Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

HNY&C -- after record rains, record winds, and record cold, it appears we are for the moment starting 2007 in some semblance of Cascadian normalcy, if you ignore the debris still everywhere from the windstorm. forecast for Seattle, WA: Jan 3, 46 degrees fahrenheit and showers. Jan 4, 41 degrees and showers. Jan 5, 42 and showers. Jan 6, 44 and showers. Jan 7, 49 and showers. Jan 8? 47 and showers. Jan 9 has, yes, some showers, and 47 degrees, and then on jan 10, the showers become scattered and the day gets colder at 39 degrees.

I didn't notice the wet so much until I started cycling. It's no so much that it is constantly raining around here -- far from it. What it is is either constantly about to rain, or just finished raining. This means that from October until May, the roads are nearly always wet. For a cyclist, it all essentially means the same thing: so are you. Fenders help, but there's no way around it; you're going to get wet, muddy, and both too cold and too warm on any given ride.

On 31 December, a bunch of FRM teammates and I went for a cruise in the nor'east Seattle area, meaning Snoqualmie falls, Issaquah, and the like. This was just before the return to normalcy, which means sun, cold, lots of debris, and snow and ice. Thankfully, the roads were mostly free of this snow and ice, but there is a disturbing realization as you climb higher and higher in elevation and you see more and more snow on the side of the road, that at some point very shortly you are going to have to de-elevate. This means descending some of the same roads you just ascended, and really, really hoping that there isn't very much ice and snow on the road on the way down, because if there is, not much you can do is going to help. Then there is the part where you all ignore the "road closed! High water!" signs and proceed to find a couple of sections of road totally flooded out, and you are one of the three who decide it's probably not that deep, and you will proceed forward with caution, the sacrificial penguin as everyone else watches to see if there is a polar bear and it eats you you sink or fall or otherwise end up in icy water. That would have sucked, because there was nowhere dry to put a foot down, and being 1-hour into a 4-hour ride in 30-something temps, it wouldn't have been very good to do it with feet full of freezing fluids.

But no one fell, and no one got ice-watered, and it was absolutely beautiful. Though I had neither camera nor time to stop and mess about with pictures, I wish I could show it to you. For all y'alls who stay cooped up indoors, I pity you.

Speaking of bicycles, the pet peeve of the day is actually two, and concerns bike shops in the greater Portland metro area. With so many bike shops to choose from, good customer service is paramount to retaining customers, and two recently have earned a big F-U from yours truly. One is Lakeside Bicycles, on Highway 43 in that part of Lake Oswego where it is also called State Street. Here's what happened: my mother and her husband were both riding their bikes around the lake, appreciating some of the unseasonable sunshine, when there's the realization that one of the saddles is entirely uncomfortable for one of the very recreational bike riders.

A-ha, but we can fix this, think they, for there is a friendly local bike shop just 'round the corner. Surely they have saddles! And they do, although not many for the casual, recreational rider, since Lakeside is a rather high-end bike shoppe, which seems natural considering its locale. Nonetheless, a suitable-looking saddle is sourced, and paid for with the expectation that the technician will immediately install it so that the ride can be continued in comfort. In one of those maddening incompatibilities, the saddle won't fit the seatpost, for reasons the shop mechanic cannot completely understand. "Oh, well," reply the customers, "perhaps you have another saddle that will work?"

"Unfortunately not, we don't stock very much for comfort and trail bikes; we're mostly a road shop," sayeth the shop.

"Well, that's too bad," say the customers, "I guess we'll just take our money back and be on our less than comfortable way."

So far, nothing very out of line. Here's where it gets aggravating. "Well, um, er... would you like store credit?"

The customers look surprised, but try to restrain themselves and simply describe their situation: as you can see, they're not very serious roadies, and it's clear this shop doens't really suit their needs. They'll just take the refund.

"Well," says the shop, "we can't really do returns on something that you've used."

At this point, the customers are incredulous. "USED? We haven't even taken it out of the store! Your guy tried and to install the part that you sold to me, and it will not fit! You're really telling us we can't return it?"

"Um, well, you see, it's out of the package, and there are little marks on the rail --"

"Sure, from your guy trying to install it!"

You see where this is going. Lakeside, how much is that one $39.99 sale worth to you?

The second shop to get the middle finger is Portland's ever-present Bike Gallery. I'm really sad to have to hate these guys, as overall, the shops with the blue awning have been pretty good to me. But one of their managers personally screwed over the Portland State University cycling team, and for this they are on the blacklist. You shall never sell me another $10 brake binder bolt, another set of $24 brake pads, another $6 tube again!

With all of these complaints, which bike shops in the Portland area would I recommend? (You may remember my complaint about Veloce bicycles, and its self-righteous jerk of an owner, from a previous post.) My fave is Bike Central, a small, cooperatively owned shop downtown on SW Front Avenue. Dean may be a bit gruff, but he's a hell of a mechanic, the best wheelbuilder in town, and won't try to sell you a thing that you don't need. They are not a dealer of any factory-made bicycles; instead, if you'd like a complete bike, you describe your riding style, specify your budget, and get measured. 50 per cent down, and then in approximately 2 weeks, you'll have a bike ready, just for you. If you're out on the West side, Sunset cycles is nicely-equipped with Specialized bicycles, and provides excellent service. Just East of the Willamette is River City Bicycles, which I will admit is one of the more expensive shops in town and furthermore has comissioned sales associates, so it's not a very casual place either, but they have an excellent variety of bicycles and accessories of all stripes in stock, and do a lot to support the local cycling community. There are plenty of others out there that I'm sure are excellent, but I haven't dealt with all that many. Stick with what you know you like, right?


  • At 2:14 PM , Blogger stokediam said...

    Ooo, I was getting worried after your description of Sunday's ride (which was 100% spot on BTW) when you moved on to pet peeves and was mucho relieved to read that tandems who try to ride with singles was NOT one of them! I'd recommend a bike shop in Seattle, but I think you still live closer to Portland....


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