I have been considering becoming a bike commuter for about 2 years. I almost bought a bike in the fall/winter of 2007 but decided to wait until the summer. I then became pregnant with my son Devan and biking was put on hold. But now, Devan is now 10 months, it’s beautiful and sunny in Vancouver (some say too hot, but come on, we get rain 8 months of the year, so no complaining from me!) so I made the commitment today and bought a bike.
I thought I’d write a bit about my experience as a newby on the roads and “personalize” my blog with occassionally writing about my biking experiences.
The Bike purchasing experience
I have the fortune of living only a few blocks from Vancouver’s wonderful and eclectic Commercial Drive. So, last Sunday on one of the “no cars on The Drive” days I went to our local bike shop, Bikes on the Drive at about 3:20. I was met with a wonderfully knowlegdeable sales person who took my information, and recommended some options, 3 different bikes. She then told me that given the lateness of the day, the shop closing in, now, 20 minutes, there really wasn’t enough time for me to test drive and purchase the bike today, but please come back on another day and they’d be happy to help.
A quick bit of personal background… I’m the kind of person that when I’ve decided to do something, I just go to a single location and expect I can walk out on the same trip with all my decisions made and if all goes well, the actual purchase fully kitted and ready to go. So, please understand when I tell you that I was quite confused and more than a bit ticked I couldn’t just buy my bike. I mean, it’s probably worth almost 2k to the shop… why not keep helping me a bit after closing??
With my two small children and my husband wanting to go home rather than find another bike shop that was willing to take my money, and with the consideration I believe in supporting my local community and want to develop a bit of a relationship with my “bike shop”, I decided I would go first thing on Tuesday morning (when I had a bit of time between things) to go down and buy my bike.
Now in the meantime, I did look on Craigs List (and found some 250 used bikes) and I could have bought used, but I really felt like I didn’t know enough to buy used. I am in all ways a newbie and want to make my new commute pleasant enough that I won’t ditch the idea in three weeks. So, after being overwhelmed with the number of used bikes and having no idea how to choose and not wanting to spend the hours and hours and hours of research to figure it out… I went back to my original plan which was buy new this time and when I need to replace this bike, then I’ll consider used. Now, on with the story…
First thing in the morning at the bike shop is not 9 am, or 10am (as I found out after I showed up with wallet in hand at 10am) but 11am. Sigh, no luck fitting it in on Tuesday morning. But I planned to leave on vacation on Thursday morning and I want to take my bike with me, so instead of working on Tuesday afternoon, I showed up to the bike shop at about 1:30pm.
Again, the service was phenomenal, a wonderful person named Rene helped me, and he was great. Lots of information, some sound advice and very little “salesy behaviour” which with my buying style just meant that I bought more instead of less.
At about 2:30 after test driving 2 bikes (I cut one of the bikes out of the equation) and going through a fair amount of accessorie discussions, I am almost fully kitted with a new Bike. I don’t have rain gear, panniers, or special clothing, but other than that, I’m good. Certainly enough for my first month of summer commuting. Just shy of $2k (which was my budget) spent. Now some may think “holy cow, that’s a lot” and some will think “could have been worse”. I know you can spend almost nothing and commute in Vancouver, but I wanted a bike that would keep me happy and keep me commuting. I am replacing my commute vehicle (a van) and am not such a “hard core” environmentalist that I wouldn’t go back to our 1 car, if my bike commute wasn’t reasonable. So getting a bike that was light, sturdy and commute friendly was important to me and I think the features and price were appropriate.
I have a great bike (now understood much better by some reading reviews) with appropriate accessories and it will be all ready on Thursday before I leave on vacation:
- Devinci Copenhagen Bike
- Tail light
- Bike Rack
- Water bottle holder
- Cool pack for on top of my rack
- Bike Lock
- Tire and seat post lock thingies
Even though the hours and first experience was a disappointing for me, I would really recommend Bikes on the Drive. The staff are friendly, supportive, not the least bit “cliche” and incredibly knowledgeable and forthright. Just don’t expect to see open doors before 11am or doors to stay open after closing. Which, on the Drive, in Vancouver, at a bike shop, may not be all that surprising.
I’m on vacation for a few days around the long weekend, my first official commute day won’t be until August 4th, and as long as I survive Vancouver traffic, I’ll post again 😉