Saturday, February 18, 2012

He who dies with the most toys wins?

Unfortunately, they still die.

Like a lot of guys, I like toys.  I like power tools, high quality hand tools, guitars (that I can’t play very well) cars that are fun to drive, and new golf clubs.  There’s something about teeing up a golf ball and taking a swing with a new driver that launches the ball into low earth orbit that brings a huge grin to my face.  (Note to self – go play more golf this year.)

That said, I don’t think I spend a whole lot on them. 

I haven’t bought a new car in over twenty years, for example, preferring instead to buy decent used cars and driving them until they’re ready to be donated to a local charity.  We have one cream puff of a 1995 Buick that I got from a friend a few years back.  It had about 65K miles on it when I bought it in 2005; used to be his company car.  I got it for our daughters to drive but they hated it so I drove it for 5 or 6 years as my primary vehicle until putting it out to pasture as our “last resort” car when someone is home from college.  The car’s name is Reggie; all our cars are named by our middle daughter and she saw this one as a stuffy, older English gentleman.  My current car is a 10 year old BMW convertible named Franz.  We’ve also had Garth (Nissan pickup truck) Vivica (My Bride’s Chrysler) Penny (MB’s Mazda) and Frank (my pickup truck).  

Driveway is kind of weird, now that I think about it.

Anyway, I don’t spend a lot on toys.  I only buy new tools when I need them although I’m sure MB would say that’s because I already own at least one of each anyway.  Since my golf game is infrequent these days most of my purchases are for golf balls.  I’ve got enough guitars for the rest of my life.  I can’t say that I need any more pool equipment although I do have an eye out for a particular custom cue if the price is right.  (It won’t ever be I’m sure.)

So it was a bit of an anomaly this past week for me when I took my road bike and got a tune up.  I bought this Giant CFR3, circa 1996, for $200 off Craigslist back in October and have been riding it ever since.   Mine is purple but here’s a pic.

 The ride is good, terrific actually, with my lone complaint being that it provides me with a pretty aggressive riding position.  (In other words, this old guy is leaning too far forward.)  

The other issue, and what was really driving my desire for a skilled mechanic to look at it, was the problem I was having shifting into the third cog in back.  It just seemed to skip it all together, in both directions, and the mechanism sounded kind of loud to me.  Like it was pissed off about something.  Mechanical stuff isn’t supposed to sound like that and it won’t for very long.  That’s why I was concerned.

I’m a do it yourselfer to a great degree.  My dad was pretty frugal; still is for that matter.  As a woodworker, I’ve also learned a lot of skills outside the world of wood and tend to put them to use whenever I can.  Based on the availability of good help, or even finding someone that can do it, I’d rather do it myself rather than throw whatever it is out and buy a new one.

But I’d already gone as far as I could after buying a bike repair stand ($79) and watching a bunch of videos on Youtube on how to repair/adjust/fix/maximize bicycles and their most mysterious of parts, the derailleurs.  (Don’t you just love that word?  It’s French and I think it means gear shift.  Or take another train, or something.  Those French have a different word for everything!  Steve Martin was a genius back in the 70s and he still is.)

Besides, I’m in training to do some serious rides including my first century.  That’s 100 miles.  In one day.  Like a whole day.  Seriously.  For charity.  (Shameless plug for Tour deCure and wouldn’t you like to donate?  Go to

So I didn’t want to be a long way from home and have something major break down.  Walking in cycling shoes is about as difficult as anything I’ve ever done.  The cleats make you look like a bozo, they’re hard plastic and really slick on the bottom and you just don’t want to do it.  (I’m sure the folks in cars at the traffic light that observed me doing this have kicked themselves for not recording my antics and posting to Youtube.)  I’m prepared with a tire repair kit so I can fix a flat if need be but not really keen about trying anything else if I don’t have to.

I like to support local business people so I went to the RABA website (that’s the Richmond Area Bicycle Association for those of you keeping score at home) and they had a list of vendors.  I chose 2 Wheel Tune Up, a guy working out of his garage not far from my home.

Quick aside in the Holy Cow category – RABA has a newsletter where they call out things about the members.  The January issue had a wrap up of the prior year and it made mention of one member who had managed to log over 10,000 miles on his bike in the past year.  Seriously???  As if that wasn’t enough to make me feel like a slacker, it pointed out that he’d been doing that for quite some time as he is now 70 years old and has lifetime mileage of 355,000!  That’s about 10,000 miles per year for 35 years!  I mean damn! Shout out to Rickey Davis.  You sir, get my first Holy Cow! award.  (I don’t know what that means but if I ever meet you, I’ll buy you as many beers as you want.)

I connected with Greg, the owner of 2 Wheel, and brought my bike by his shop.  We talked about what I was looking to have done and he promised to get back to me with an estimate as soon as he could.  That turned out to be later that night.  Greg told me I needed new tires as they were probably original to the bike, new brake shoes as they were scratching the rims, and in order to raise the handlebars I’d need a new stem set.  I gave him the go ahead.

My bike was ready to be picked up the next day so I swung by after work.  Greg showed me everything he’d done, showed me the list of parts and their prices, his labor costs, and how to make adjustments for myself in the future.  (You have to love a small business man who wants to help you do it yourself!)  Total bill was $316.

Now, why on earth would I put that much money into a used bike?  Well, as Greg told me, it’s a great bike.  The frame is actually a combination of carbon and aluminum – I’m thinking it’s one of the first carbon frame bikes available to the general public.  It sold for well over $1000 when it was new.  Greg let me look at his current ride, an Italian bike that sells for about $6000!  (Don’t worry MB, I’m not even thinking about it….much...)  His bike weighs about a pound or two less than mine.  Sure, it’s got other whiz bang coolness that mine doesn’t have but the coolness to dollar ratio is really steep and I’m not ready to invest.

I took my bike home and tried it out.  Wow!  The ride is even better, the fit is far more comfortable and mechanical issues are gone.  Evidently, I don’t have the skills just yet to handle that French stuff on my bike but I’ll keep learning and working at it.  After all, I plan to have this bike for a while.  (Seems as if bikes are a lot like guitars, you never actually get rid of them.)  In other words, the money spent on this tune up was well worth it.  And there’s one really important reason for that, too.

The motor is still good.

1 comment:

  1. Good for you, Brian, and even more good for Greg. You are lucky to have found such a one.

    The motor is still good. And the beauty and the splendor and the wonder of cycling is that the motor won't wear out with use, it will grow stronger.