it offers comes with front and back fenders, a kickstand, and a chain guard that matches the frame. They're accessible, they're functional, and they're cute as hell. Plus, I love what they're doing to bring biking to the masses. This… this would be fun.
Honestly though, when I wandered over to pick up my D8i from Public's brick-and-mortar shop, helmet in hand, I was weirdly nervous. My old bike—the sole bike I own, my one and only, a Felt Z100—we've weathered a lot together now. It's well-loved, to be sure. I was planning on a long-term relationship from the start so I did my homework; I shopped around; I read reviews online; and I talked to a ton of knowledgable dudes and ladies before I felt ready to commit. I sat on a lot of seats in a lot of stores and took a lot of wobbly practice trips around a lot of blocks, trying to figure out exactly the right model for me.
And now? My black-and-white baby and I have done three triathlons together. Gone down in the rain and got fucking filthy in a slick spot on Market Street. Conquered absurd hills—like, seriously stupidly steep—and explored places where the bus wouldn't take me. Tipped over a few times when tipsy at a stoplight after hours. Trudged up the three flights of stairs to my new apartment, multiple times a day. Arrived super late to things and a teensy early to things a tad sweaty and a lot sweaty (never, unfortunately, not sweaty at all). And yet, here I was ready to give that all up for the thrill of something else.
When I took the D8i out the first time, though, let me tell you—it really was a thrill. I was so… erect. Unlike the lean-in stance I have to take with my Felt, my posture was way, way back; I was sitting almost totally straight up and down. From the first pedal spin, the whole experience—on this street I'd been down a million times before—felt fresh. And funny. I laughed, loud and with the kind of wide-open grin that just screams "HEY HI I AM A BIG GOOFY IDIOT" to anyone who happened to see me buzz by.
I immediately felt like I should be toting a basket of puppies and a picnic lunch on the back rack, making my way through a field of wildflowers as opposed to an alleyway in Hayes Valley. This is what people ride in romantic comedies when they're falling in love. Tra-la-la-la-la; it was delightful. The wheels were wider, and bouncier, and somehow gave the effect of operating an ATV. I thought I should be waving to passersby, who would, of course, wave back and say "Hi, Jordy!" with a wink and a smile.
The honeymoon period hit a speed bump the first time I had to hike this thing over my shoulder and navigate the narrow stairway up three stories to my studio; I could really tell the difference between my Felt's 21.82 pounds of aluminium to Public's 30.7 lbs of chromoly steel. It's back-heavy in a way that kept throwing me off when I was trying to lift it, or maneuver around to lock up.
But there were things I liked about the D8i—the Shimano internal geared hub was so clean and so easy to shift, it was cool to stick my bag on the rack—but ultimately I think it's just too bulky for my taste. I like my lithe, light, grubby-yet-graceful ride. We're a good fit.