You’re going to roll your eyes. Tery is rolling hers. Hell, I’m rolling mine (Gerry won’t though, because he likes shiny new things).
Remember all the brouhaha last year about a new bike? Well, I’ve realized that bike was a huge mistake.
It’s been trouble from the start. It took forever to get the handlebars positioned properly because, stupid me, the bike was just a little too big for me. Then I discovered on the maiden voyage (if a 17-year-old bike could still be called “maiden”) that the derailleur was bent and the smallest chainring wasn’t an option.
The last straw was, while cleaning her up for an epic Memorial Day ride, a spoke broke off right in my hand (it turned out not to matter since we got an equally epic monsoon that would have been deeply, deeply unpleasant to get caught in, if not life threatening).
I got the spoke fixed, but it got me wondering — what was next? And could I really trust this bike if I ever wanted to ride alone again? Answer: I didn’t want to wait to find out, and no, probably not.
This was good news for me, because my favorite part is The Hunt anyway.
Back to Craigslist, where oddly I had lost my appetite for non-cookie cutter shapes and was willing to consider anything as long as it was newer and a decent name.
Which doesn’t explain why this thing caught my eye:
It’s a Yokota, a tiny California company (I learned) that started out like Gary Fisher but only lasted two years before vanishing again. In 1994. They seemed to be remembered fondly by some bike enthusiasts, and I was drawn to the simple clean lines. And the ad claimed “like new” (I know. 1994. How does that work?)
Problem #1: The guy was in the Springs, an hour drive (which doesn’t sound that bad until you’re actually making it). Problem #2: Because it was such a haul, it would be five days before I had enough free time. I worried all weekend that someone else would buy it before me.
Finally Monday arrived and I was on my way.
The thing I hate about the Springs is this sign on the way into town:
A little reminder that you’re headed into bigot country. I, in my beat-up Japanese car with an Obama sticker and being married to a woman, was not entirely comfortable (I do have a friend from the Springs and she’s a lovely person; I don’t think she was comfortable there either).
Tony lived in an assisted living facility. He knew I was coming for five days, yet still made me follow him up to his unit to bring the bike down for a test drive. Like most old men, he went off on a lot of tangents about people I didn’t know and had trouble hearing me. I had just spent an hour sweating in my car, had another hour of the same to look forward to, and just wanted this over with. The bike was buried under two others — again, he’d had five days to get this shit ready.
He boasted how the frame alone was worth over $100 and pointed to the front suspension fork as a valuable modification (except it was some shitty ancient no-name model. I’m a suspension fork newb and I need as many YouTube videos, instructional forum posts and exploded views as I can get). He really wanted to unload this thing.
I had vowed to take my time — my last two transactions were hasty and done while I was so tired I couldn’t see straight, and obviously ended regretfully. Right off the bat, the chain had come off the chainring. He quickly admitted he knew nothing about bikes, he just sold them. Luckily I know a bit, and expertly flipped the bike upside down to fix it. That’s when I saw all the rust on the bottom bracket. Not good, but it’s also a steel, 24-year-old bike.
I took off up the street and the shifting was really cranky and reluctant. I looked down and the first thing I saw were teeth missing from the middle chainring. Also the fork he was so proud of was completely frozen. Like new, huh, Tony?
I took my time on the test drive, circling parking lots away from Tony’s sight and sales pitches. I fought very hard against an emotional decision. I had fallen so deeply, weirdly in love with this bike’s photo. But I absolutely didn’t want another project that I had to struggle with to make work.
I thanked Tony for his time. He asked what was wrong with it. I told him but I don’t think he could hear me.
I drove an hour back, immensely proud of myself for not falling into the trap I could never avoid before.
The minute I got home, I was back on The Hunt. For two hours I scoured Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, even looked at some new bikes on actual store sites (same problem as always — the cheapest, most basic new bikes are still out of my price range).
I was just going to give up for a few hours, maybe even take a spin on my existing road bike (or a nap, whichever my body asked for more loudly) when I fell in love again.
I don’t know how I could’ve missed it when I had been obsessively rechecking for days (in case the Yokota got sold), but there it was on Craigslist– the cleanest, newest yet most affordable bike I’d ever seen:
It wasn’t funky 80s colors or too technical (read: gratuitous rear suspension or sawed-off seat tubes) or too old or anything. And was serendipitously the same price as Tony’s piece of crap (and a Fuji too, same as my very much loved road bike).
I sent a message, sure that such a great deal had already been snapped up (see previous post about awful people who don’t bother taking down their ads). I think I held my breath for the entire two hours it took to hear back. But it was available.
(I’ll not bore you with the agonizing series of communiqués that followed. I will say the seller was oddly secretive, refusing to reveal their location or even their name until I was en route (except an address is incredibly useful when planning travel time).)
Chad (as I learned at his front door) lived north of Golden, in an upscale neighborhood that was literally the last stop before the mountains. The kind of neighborhood where lots are measured in multiple acres. I don’t think I’d be giving his address away by showing you his Google Maps street view:
A few words about Chad: Really he couldn’t have any other name. Tall, slender, crisp, wearing a sweater vest and coolly sipping what I assume was the tears of laid-off employees of whatever company he’d acquired that day. I wouldn’t be surprised if his name ended in a Roman numeral.
We chatted about how his son had outgrown it. He mentioned apologetically it was a tad older than five years (the bike snobs say anything over five years is too old to bother with (these are the same people who endlessly upgrade components and then brag about them. Partial to starting sentences with “I’m running a blah blah with blah blah…”)). I never thought I could afford something from this century (this bike is a 2012. That’s this decade!)
Time for the test drive. He pointed out the quick release seat post if I needed to adjust it. I gritted my teeth and nodded. Then, to my disbelief, he explained where the shifters were. “But maybe you know how to use them already?” Yes. I know how to use them. Yesterday I was adjusting a chain, today I’m in Bike Riding 101.
I rode up the driveway and back (living on a foothill provides built-in bike test courses), just enough to use most of the gears (which shifted butter smooth). I had vowed to take my time and be thorough, but I also knew if I lived to be 100 I’d never score such a killer deal again.
I’m sure he was surprised I came back so quickly, but he lives in a world where he comparison shops between several things of equally fine quality; my options are a pile of rusted-out Yugos and this Lexus that got mismarked and thrown in the bargain bin (he was actually asking $20 over Blue Book, but more on that soon).
I was ready to give him my money and go, but he wanted to keep chatting. He said he put slime tubes on because of the goatheads on the gravel road to Golden (Chad takes no chances. Chad leaves no room for error), which was the only action the bike had ever seen. I said I wasn’t hard core, but I do go to trails in the mountains. “Oooh,” he grimaced, sucking air through his teeth worriedly, “I don’t think it can handle that.”
The only bikes that look like mountain bikes but actually aren’t come from Walmart, and this was no Walmart bike (retailed for $600 brand new). Step aside, sir. I am rescuing this bike and giving it the life it was meant to have.
(Here’s a mildly amusing video where a Walmart bike eats itself when ridden too fast)
So I basically had the cycling equivalent of a Cadillac that was only driven to church and back by a little old lady.
I paid him, thanked him, then began the negotiations of how I was getting it home with my Honda Civic.
“It might fit in the back if we take the wheel off…” he suggested.
“Nope. I’ve got a rack in the trunk, thanks.”
“Oh. Well, do you need help setting it up?”
“No, I’m good.”
I can’t figure out if he was trying to make me feel more “feminine” than I look (also not necessary, sir) or if he’s truly never met a woman who could do “man” things without the help of one. It might surprise him to learn I own a spoke wrench, a pedal wrench, and an impressive assortment of Allen and socket wrenches, and I can use them all. I can change my own tires, degrease my own chain, adjust my own brakes; I can do lots and lots of things, including putting a damn bike rack on a car.
It doesn’t matter. She’s mine, she’s beautiful, and I’m just living for my weekend to let her see what she’s been missing.
Adopt, don’t shop!