November 9, 2016

more than just a bike

A little while ago I found myself driving to Geelong to meet with Baum, with the intention of design myself a beautiful (and for me expensive) personalised bike.  I spent around five hours with Baum that day and left excited, petrified and wondering what the hell I’d done…    I’d ordered a champagne gold Corretto with accents of copper and silver, committing to buying a bike more expensive than I ever thought I’d own.

Since my visit I’ve run through how that happened, this is a girl who once hated exercise and only discovered a love of cycling five years ago; a girl who was once shy and didn’t want to stand out (albeit a while ago) and now I’d just ordered a gold bike.

Maybe this is a spoiler alert, but let me assure you, everything about my decision was right and provided more than I thought possible. The decision was worth every single cent I had to scrimp and save; in fact, I’ve said quite a few times that owning a Baum is amazing value for money; and dare I admit, I’ve even said they’re cheap. Because the way I see it, it’s more than just a bike, it’s an exceptional experience from day one.

Let me explain why buying a Baum is different, and why – to quote a disgraced cycling hero – it’s not about the bike.

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The process

My previous bikes had been Giant, pretty high-end and a great relationship with my bike store, who were awesome; nothing but a good experience; always considered myself lucky; certainly nothing to complain about.

But if you go down the route of getting a bike built for you, I highly recommend you embrace ‘the process’.  Whilst you came for the bike, there is so much value in design, build, relationship, trust and artisan production that you’re never going to get buying ‘off the shelf’, even if you have an awesome bike store like I did.

From the moment I walked into Baum it was about me, my riding, but also building a long term relationship which supported me to make decisions and allow me – literally – get the perfect bike.  A bike which suits my personality, my riding, my strengths and weaknesses, my body and my budget.  The process, if you choose to look at it this way, helps you to consider what you love about cycling and what you want to get out of our sport.  It helps you explore your personality and be true to that – I went in sure I’d order an understated black bike, but through the process I (thankfully) realised I’m much more bling and now adore my ‘out there’ gold bike.

The process is understanding your bike is an artisan product, seeing where and how it is made, along with meeting the people responsible for your ‘art’. It is about the beauty of waiting and anticipation – when was the last time you had to wait for something? Yes, it’s frustrating because of course you want it now, but take the time to embrace waiting – because artisan products don’t roll of factory production lines – and you’ll find a beauty in this process. I have such a deep appreciation that I had to wait for my bike; on a practical level it helped me solidify my decision making (and yes, I did change my mind several times on things like wheels and running gear) and save money to pay for it, but it also made that moment I picked up my bike all the sweeter. I was ready for it.

This may sound a tad sentimental, and if you’re not the sentimental type that’s fine, but you can still have a similar connection even if you don’t articulate it the same way. To write this post I had to think about what the wait time meant to me; and by the time I collected Sigur iii (yep, that’s my bike’s name) it felt like we were soul mates, that we already knew each other and had this exceptional connection. Through the process and the wait, Sigur iii had developed his own depth and personality that matched mine perfectly; so by the time I picked him up I was ready to embark upon a long relationship – and lots of adventures – with this bike. From the first moment I rode him, everything fit and I literally had the biggest smile plastered on my face.  I get that same smile every time I jump on him and feel the immediate connection and smoothness that comes from a personalised bike.

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I’ve discussed this with Ryan at Baum, and of course this is all about owning a beautiful bike, but if you don’t embrace the process I personally believe you’re robbing yourself of such a large part of a build. Let go of the need for now, or trying and replicate what someone else has – and embrace all that is you, this moment, and the relationship with Baum, and I promise the process will be just as rewarding as the bike.

I’m not a female cyclist – I’m just a cyclist

 And here’s the other thing, as a female my experience with Baum was incredible. I’m a huge advocate for women’s cycling and love seeing how girls in lycra have increased in the five years I’ve been riding. But let’s face it, it’s still a man’s world.  I’m lucky as I’m tall enough to ride men’s bikes as I prefer the geometry and the colours; I can’t abide to the pink, purple and turquoise that seem almost obligatory on female specific bikes. I wear mainly men’s kit as there’s so little choice out there for women. I’m frustrated I can’t get a certain pair of cool cycling shoes as brands don’t import my (female) size into Australia. I’ve heard awful stories about some bikes stores being blatantly sexist towards female cyclists, and whilst I like to think they’re the minority, there is a larger problem that many bike stores – with mainly male staff – just aren’t switched on to the specifics of female cycling or able to have ‘those’ conversations about chamois or saddle comfort.

For many female cyclists, there’s a lot of little hurdles we need to navigate when we get into cycling – fortunately they’re not often huge hurdles; but these small hurdles are tedious all the same and enough to put some women off.

But here’s what I love about my experience – and the process – at Baum.

I’m not treated like a male cyclist, trying to fit me into the male mold of cycling.

But I’m not treated like a female cyclist either.

I’m treated as me – and how cool is that!

In advocating for female participation in cycling, I’ve always said ‘I’m not a female cyclist, I’m just a cyclist’ and that’s the beauty of my experience with Baum. We all knew I’m a girl, that’s obvious – but there was no need to manage my needs with ‘female geometry’ or a ‘female saddle’, or god forbid, ‘female colours’ – whatever the hell that means.

The process was simply about me; what type of riding I do, how I sit on the bike, what my bio-mechanics are, what I find comfortable and what I like. I’ve never in my five obsessive years of cycling found an experience that has nailed my ‘I’m not a female cyclist, I’m just a cyclist’ sentiment more than building my Baum. Now that’s true equality!

There’s so much more I can talk about – including how my bike is built to my strengths and weaknesses, descending for instance, never my strength, has become a delight on Sigur iii. I can talk about the community that explodes when you own a Baum – from Baum itself, to Baum aficionados on the other side of the world who make contact based on your bike, to strangers in cafes who will talk to you. If you’re reading this you surely get the fact Baum’s are beautiful bikes – but I can guarantee you, you won’t understand the full artisan quality or exceptional function until you ride one. I can talk about how it’s an opportunity to express your personality and everything you love about riding and why it’s a bike for life, or at least a damned long time. But let’s face it, if I enthused about everything that is inherently part of owning a Baum, that would be an even longer post and you probably wouldn’t have made it this far.

The best advice I can give, is embrace the process and everything that is unique about you and I promise you will have the most exceptional experience that you’ll be raving to everyone about for years.  Oh, and you’ll also have a truly amazing bike, one that will be unlike anything you’ve ever owned before.

–  Shari Aubrey –

(A massive thank you to Shari for sharing her experience and thoughts.  Each person we interact with will have a different experience based on their approach, attitude, desires, and personality.)

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