November 7, 2003

Dear Dan,
Well, it's been over four years now since I acquired my little Stellar from you, and I have never once regretted it. When I bought the bike during my first year of college I seriously questioned my sanity: it seemed so extravagant to spend more money on a bike than I did on my car (ok, so a 1985 Tercel isn't the most expensive of cars), especially right after I halved my income so I could get an edumacashun. But my god, was it ever worth it! Let's face it: I'd outgrown the 40 pound 1986 Schwinn Mirada by a long shot.

Aster (the name I gave the Stellar) and I have successfully navigated through an asphalt jungle pitted with wet street grates, potholes, and only questionably-sane taxi drivers. She and I have commuted daily for a few years from West Seattle to the University of Washington, then later from Phinney Ridge to Seward Park, and she has never once failed me. In rain and shine we have been a zen-like unit, working together to avoid wayward SUVs and Honda drivers on caffeine and cell phones. If I can't ride her because I have a paper due or a nasty cold, I dream about riding her. I may be the only Seattlelite who curses the snow - you can't ride very well it in (although heaven knows I've tried).

Certainly part of the reason why Aster gets ridden so hard has to do with my own level of craziness, but it is also due in no small part to the fact that she fits me so well. Before I bought her I suffered from constant wrist, shoulder, and back pain from riding the Mirada; now that I ride Aster those problems have been greatly reduced. I also discovered another side benefit to riding a bike that fits me: I expend a lot less energy trying to control the bike and a lot more energy goes toward forward motion. In other words, it's a hell of a lot more fun. In fact, it's always fun to ride that bike. Always.

One of the downsides of riding in the rain - and not being all that great about basic bike upkeep (shame on me!) - has been that Aster's parts have worn faster than they should have. As you know, I recently bought another road bike to ride in the rain so Aster would no longer take such abuse. The recent tune-up you gave her - actually it was more of a restoration than a tune-up - reminded me of all the parts I've worn through during the last four years, and I thought you'd be amused by the list. I should mention that no normal rider would wear through this many parts; this list is a paean to my neglect and insanity:

  1. I am now on tires number 14 and 15
  2. I'm only on my sixth chain, but you recently chastised me for not changing it more often
  3. The rear cluster is number five, I think
  4. Last year the front derailleur broke
  5. This year the rear derailleur was ready to be replaced
  6. Two and a half years ago you built me a new set of wheels
  7. Two weeks ago you built me a new rear wheel
  8. Three years ago the front hub was replaced
  9. Two weeks ago the rear hub was replaced
  10. I have gone through one and a half right shifters, not to mention six shifter overhauls and seven shifter cables
  11. I broke the crank last year
  12. You put a new set of front chain rings on recently
  13. I lost count of brake pads
  14. Last year the seat wore out and Estelle gave me a great deal on a replacement
  15. I broke four water bottle cages until you sold me one two years ago that could withstand me; two weeks ago you replaced it because the metal rails had been filed down from me removing my plastic water bottle
  16. Let's not even discuss the water bottles
  17. Fenders are best left out of the discussion too

In short, I have ridden the hell out of that bike. When I bought it I'd hoped the frame would last me twenty years. It's only been four, but I'm now hoping she'll last a lifetime.

Here's hoping it does!

P. S. You might recall that I named my bike Aster because the word "stellar" comes from the Latin word for star. Aster is from the Greek word for star. There's a method to my madness.