Daily Archives: May 26, 2015

How Surly Saved our Cycle Tour

Eric with his new Surly Ogre.
Eric with his new Surly Ogre.

In Auckland about three weeks ago, Eric bought a new bicycle. This purchase was NOT an impulse buy. It was NOT a spur-of-the moment decision. It was a long, drawn-out process that made sense in the effort to save money and make do with a perfectly good two-year old bicycle, but it didn’t make sense in terms of health, riding satisfaction, and patience from me. Now that he’s been riding his new Surly Ogre for the past three weeks, I’m so sorry he didn’t buy it sooner – a LOT sooner.

Here’s the backstory:

We purchased two mountain bikes in Malaysia and rode them for about a year while we were living there. Eric’s steel frame La Pierre was a sturdy bike with stays for racks thus making it a logical choice for his touring bike. My aluminum frame BMC did not have the stays but Old Man Mountain racks that mount on the axels took care of that problem. Eric, although never experiencing problems on short rides in Malaysia, was unhappy with his bike from the first very first day of cycle touring. I, on the other hand, was very happy with my BMC so I was having trouble being sympathetic with his complaints.

First he had problems with his bum – serious problems – sores, blisters, and bruises from bones hitting rivets on the seat. One day, on impulse at a tiny cycle shop in Thailand, he tossed the old seat in the trash and bought a new Brooks saddle.The fact that this tiny shop selling mostly Chinese bicycles carried Brooks saddles, the gold standard of touring saddles, the must-have saddle, the mother of all saddles,  was the impetus to buy. But the impulsiveness of buying the saddle, not realizing it was a “narrow” and thus the wrong size, never solved the problem. ( At that time we didn’t even know Brooks saddles came in sizes)

Next Eric began suffering from shooting neck pains. Internet searches for causes of neck pain while long distance cycling led to the discovery that Eric’s bike frame was too small. Not only was it too small, his model and size were designed for a female. Horrors! His complaints increased but he was still unwilling to trade “Pierre” in on a new model. Eric adjusted his seat forward, backwards, up and down. He bought a stem extension for the handlebars and tried moving the bars up, down, forward and backwards. He asked me countless times to look at his posture while he was riding to see if I could determine the problem.

Eric: How do I look now?
Me: (barely glimpsing up from my Kindle) You look fine…

The neck problems worsened. Our daily routine now included stops at pharmacies to purchase creams and pain relievers and stops at cycle shops to look at touring cycles and pick up another bottle of chain lube and cleaner…

Eric’s pace got slower and the frequencies of stops increased. For the first seven months of our tour I was in front, but I could always see Eric in my rear view mirror. During the last few weeks in NZ, Eric was so far behind that I often lost track of him. I could stop, check FB, and post a picture in the time it was taking for him to catch up. As he approached he would complain I was going too fast or mention (for the umpteenth time) that my bike is lighter than his.

Eric: I can’t go any faster. My bike’s heavier than yours.
Me: Well then, buy a new bicycle.
But, he still didn’t take action. Complaints, sore neck, slower speed, no decision.

For the final two weeks in New Zealand, my patience was at an all-time low. We tried putting Eric in front and he would lead at a mere 10 kph (we can almost jog that fast), or I would cycle in front and get one kilometer ahead in a period of two kilometers. Ride. Stop. Wait. Ride. Stop. Wait.

At this point we were still visiting every bicycle shop in each town that had one. Eric looked at bicycles, I wandered aimlessly in boredom, Eric would see a bike that “might” work, and we would walk out.

Eric: That Kona was the right size and a good price.
Me: Well, buy it.
Eric: I’m just not sure. I hate to give up on my La Pierre. After all, it worked fine for a year on short rides in Malaysia. I’ll think about it.

Finally, in Thames, NZ while waiting for our bus to Auckland, Eric went into yet another bicycle store. I stayed at a coffee shop and read my book. He came back excited because he’d found “the” bike, a Surly Ogre.

Eric: I like the Surly Ogre. I thought I wanted the  Surly Disk Trucker with the drop down handle bars, but  after a test ride, I prefer the Jones handle bar. It feels great on my neck. . Plus, I think the owner will sell it for a good price.
Me: Great. Go buy it!
Eric: What shall I do with my old bike?
Me: (ahhhhh – Walk up to someone on the street and tell them it’s their lucky day..) I don’t know. Just leave it at the bike shop.. It’s  the least of your problems.
Eric: I’d better think about it.

We hopped on the bus to Auckland. Eric used hotel time to get touring bike information. He found the website Cycling About which has an extensive resource ranking  touring bikes from all over the world that he felt ready to make a decision and purchase.

A few MORE days later and more of  Eric’s talking about bikes, (I’d tuned out by now)  I prepared a list of Auckland bicycle shops and phone numbers and handed it to him.

Me: Here…Quit talking about your sore neck and new bicycles and buy the bike you want/need so we can move on. I suggest Wallis Cycles. Their website says they have Surly.

The beach in the background is pretty nice, too.
The beach in the background is pretty nice, too.

So he did. And he’s happy. And he’s keeping up.* And he’s quit complaining. And, he’s leading. And, on the flats and downhills he’s way ahead. And he’s got fewer aches and pains. And, he’s out loving his bicycle: oiling the chain, pumping the tires, and taking lots of photos of it.

Because he’s happy, I’m much happier. I don’t have to wait. I don’t have to pretend to be patient. I can just ride. Thank goodness for his new Surly.

*Not only is he keeping up, he’s now so far ahead that I can’t keep up. His rest periods have gotten shorter, his pace has increased 10-fold and he’s having F-U-N.

I wonder if I need a new bicycle…..