Deena and John asked about how the bike search was going. (Thank you, by the way.) Short answer: Not so good.
I know I’m being fussy about what I want in a touring bike (e.g. comfortable for the long rides, low gearing and utilitarian), but the shops are also ridiculously busy this time of year. Twice I’ve been told “please come back mid-week,” which is nigh unlikely for me as I’ve been in the product release cycle at work. Work is (indirectly) paying for this.
Last Saturday I had a “hall pass” to spend the afternoon cruising bike shops. The first
is the only dealer for several touring bike makers I’ve been considering (Rivendell, Heron, Kogswell). They’re in West Seattle, which is almost far enough that I could consider stocking provisions in my car. Still, I was hoping I could buy my bike here because the owner’s been very involved in the cycling community.
The way they work is they’d measure me, order a frame from
the vendor (4-6 weeks) and build out the bike. Although there were prices on the three sample frames,
there were no actual built-out bikes available for a test ride. The guy working c/wouldn’t tell me how much a completely built bike would cost. He suggested I contact the owner mid-week, then schedule a time to come in an have a fitting done. I stopped paying attention to what he said next because I was thinking about how it took me an hour to drive there. Consummating a purchase would require at least three more trips, and this is better than mail ordering because why?
I headed over to another shop in Seattle
whose order process would be similar, but they had bikes I could (and already did) test ride. Model #1 had 95% of what I want in components (minus -5% for the craptastic American Classic seatpost) and rode beautifully. Had its frame not been too large for me, I would have bought it then. Model #2 was closer my size, but the fancy-pants racing components made the ride harsh. Harsh is bad.
The re-enacted conversation went something like this:
Me: I test rode two bikes and have a very specific notion of what I want. I’d like to be measured and buy it today so it’s built out in time for
Lady: Well, we’re really busy right now. Can you come back during the week?
When she seemed to grok that I wanted to buy a
bike… Today… she asked if I minded waiting a half hour for them to squeeze me in for a fitting. “No problem, I have a puzzle book.” She then went to
the register to quell the line of cyclists coming in from the Burke-Gilman trail to buy
tubes, bacon cheddar Clif Bars and request that mechanical healing hands be laid on sinful parts.
After finishing a couple of crossword puzzles, I noticed a there had been no further
acknowledgement of my customer existence. I got in line with a can of “J.P. Weigle’s” frame elixir, which I needed anyway. As she rang me up, she realized that she forgot to tell the Fitting Guy I needed to be measured for a bike.
It would be another hour until I could theoretically be served. I politely declined. To their credit, they offered
to meet me after their closing hours since it would take a while for me to bike there from work mid week.
I spent the rest of the weekend doing some much needed maintenance on my current bike. Stripping it down to the frame,
treating with rust-inhibitor, and hand-cleaning all of its parts transformed it back to being a red (its natural color!), crisp-shifting machine. It was theraputic… and greasy.
I was unable to make it into Seattle mid-week because I’m in product planning mode, preceding some anticipated business travel. Thus, it’s unlikely I’d have a bike built and a good shakedown ride done before the big ride in August. I hope to start looking again in earnest then.