Dear readers, this weekend was a big one for me. I sprinkled some hints on the blog – new header photo, an uptick on the odometer, and a new entry in the PBR page – but my loyal fan base was asleep at the switch and didn’t pick up on any of these subtle clues. Clearly I’ll need to be more direct next time!
Anyway, let me tell you what I have been up to. I bought a bike. It’s a road bike. It’s light and it’s fast and after 44 miles it hasn’t broken. That’s a nice start. Here it is:
After completing some extensive research on a variety of bikes, I walked into Revolution Cycles in Stafford and asked to speak to the manager. There would be no floor hand for me this time. This time, I went straight to the top – the “top” being a young man named Joe. I told Joe my story and informed him that I was not in a pleasant mood. I asked to test ride a couple of bikes that I researched and thought I would like: the Trek 1.2 and 1.5. Joe only had the 1.2 in stock and I took a spin on it. I was unimpressed. A clunky front derailleur was the biggest issue. I was disappointed they didn’t have any 1.5s, but Joe informed me the ONLY difference between the two bikes was the seat post and the handlebars. Hmmm….
Joe grabbed the Trek 2.1 and started talking. I listened. I was extremely skeptical of just about everything he said, but I had to admit he did have answers to all my questions. The 2.1 has improved shifters, deraillurs, and just about everything else that mattered to me. I had intended to swap out the crummy wheels and tires on the 1.2 and Joe assured me that wouldn’t be necessary with the 2.1. Therefore, the actual “out the door” cost would be almost identical. I was VERY skeptical about keeping the stock wheels and tires. I reiterated to Joe (for about the 10th time) that I was not the least bit interested in having a recurrence of my wheel and tire problems. Joe swore up and down that these wheels/tires were of very good quality and that he himself uses them on his “back up bike,” which he routinely abuses without incident. Joe informed me he logs over 6,000 miles per year in year-round riding. Based on his looks and clear understanding of even the most arcane aspects of the bikes he was selling, he seemed to know what he was talking about.
I remained skeptical.
I took it for a test ride and it clearly handled much better than the 1.2. The thing ran as silent as a submarine and the derailleur was much smoother. I was very pleased with the performance, but I couldn’t get past my emotional scaring with my previous purchase. “Sure it handles just fine now,” I said. “But what happens after 500 miles when it falls apart like my current bike?”
So we talked. We talked in detail about rims, spokes, tires, and frames. We talked about carbon vs. aluminum. We talked about brakes. We talked about saddles. We talked about cranks, sprockets and cassettes. We talked about the origins of the universe and the meaning of life. We pretty much covered everything. He had me convinced that this is a great bike for me and my current goal of 2,000 miles and a couple of century rides per year. He convinced me that this would be a great bike to “grow into,” meaning if I got ridiculously serious, I could easily upgrade it to further improve its performance.
“Joe” I said, “you’ve convinced me. But I must tell you once again that I am not a person to be trifled with on this matter. I don’t know where you live, but I do know where you work. If what you’ve told me turns out to be anything less than 100% accurate, I will find you. And that will be a bad day for you. This is your last chance to reconsider your recommendation on this bike. No hard feelings if you change your opinion right now.”
I don’t think many customers take this tact with Joe. He was clearly a little surprised by my line of questioning, but I’ll give the guy credit – he was extremely polite and informed. He worked with me for over two hours and patiently answered every question I had. After I bought the bike he put it on a trainer and sized up the seat and the handle bars for me, using a large compass to measure the bend in my knee at critical points in my stroke, and the angle my arms made from my torso. It was kinda interesting to watch him work.
Having made the decision to get a pretty nice bike, I decided to go “all in” and pick me up some clipless pedals and shoes. This initiated another extended conversation about the various types of SPD and Look pedals and what would be best for me. Joe showed me some high-end Look pedals which cost $130. He then showed me some entry-level models for about a third of that. I agreed that the few grams of less weight and superior workmanship of the high-end model was nice, just not “$90 of nice.” We agreed the entry-level pedals made sense for me. A similar discussion then ensued on the shoes, where I was duly impressed by the $300 models but opted for something a little more modest – a “mere” $100 (plus a 10% military discount!) and I was ready to embark into the world of clipless riding. God help me.
So I was now all set. New bike, new pedals, and new shoes. There was only one item left to be sorted. It was the one thing that Joe would not help me with. To be fair, he would have complied with my wishes but it would have broken his heart to do so.
I asked him to install a kick stand.
Even though I prefaced my request with the words, “I realize this will make me a colossal dork,” Joe was still stunned to hear what I wanted. Slowly, he looked at the bottom of the bike’s frame and then meekly announced, “I guess I could do it…” I asked Joe if I would be the only Trek 2.1 owner in North America with a kick stand and he said I could very possibly be. He was clearly torn between doing what the customer wanted and avoided cycling blasphemy.
“Here’s my problem, Joe,” I said, “I’ve got a busy house with a busy garage. Over the years, I have spent less on some of my cars than I have just spent on this bike. I WILL NOT simply lean it against a wall. It will be knocked over and it will be scraped and I will be irate. This is certain. Without a kick stand, what is a guy like me to do?” Then Joe showed me this:
This thing conveniently attaches to your bike’s lower frame near the pedal crank and thus props up your bike. When it is set up your bike’s rear wheel is actually slightly off the ground, giving you the added benefit of being able to turn the pedals, move the chain, and spin the tire, which makes basic maintenance much easier. Happy with the compromise, I loaded everything up in the truck and headed home.
There’s a lot more I could talk about – the type of crank, the type of sprocket, the interesting nuances of the shifters. I’ll get into all of that eventually. Tomorrow, though, I’ll share with you my first ride on the Trek and my first outing in clipless pedals. The fact that I am typing this in my home and not in a hospital bed should give you an indication that the worst did not occur!