Can’t Buy Me Love

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
RAW.
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.

12 thoughts on “Can’t Buy Me Love”

  1. Ah, the downside of the Seattle culture – customer service by dipshits.

    I once went into a bagel shop in the University district and asked for a dozen bagels to go. I was told “we don’t serve them that way.” I asked if I could have one bagel to go, and that was OK. She’s lucky that I didn’t beat her to death with her Birkenstocks. And she didn’t make the sale. And I’ve never been back.

  2. Thanks for the update. Bike shops on the weekends during cyling months are hell, no doubt about it. Every yahoo in town descends on these shops to quell every squeak and suck down every goo between 5PM Friday to Closing Saturday. It took me 3 BSV’s (bike-shop-visits) to acquire enough butt-balm to make it through my anticipated 130 miles this weekend. It’s a love-hate thing that cycling is getting popular, I guess. It would be nice if the LBS’s could have a bit more bandwidth, however.

  3. I’ve been having similar problems at bike shops this week, while also looking for touring. This even though I went in midweek both times.

    On Monday, I rode the bike I had listed in my brain as second place, and fell in love. The person helping me was nice enough, but couldn’t seem to care about me one way or another. I finished what I came in for, but decided that I needed another ride when I could return in bike shorts and shoes. Plus I wanted to ride what had been my first choice.

    I came back on Wednesday, and it took a while to get anyone’s attention, as the only guy on the floor was busy trying to sell an all carbon cyclocross bike to a mid-thirties woman looking to get back into riding. I couldn’t believe the shit coming out of his mouth about how it was essentially the only bike worth considering, and hoping that I had misjudged her biking prowess. It was clear I hadn’t misjudged his salesmanship.

    When I finally blipped someone’s radar, I told them which bike I wanted to ride, but they didn’t have it in my size. They only had one built up (in a 61cm, no less), and made no offers or suggestions as to when I could give it a try. I was allowed to ride the other bike again, but for reasons passing understanding, I wasn’t allowed to take it outside this time (luckily, they have a small test track upstairs).

    I learned over the next five minutes that this dude was an enormous dipshit, who knew less about bikes than I did, and was just spewing rhetoric he had picked up on the sales floor. I tried to pin him down on some of my questions, but he swatted them away like so many flies.

    It’s a shame, too, because I really do want to buy a bike, and I really did want to buy it there, but instead I went home and googled other dealers in the area. When my decision is finally made, at least I know where not to go.

  4. Thanks for the update. My, that is REALLY annoying. I just can’t quite grasp why customer service is such a dilemma for these guys. Yeah, I know they’re busy on Saturdays, but hello…THEY know it’s the season too, and they know that, gee, lots of us peasants have to work during the week, so why not staff up for it on weekends even more than they already do? Too bad you now have to wait till after RAW.

    Love the bagel story. Inspiring Birkenstock imagery.

  5. Are you looking at Independent Fabrication as well?

    Incidentally, I just sent Sacha White a deposit for a Vanilla. The man does amazing stuff with steel.

    -S

  6. Sam, welcome back!

    I’ve browsed Independent Fabrication’s catalog, but nothing was grabbing me.

    Scout pointed me to Sacha White’s beautiful work. It is high art that I could (sigh) easily get carried away with. Last time I mentally priced stuff, it was a small fortune, but I’d have stainless steel, hand-craved lugs.

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