Tuesday, November 1, 2011

99 Problems and a Bicycle Shop Proprietor is one.

The journey into madness begins with a ridiculous thought, 'What if I had...two bicycles?'

Actually if we're going to be accurate, it begins with Googling things you don't currently own, knowing full well that in this material age, constantly looking at pictures of things you don't own is the fastest way to wake up owning them. Thus, many pages of upright bicycle pornography later I decided to buy a bicycle with a fully enclosed chain case and hub gears and the capacity to carry an extra heavy load. For 'all weathers', you see. Though Perth winters are ludicrously like Summer in other parts of the world, I was knee deep in a plan to move to Tasmania and thought only of my bicycle future. Cough. Honestly. A super sturdy, all weather, upright tank of a bicycle was what I needed. The hunt for a proper Dutch bike in Perth was ON.

Even before I'd bought the Schwinn I'd desperately wanted to try out a Gazelle and this time, I found a stockist. Ginger and I hopped to the four-wheel and went forth to this wonderland of imported delights. It was here that I had the most uncomfortable bicycle shop experience of my life. So far as I knew, this was the only Perth stockist. The shop was crammed with bicycles and unfortunately for me, the SINGLE Gazelle was right in a corner behind some other bikes and the front door. There was also a Lekker, which I was interested in trying. The Proprietor made a bit of a fuss about us wanting to see such 'difficult to reach' bikes but at this point we thought it was good natured grumbling, shop banter. He spoke highly of Gazelles and said his wife had an old one that kept on keeping on. I was eager to try it out despite reading of some recent 'downgrading' of parts in the manufacturing. It was the traditional Dutch geometry and weight that I wanted to experience. I politely requested a test ride. The Proprietor stared at me as though I had asked him for a blow-job. He thought his declaration that his wife was very happy with her Gazelle should have been sufficient evidence for us to purchase one. The thing is, Gazelles are not as cheap as Schwinns. The bikes I was about to test still retailed for well over $1000. They are by no means an impulse purchase (Not that any bicycle should be an impulse purchase!) and certainly not one to be made without getting a proper feel for the bicycle. His grumbles followed us into the alley behind the shop. Realising what kind of guy we were dealing with, I then politely asked if the seat could be adjusted to height before test-riding. He complained out loud as he went to get a spanner and he didn't even do it himself, he asked the shop mechanic to do it. We were the only customers in the shop. It was with relief that I watched him retreat back inside to complain to nobody in particular about our inconveniencing him. We were left with the mutely apologetic mechanic.

Crimes against Bicycle Shop Proprietors: Asking for the seat to be adjusted.

Once I was permitted to ride the Gazelle I found it was (to me) a radically different geometry to the Schwinn. To make a car comparison, it was like being in a monster 4WD designed to have a 'high driving position'. I felt as though I towered above everyone around me. The seat was tilted back thanks to the different post angle. Though it doesn't look it, my feet were quite high off the ground so if I wanted to stop I had to dismount the saddle completely. You can see in the picture below that though the distance between peddle and ground is small, the way the seat is positioned means I could not put my toe down directly in line with the saddle, not without titling the Gazelle a lot and its weight made that a difficult proposition. The handlebars felt almost too close (I was told they did not height adjust, although that might have been bollocks.) and I had to mind where they intersected with my knee on tight corners. Mostly, the bike felt both lighter than I expected (in motion, it weighed a tonne at rest) yet simultaneously rooted to the bitumen. I was surprised by how unstable I felt at times, having grown accustomed to the comparatively featherweight Schwinn following every sway of my hips as I cornered, the Gazelle felt like a beast independently deciding how we would turn. It required more conscious control of weight distribution. Clearly, Dutch bikes needed a tweaking of my skills.

"Young Man, are you photographing my person? How fucking impertinent!"

Next, I tried out the Lekker. With seat adjustment of course. Similar geometry but cornering was dicier, at lower speeds I wobbled and when turning, the handlebar grips physically touched my leg and blocked my turning motion. I considered asking for the handlebars to be raised but as I was already leaning towards the Gazelle, I decided it wasn't worth it. Again, I was surprised at how 'fast' the bicycle felt for its weight. I could see that once I understood them and levelled up my skills ever so slightly, either would be a pleasant ride. They both had the fantastic Dutch stand, solid rear racks with bungee cords and skirt guards. Overall I spent about 15 minutes examining and riding the bikes up and down the alley (combined). They were worth exploring and I was seriously considering the Gazelle despite it being an older model, severely shop-soiled and the chain case and skirt guard being soft. (Only a problem because I wasn't sure I could get replacement parts in the event of catastrophic tearing.) I asked the mechanic if I could have one more go on the Gazelle to confirm my preference. (Again, there's no other customers and it's a Saturday. Not even near closing time.) Unfortunately The Proprietor heard me and said with disgust, "You'll wear out the tires, I've got to sell those, you know," and it was at this point I decided he would not be selling 'those' to me.

Showing my fat bottom to a pair of bins, examining a Lekker.

I smiled, thanked them both for their time and promptly left, ignoring the complaints about us not buying anything ringing in the air behind us and mentally sending The Proprietor to blazes. That was it for Dutch bikes in Perth so we drove to the only Pashley stockist in town where I was ultimately to buy my 'all weather' bike, albeit not a Dutch one. We've since been to many an independent Perth bicycle shop and discovered that The Proprietor is infamously rude to everybody all the time and a local joke amongst other bicycle shop proprietors. Ginger later saw him on a train, being rude to a tourist. No wonder the shop was crammed to the point of stock damage, I doubt he sells much with that kind of service.

5 comments:

  1. Goodness sounds like a right tit, you should've looked him in the eye and said "You know I was all ready to hand over my cash but considering your lovely service it's no wonder you have no customers" and storm out of there with a huff. Sheesh, why do it if you can't stand people? Lucky for me, if there's attitude, I'm walking right outta there. (Aren't you worried the heavier bike might be problematic hillside?)

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  2. Hi there,

    Paul from Gazelle Bicycles here. If you have a moment, give me a call on (02) 9666 9497.

    Thanks!

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    1. Thanks for your thoughtful customer care, Paul. I will be sure to check out the Tasmanian Gazelle dealer when I am next in the area.

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  3. Wow. That is nuts! I really don't understand how people like that stay in business.

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    1. If anyone has seen a red and white Avanti road bike with carbon forks and a seat that has been pecked by crows; it was stolen on June 19th at Whitfords Train Station. Any information leading to recovery $100.00 Reward Plse Ph. 64013447

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