For at least two seasons, Gerry had been speculating about getting a new mountain bike, something with suspension. He was convinced it was the secret to a much better ride. I didn’t think much of it until he finally did it, whereupon my first thought was,”goddamit, now he’s going to want to mountain bike more.”
I wasn’t wrong. I’m getting old and tired (well, 48, everything’s relative) and some days road biking is a challenge, but I humored him for a couple of trails.
The only thing less enjoyable than pushing a bike up a mountain (which is what I spent the majority of trail #2 doing) is doing it with your partner insisting how much better it would be with a bike more like his.
After a day or two of recovering, though, he did make me think. I loved mountain biking once upon a time, and it seemed silly to keep a bike around I didn’t enjoy using anymore, yet couldn’t part with in case the mood struck me one day. Plus, I could shop, my second favorite pastime.
They say women are the gatherers of society, but I enjoy the hunt. Reading reviews, watching review videos, looking for deals…that’s my porn. I can spend days at it.
The problem with hunting for a bike, obviously, is everyone has different skill levels and expectations and priorities for what makes a bike good. And, from what I can tell, the people that enjoy discussing their bikes the most tend to be riders who obsess about individual components and endlessly pimping their ride. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just not my thing.
Craigslist, unfortunately, is about my only option. I know I should support my local bike store (LBS), but a) the last thing I want is another monthly payment, and b) I felt strongly I didn’t want another generic-looking cookie cutter model (like my current Trek).
I really liked the look of Gary Fishers. I should confess I’ve always secretly wanted a Gary Fisher; they seem more unique than the endless parade of identically boring Treks, Specializeds, and Giants. I mean, look at these wild paint jobs:
Plus, despite getting swallowed up by Trek in 2011 (which has caused bitterness in some), the brand still enjoys a passionate, almost cult-like following. I don’t think that happens to crappy companies.
Craigslist has a tiny bit of competition now, Facebook Marketplace; though honestly they shouldn’t worry. I thought Craigslist sellers were sometimes maddeningly skimpy on details. Marketplace users seem to have only just stumbled on the concept of online selling.
Honestly? You can’t think of ANY other information that might be useful? Rank amateurs.
Not that Craigslist is far superior. Assuming a seller has the foresight to at least include a size (and, note to sellers, tire size is only a tiny step away from no size at all), to properly research a year and model are needed. Most of the time a paint scheme is all you have, and in that respect the Fishers, with their distinctive eye-catching patterns, make it really easy.
Long story somewhat less long, I zeroed in on a Fisher on Facebook. The woman replied almost immediately (another bad thing about Craigslist; too many times people take so long to respond you’re left wondering if they ever will) and I agreed to meet her after work (despite being just about to embark on my hellish weekend schedule where naps, whenever I can squeeze them in, become a priority).
It looked sharp (actually the red and black flame style above) but totally flat tires so no test drive possible. She said I could bring it back no problem, except an added wrinkle was she was literally moving back to Wisconsin the next day, so I had 24 hours (in between my aforementioned very busy work schedule) to decide. No pressure.
Getting it home, I had time to notice more rust than I’d like on the components (she also casually mentioned it would need a good tuneup, which start around $75, which I might have put towards a better bike if I was going to spend that much). And the test drive didn’t go well. The top tube seemed crazy long, making me stretch uncomfortably for the handlebars, a complaint I only then remembered appearing more than once during my hunt.
Maybe if I had time to fiddle with it I could’ve made it work, but I didn’t, so I sadly brought it back (and I’m sure the woman, in the middle of packing her whole life into a truck, was thrilled to have me add her bike back into the pile).
I had started a second conversation with someone selling the orange model (which I unfortunately fell deeply in love with (the color, not the seller. Quite the contrary; he/she would go 12 hours between emails and volunteer only the barest minimum of info at a time, using the least number of words that could still be considered a sentence. I decided they must be a very dedicated stoner who probably was better off remaining a pedestrian full-time)). The day we were supposed to meet, they stopped responding and the posting suddenly vanished. This is why I hate Craigslist.
I decided maybe a Fisher wasn’t in the stars for me. Researching further, that long top tube was part of what they called “Genesis Geometry” and it was on all their bikes. Damn.
I shared my efforts with Gerry, who immediately joined the hunt (I didn’t mind), and funnily enough sent me one of the first listings that caught my eye.
Now, Mongoose is a tricky name. When I was growing up they weren’t common and generally considered high quality. Then they got swallowed up by Walmart and went to hell (maybe not hell, but far enough down to be beneath consideration of most of the cycling community — or at least the portion of it that sits around wanking over long lists of upgraded components).
(My favorite comment I have seen anywhere on the Internet to date was in response to “are Walmart Mongoose bikes REALLY that bad?” Answer: “Department store bikes are only as good as the doofus who assembles them. Sure, Walmart MIGHT have a qualified bike mechanic back there. But it’s more likely to be a 72-year-old greeter named Phyllis, whose knowledge of tools is theoretical, and who would pound a screw in with a hammer given half a chance.”)
But, damn, this bike looked nice, and the ad copy ticked all my boxes. And Gerry (who is a bit of a component wanker lite) was impressed enough to suggest it independently.
Except… I couldn’t find a trace of it anywhere to research. Not by color, not by “superlight,” not by 700s which was the model in the ad. But Mongoose, despite not being good enough for the wankers, is good enough for the masses so there’s a metric ton to wade through online, which I didn’t want to do so I decided it wouldn’t hurt to look at it.
I set up times with Paul, and Andy, who was selling a Diamondback Response XE, which I wasn’t in love with (particularly after reading reviews who all agreed the frame was indestructible (but heavy), but all the components were garbage and should be replaced immediately. I mean, every. single. review).
Paul seemed like a great guy. He admitted his buddy had painted the bike and that he had built it for his teenage son, who it turned out hadn’t the slightest interest. A few spins around the parking lot (for a state known for its mountains, you’d think we’d have more options to properly test mountain bikes), and I decided it was great and I was sick of dealing with Craigslist (plus Andy was pretty far away and I was dragging from last night’s shift). I told Paul his ad writing was irresistible and, sure enough, he’s a retired marketer. Well played, sir. May you only use your powers for good.
I emailed Andy to apologetically cancel, who replied, “Thanks for nothing.” What are you, 9? If your heart is this easily broken, then the cage match that is Craigslist is really not for you. Let me tell you about Stoner Gary, “The Fadeaway.” What do you want, my firstborn?
I got the Mongoose home, and then saw the paint clearly looked home done. The components are quality (from what I know of brands) but mismatched — two different shifters, two different brakes, two different wheels and tires. Hard to tell what, if anything, is original. Frankenbike. It doesn’t bother me. Tery (and I suspect Gerry, who has ooh’ed and aah’ed over just the front bumper of my car when I had it replaced), who likes shiny new perfect things, says it makes her skin crawl.
(Honestly I’m a little relieved. It looked so spiffy online that I thought I’d be afraid to get it dirty. I no longer have that fear.)
Through the thin layer of paint I could make out the original logo, as well as a sticker that said 2005. But searching by frame shape (which is certainly unique) turned up only one possible match: 1999 Pro Nx7.
Fortunately this bike generally seems well-liked, for all the same reasons my other options were. In the bike world (or, for that matter, the rest of the world), the view doesn’t change much unless you have thousands to spend. Also, the term “heavy” is highly subjective, so if you can start with the equivalent of a Sherman tank, almost anything will be a step up.
I’m still crappy at endings, and this is no exception. I hope to have many adventures (with less pushing and more riding) to come with “Chimera” (tentative high-brow nickname). And please, God, I hope Gerry approves of her components.