While I was in Texas recently dropping off my son with my parents I picked up a bicycle. The day before we left I decided to take a quick look at craigslist for North Dallas. I think I put in a maximum price of $75, thinking that I would only find crappy bikes and really good deals. Some might argue that what I found lies somewhere in the middle, but to me it was solid gold. Right near the airport where I would be landing there was available a 1991 Fuji Del Rey in what appeared to be pretty good condition. The paint job caught my eye with it’s dark red flecked with black. And the stem was painted to match! Plus the price was right, so I got in touch with the seller and he was very helpful in arranging a meeting at an Office Depot about 15 minutes from the airport.
I told my family ahead of time that upon arrival my aunt, who would be picking me and my son up, would need to make a short side trip so that I could purchase yet another bicycle. I admitted to a certain level of insanity ahead of time helping to curtail some of their commentary. That plan mostly worked. The travel went smoothly and we arrived on time. I kept the seller updated as to our progress and he assured me that he would be there at the agreed-upon time, which he was! The bike did appear to be in great shape with just a few nicks and scuffs in the paint. The components were fairly mid range, but all functioning well. I was glad to see the cantilever brakes, because what little experience I have with cantilever brakes has been positive, and I was hoping to use this as my winter bike which can always use stronger braking. I had promised my mother that I would at least attempt to haggle, so I offered a lower price and when the fellow turned it down I just went ahead and paid him the asking price. That is how I haggle. Though, since I am normally buying bikes from people much closer to home, I often bring bread and pastries with me from work to give to people from whom I am buying bikes, or even people to whom I am selling bikes. Which means that sometimes somebody comes to look at a bike and decides not to buy it but still walks away with a loaf of bread and a box of sweets.
Anyway, I took the wheels off of the bike and fit the whole thing in my aunts trunk and we headed home. Upon arrival I put the wheels back on the bike and gave it a closer inspection. Everything still seemed good. The air in the tires was very low. I aired those up to the prerequisite 75 PSI and left them there to see how well they held air. Later after unpacking and giving proper hugs to my family members I took the bike on a quick spin around the neighborhood to test all the shifting and breaking and handling. I did the hands-free test to see if the frame was in good shape literally and figuratively, and it seemed to be just fine.
Upon closer inspection I was a little sad to see that the painted stem, while cool looking in its own way with its matching paint, seems a little cheap and chintzy. Almost even worth replacing. But everything else seems great. I even really like the Bio-Pace crankset. I’ve had good experiences with a number of bikes that came with Bio-Pace, especially for long rides. I ended up taking it for a ride to the grocery store to get ingredients for a lemon meringue pie I was to make, but in the end that was the longest trip I took on this bike while in Texas because the temperatures were punishing at pretty much all times of the day. I had lived there for three years in the past, and so I knew to expect this, but it still sucked.
As an aside, I spent part of a day a day in Fort Worth with Ez and my parents. I wanted to take him to the water gardens they have there because I remember them being both awesome and terrifying when I went there as a young boy, though I think I was there at night when it was lit up from under the water. It is also worth mentioning that they filmed the ending of Logan’s Run there, so that will be a film to watch upon Ezra’s return. But while wandering around that part of town I saw that they have a nice little bike share program, and I also noticed a number of dockless bikes hanging around like aloof teenagers.
The day before I was set to fly home I picked up a bicycle shipping box from a local bike shop in Fairview, Texas called Bicycles Plus. The staff there were all very friendly and helpful. They helped me dig through the trash can (full of empty beer cans and bicycle assembly scraps, so probably a pretty nice place to work, too) for some of the protective plastic pieces that I might need. Although in the end I never could figure out how those worked, so I packed the bike without them. And as to the shop’s name, the “Plus” was all other bicycle paraphernalia that one might find in any bike shop. I had been hoping for something amazing, like my vintage bicycle and fountain pen repair/stationery shop idea I’ve been mulling over for a few years. It’s mostly just a way to pay cost for the things I enjoy. And also a sure fire way to lose all my money.
I took the wheels off and let the air out of the tires and then set all that aside. I wrapped the whole bike in foam tubes that I got from the hardware store’s plumbing section. I also got a long-ish all-thread bolt with some washers and nuts which I used to create a protective spacer for the rear drop outs. The handlebars came off and the front fork was turned sideways so I was less worried about that part being crushed out of shape. I tied everything together with twine and tried a few different ways to fit it into the box so that I would be able to have some extra room. My original plan was to cut down the box to a size that would pass muster as a checked bag on my airline. However I was unable to get the size down much smaller at all, which I knew would result in a charge of $100 (as opposed to the $50 if it were closer to “bag sized”) and so I had to look into some shipping options. I had seen on the Internet that the going rate for shipping a bicycle seemed to be about $50, and it also seemed like FedEx was the delivery service to which that rate applied. However when I got to the FedEx store with my package in hand I was told that the price would be $133, and that was assuming I was shipping it to a business. So I got in my car with the bicycle, and figured out how bikeflights.com works. Long story short, by the time my father had driven me back to my aunt’s, which is less than a mile away, I had already signed up on their website, arranged for the bike to be shipped from that very FedEx store I had just left directly to my house in Portland, Maine, paid for it, and been emailed the packing slips. So when we did get home I just had to run inside and print off the slips, grab the packing tape, and attach the slips as directed. I didn’t even have to take the box out of the car to do it. Then we hopped back in, drove back to the store, handed over the box, got my tracking number, and went to dinner at Luby’s with my two aunts. At that point my parents left with my son to return to Oklahoma. Oh, and a big thunderstorm rolled through and cooled the temperature down quite a lot, so that when I got home and was finally free to take a bike ride without any other obligations or distractions I found myself without a bicycle.
The new Del Rey arrived on my doorstep six days later in pretty good shape. I have no pictures of it being packed or unpacked because I just don’t tend to remember things like that. Any damage done was my own fault, though I will still document it here for self-shaming purposes. The wheel hubs had poked through the box on either side even though I had reinforce to them with extra cardboard. It turns out steel is stronger than cardboard. But they didn’t seem to be damaged And the wheels are still pretty true. The only other thing I noticed was that, like an asshole, I had not wrapped the stem in foam, as I had the entire rest of the bicycle frame. I’m not sure if this is a subconscious thing related to my feelings about the stem. But either way the spokes on one of the wheels worked off some paint and probably also some metal from a small section of the stem. Otherwise I did a really good job and managed to ship myself a bike without totally fucking it up.
I got the bike back together and sorted out and have been using it to commute to work on less than optimal weather days, and so far so good. I would definitely like different tires, and it needs fenders and a few other bits and pieces. I’d like some larger flat pedals that keep my feet in place well. Yesterday I took a long ride with it and made the slightest adjustment to the seat, just moving it aft a couple of millimeters, and that tiny adjustment made a huge difference in how my hands and forearms felt after a ride. So sometimes it really is just the littlest change that’s required to make a bike more comfortable. I need to remember that when I’m too lazy to stop and make an adjustment, especially considering how long I will sometimes let that sort of thing go on.