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A Bittersweet Arrival

Let’s see, so much has happened over the past two and a half weeks that if I were a good blogger I would have posted updates daily. Instead, I am going the route of posting after the fact. It’s better this way, believe me. If I had posted updates, I would not have had the necessary time to dull my anger. And anger doesn’t always serve a purpose; in fact, it almost never gets you anywhere.

So the bike arrived and David and I trotted on over to the bike shop on a nice Saturday afternoon eager with anticipation. I brought the Bruce Gordon along so they could use as many parts as possible on the new frame. David got measured and the BG fits him so instead of selling it like a good girl and trying to make a buck, we will get it build back up for David to ride. Then we can go touring together!

The new frame was packed away under other boxes and Zoltan could only get the fork out for us to see (apparently it had been there for two weeks but due to the vaguries of email I could not be reached). What a pretty fork with its pearly dark gray sheen and pink and white decals. Ahhh, the fateful fork.

While we’re going over parts, Zoltan shows me the rims that I specified and said that he had ordered the LX hubs for the wheels. “LX hubs,” I said? “But I specified XT hubs.” Apparently, he hadn’t remembered the email that I send listing all the components that I thought I would need. So with the promise of a fitting on Friday and the excitement of a new bike we headed home and even celebrated with a deliciously wicked Frapucchino. The jubilation would not last.

Fitting Friday came quickly and I scurried off to the bike shop, tires in hand. I asked to see Zoltan and was informed that he was most likely getting some food. He was actually upstairs but no one bothered to look for him while I sat there, minutes ticking by - five, ten, twenty. Why should they – they aren’t his keeper, right? I don’t know – would it have been so hard to check on his whereabouts? And during my wait it was intimated by a certain member of the shop that mesh covered chamois bike shorts were perhaps only for “people like them” in the bike shop. What the fuck? Because I have nothing clever to say about ugly shorts covered with mesh and sewn with red trim I know nothing about bike shorts? Right. Finally Zoltan showed up and we took a look at the progress.

The bike was wheeled out and we went over the components. I would need the following items on top of those already ordered: stem, seat post, and front derailleur. The stem and seat post I understood because of tube size difference between old and new bikes, but the front derailleur was another casualty of not paying attention. If we did as I had wanted and brought the BG into the shop while setting up the order for the new frame that expense could have been avoided. Whatever,it's water under the bridge. I left with the expectation that the whole thing, wheels and all would be ready to take home on the following Monday – May 22nd.

The fateful day arrived and I went to the shop, cutting out early from work, excited about the bike. This was an expense for me, this bike. I went this route because my BG is a 700cc wheel base and by all accounts a 26” wheel base is more sturdy and dependable for the types of roads I expect to encounter – namely boulder strewn dirt paths. Zoltan was there and available for our 4pm appointment and we got started. The bike was together with its new derailleur, the wheels were together with the right number of spokes and the correct hubs, new seat post installed and all the other bit and bobbles from the BG. The stem was a loaner as a lighter, just as costly stem was still on order. The bike was latched into something like rollers and I got on and started pedaling and shifting. It felt good. An adjustment here and there with the saddle and snip, the fork tubing was clipped and capped and I was good to go. But there was a problem.

The rack didn’t fit the fork mounts. I asked why not and was told that it was an old style rack and they didn’t make them like that anymore. Old style I though? It was a Bruce Gordon rack and hell, how often do rack specifications change? I had said “Bruce Gordon lowrider rack mounts” over and over again during the ordering process and here I was with a fancy new bike and a well made, expensive rack that JUST DIDN’T FIT? I left in a cloud of annoyance, numbers running through my head – new rack, new packs – the packs were made to fit that rack no others. And on the way out I’m told to “take good care of it.” Huh, what would you do if you just received a custom frame? Throw it under a truck? OK, OK she was only trying to be nice. Sorry.

Walked the bike home – too much crap in my bag to ride and remembered that I had broken the lamp that morning so there would be no test ride for me. Lumbered off to Home Depot where the same crappy lamp was now being sold for $40 or more, off to Bed, Bath, and Beyond where there no good, cheap halogen lights, and then to some crate store to buy whatever looked the least crappy. My mind was in a fog of money. I had just spent an unmentionable sum on a bike and I now needed to buy a lamp that used to cost $20 and now cost $40. I couldn’t think. Shivering in my tee shirt in the coolness of the evening I got the lamp home and started assembling itand guess what? It was defective. Now I had the lamp and the bike rack to fret about.

The rest of the week was a blur of phone calls and emails to the bike shop (“Are you sure you requested the BG low rider rack mounts as I specified?”), Bruce Gordon (the bike and rack maker), Robert Beckman (the pannier maker), and the wonderfully helpful Wayne at The Touring Store. It was true – BG has his racks designed for 7.5” about the hub mount and most other racks are at 6.5”. Why would Independent Fabrications even offer different rack mounts for BG racks if there wasn’t a difference?

My main source of information and support for this period was the Bike Forums Touring list. These guys (sorry, it’s mostly guys) were so supportive and helpful. There were offers of extra racks and packs and a design of a very sturdy adapter if things didn’t work out with the bike shop. I am very grateful for their support and it made it easier to stand up for myself, knowing I was right and knowing that if the bike shop gave me a hard time there were other options available. THANK YOU!!!

So to wind this up, on Tuesday, May 30th, the bike shop decided to just get me a new fork from IF with the BG lowrider front rack mounts instead of drilling additional rack mount holes into the existing fork. I have to honestly say that I’m not sure that I’ll ever understand this decision as the other most viable option was to just buy me a rack and packs of my choosing (the BG and Beckman stuff is some of the best out there) but it fixes the problem and no one had to get mean. However, the fun of getting a new bike was lost in the stress of trying to figure out how to fix the bike shop’s error.

I’m glad I stuck up for myself without getting bitchy and it was good to work with Zoltan to fix the problem instead of just screaming about wanting my money back. We need the bike shops and bike shops need us so there is no reason to burn bridges, especially if they are willing to work with you, but it’s good to know the facts and how to back them up.

This new fork will work and the bike should be ready this Saturday – just in time for our party!

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