I'd like to start with a eulogy.
We're gathered here today to mourn the loss of a close friend. His duration in our lives was swift and fleeting, almost ephemeral. His presence was electric, his absence left a hole in my heart, not to mention a deficit in my transportation abilities. Yes, I'm talking about the passing of our beloved friend, my corporate Specialized Turbo.
Before I say anything else, let me just acknowledge that this was entirely my fault. Okay, so remember that awesome electric bike I got through a company pilot program? It turns out that a big stipulation of the program is that the main usage of the bike has to be commuting. Naturally, living on campus, my "commute" doesn't quite qualify, and so I, with a heavy heart, had to return the bike. In my defense, I was "commuting" to my mailbox (~10 miles away) 3-4 times a week, but that's still not quite in the spirit of the program.
I was just starting to explore the immense mobility the bike provided me. It liberated me from two equally-unpleasant travelling options: spend all my time walking or drive my clunky, inefficient house (it's barely a car, as far as I'm concerned) around. I had bought a really nice helmet for use with the electric bike, which I'd hate to see sitting around the truck, going to waste. I knew I couldn't go back to my old life Before Cycling (BC for short). I also knew I wasn't going to spend $3,000+ on a fancy, brand new electric bicycle. My current priorities dictate that I split that money between my remaining student loans and my fancy new investment portfolio (to be detailed in a future post). So I started looking around for gently-worn, non-electric road bikes.
The Haggle Battle
I was raised Jewish, though I haven't regularly attended services in nearly a decade. It follows that, if you believe in stereotypes, I should theoretically be good at haggling. But experience has shown that I'm just not good at it. In fact, I'd go as far as saying I'm flat out bad at it, somehow forking over more cash than if I had said nothing at all.
But Brandon, what does your inconsistent, lackadaisical approach to Judaism have to do with bicycles?
Well impatient reader, allow me to explain. On this past Monday evening, I sauntered into a quaint used bike shop in Palo Alto, and casually laid down my demand.
"I'm looking for a used road bike", I said, "Nothing fancy, just to get around town. My budget is $300." Notice that I didn't say "about $300" or "around $300". This is important because 1) I'm usually a huge, subconscious advocate for that type of imprecise language and 2) it sets the groundwork for what took place next.
The bike shop salesperson grabs two bikes for me to try out outside. The first one is a "vintage" bike, which is just bike-speak for "really old". I get on it and it starts to spasmodically shift gears without any input from me. Assuming demonic possession, I bring that bike inside and grab the next one. This one doesn't appear to need an exorcism, but I'm not particularly wowed either. It's a bit rusty, and I feel like I'm putting in a disproportionate amount of effort for the snails' pace that I'm moving at. Those bikes were $250 and $300 respectively. I go back inside, and the salesperson says to me, "Here, try this one out, I think you might like it." It feels like that scene in Harry Potter where he's picking out his first wand and he finds the perfect match in the pair wand to Voldemort's. I get on and it just feels right. Taking it out for a spin, it's smooth and the gears shift nicely. This is the one, I know it. I bring it back inside, the smile on my face lets the salesperson know I've found my bike.
"This one", he says, "is $400."
My heart sinks a bit: though my $300 limit was arbitrary, he doesn't know that, and I intend to stick with it. I let out a sigh, "that's really unfortunate. I like the bike, but $300 is my limit here."
He furrows his brow a bit, "I can probably do $350".
At this point, I realize that my first successful haggle is underway, and I stand firm, "Sorry man, I set aside $300 to get a bike, I really can't go over that." Sure it's not entirely truthful, but $300 is my target.
"It's only a year old and was hardly used. If it were brand new, this bike would cost…", he pauses for a second to look it up, "over $500. The best I can do is $320." It's pretty close to what I wanted and he seems serious, I should take it. It's a great bike and my past day's research says this is a good deal. But I keep pushing.
"That's too bad, I was hoping to take this bike home today. Do you have any other bikes in my price range I could look at?"
He cracks. "You know what, I'll give it to ya for $300".
I take him up on the offer immediately, and I buy a $50 lock too, because I feel bad for subjecting him to my games and appreciate his flexibility. I also genuinely needed a lock. He throws in a kickstand, and attaches the bike lock for me as well. The total, with tax, comes to ~$390. Not bad, not bad at all.
I load it into the back of the truck, and secure it to the bike rack I had built for the electric bike. Because this bike is so much lighter (20 pounds versus 50 pounds), it feels much more stable.
Quality Time with the Bike
Hagglefest 2015 was last Monday, so I've had almost a week to get familiar with my new fat-powered race car. I didn't do much riding until yesterday, mostly just short trips into town, which the bike complied with handily, without question. Yesterday however, I did something crazy.
The Big Ride
My cardio is generally awful, as I've mentioned before. Jogging a mile requires an act of divine intervention, and I've never cycled more than ~20 miles at once. Even when I did, those 20 mile trips were on the electric bike which, on "full power" mode (the default setting), does most of the work for me. But I'd really been enjoying the bike so far, and I was itching to take it on a real ride. It just so happened that there was a truck-people meetup happening in Oakland on Saturday (which will definitely get its own post). So I resolved to bike to Oakland, a ~50 mile, four hour odyssey from where my box-truck home is parked. I had no idea what I was getting into.
This post is already getting pretty long, so I'll skip most of the tiny, inconsequential details that I love to ramble on about (like how I still had two hours to go when I thought I was "almost there"). The gist is that the ride was punishing, but beautiful. I rode across long swaths of the Bay Trail, crossed over the Dumbarton Bridge, and saw plenty of gorgeous, sprawling land and seascapes. It was well-worth the chapped lips, sweat-soaked clothing, and sore, bruised butt bones (which I now know are called ischial tuberosities). Plus, it's gratifying to know that I biked a distance that's likely distinguishable from space. I still can't feel my legs, but that'll probably get better (right?). I'll definitely do similar rides in the future, once my body forgives me.
One last note that I thought was interesting: If I had still had the electric bike, it's very likely I wouldn't have biked the distance. The battery range is only 25-30 miles, so 60% of the way through my trip, the bike would have died and I'd be left with a 50 pound bike and 20+ miles to go. Not ideal. I would have had to either drive (environmental homicide/generally awful) or Caltrain/BART (lame and inconvenient). So I'm actually getting more use out of a less-fancy bicycle. Life is all about your willingness to make lemonade.