Sunday, January 08, 2012

The Richest Man in Issaquah

Here at the Peterson estate we're extremely rich in both love and laughter. Over dinner in our 800 square foot Issaquah chateau the laughter side of our ledgers went up several hundred percent when Christine and the boys read this recent comment posted by my friend Jan in response to my recent blog post titled "Why I Don't Buy Expensive Bicycles".

Jan Heine said...

I think the difference between Kent and I (Jan) is simple: I don't have the time to work on my bikes all the time, and I don't have the money to buy bikes frequently.

In 14 years I have known Kent, I have ridden two bikes, and just got a third. Kent has had at least a dozen, if not more. My bikes may have cost more each (one was used, though), but when counting all expenses on the bikes we ride, I would not be surprised if Kent outspent me by a good margin. My bikes generally require little except chains and tires.

I understand Kent's approach, but for me, a bike must be ready to go, without requiring constant care and feeding.


I'll address Jan's very valid position that it is often the case that buying cheap can be false economy a bit further down in this post but it was Jan's placing the spotlight on the vast Peterson fortune that Christine and the lads found particularly amusing. While I would bet that the total amount Jan has spent on bicycles over the years is lower than most folks would guess, I'd also point out that the "Kent has all those bikes because he's rich and the bikes are unreliable" is a concept that should be explored a bit.

Much like my fellow rich man John McCain can't be bothered with petty details like how many houses he has, I always have to stop and think when someone asks me how many bikes I have. You'd think I'd have one of my accountants keep track of these things, but I don't. Right now I have three bikes in ready to roll condition: my Allant, my Dahon and the Octocog. I currently have a frame someone gave me and quite probably enough parts to build it up but that will probably just get built up and donated somewhere. Us rich guys do stuff like that. We like to help the little people, we call it trickle down economics.

Now Jan points out that I somehow have more time than he does. I find this is common in the world. William Gibson observed that "the future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed" and while I think he's right there, it also seems that time itself is not evenly distributed. I see evidence of this daily, with people rushing around to get all kinds of things done because they "don't have much time." And then you have rich guys like me who have so much time to kill that they can spend it doing silly damn things like puttering with bikes or writing blog posts. It's just crazy and it hardly seems fair.

Because I have so much time to kill, I'll toss in a little story here that has nothing to do with bikes. Years ago the novelist Sinclair Lewis was the darling of the literary set. Of course hardly anybody reads Lewis anymore because who has the time, but wait, I'm digressing from my digression...anyhow Lewis would wind up at these parties and often some fan would come up to him. "Oh, Mr. Lewis," the reader would confide, "I've always wanted to be a writer, but I just don't have the time." Lewis would nod sympathetically, "My God, that must be terrible for you," he'd say, "How much time do you get? I'm given 24 hours each day."

Because, like Lewis, I get this rich allotment of 24 hours each day and somehow I've managed to work things around to the point where I get to spend many of those hours doing things I enjoy doing, things that include writing this blog and puttering with bikes, I'm happy to report that, yes, as near as I can tell I'm the richest man in Issaquah. Thanks for calling me out on that Jan.

Jan rightly values bikes that don't require constant care and feeding and we all have horror stories of this or that part breaking or that false economy gone wrong. Stuff does happen. In several decades of riding bodged together bikes, I can think of one time I was late to work. I blew a Suntour freewheel apart and wound up walking to the nearest Park & Ride. On LEL, I cracked part of my Bike Friday (and still finished the ride), I blew a rim out on my 2005 Great Divide Ride & got the wheel replaced in Montana (and still finished the ride) and in 2010 I destroyed a freehub in the Great Divide Basin, bringing my 2010 Tour Divide to a halt.

But I can also come up with a long list of problems folks have encountered with various bits of very well-regarded gear. On the 2006 VanIsle 1200K, Ken Bonner expressed doubts about the 50 year-old Sturmey-Archer hub on my Kogswell surviving the ride but it did fine while 2 other riders had their lovely Campagnolo freehubs fail. Stuff happens.

But I have many, many, "rode this for a lot of miles with no issues" stories. Take my $400 dollar Dahon for example. When I first wrote about it in 2007 several commenters wondered how it would hold up over time. In the years I've had it I've ridden it thousands of miles. It's been to Seattle, Portland, over the mountains, on vacation and all over Issaquah. In the time I've owned the bike, I've replaced the saddle & the pedals to ones I prefered (not because the stock ones wore out) and I have replaced tires, brakepads & the chain. And I also bought some lights for the bike and Christine bought me a travel bag for it. Not exactly a money pit.

The bike I used on my 2007 tour of Washington State is a fairly typical example of the vast wealth I expend on bike hardware. I bought the bike for $20 and then because money is no object to a guy like me, I went wild accessorizing it. That bike turned out strong and strange and when I sold it later (not because anything was wrong with it, but because I was no longer using it) I somehow managed to get more money out of it than I put into it. That's how us rich guys work, we don't get rich by writing a lot of checks.

That's not to say I don't buy stuff. I'm a good American and somebody has to stimulate this economy. And my wife, she's been known to spend a bit of money as well. Why heck she saved a bit out of her paychecks over time and bought herself an Allant. And then, because peer pressure is a wonderful thing, I got one too! They fit well with our exciting, extravagant lifestyle which includes scenic getaways and cruises to exotic places. The maintenance to date has involved putting air in the tires and a bit of adjusting the cable tension on the brakes and derailleurs. And a surprisingly small amount of lube on the chains. (Quick update on Chain-L, Christine has been commuting daily on her Allant ever since she got it. It sits out in the rain when she's at work. Her chain is still squeak and rust free. We haven't had to re-lube it since I put Chain-L on it in September!)

Now I'd like to restate that I am not in any way disputing Jan's claim that a quality bike is a good investment. A bike you get value out of, that you enjoy and use, will be worth a fortune to you. How you spend your time, who you spend it with and if you enjoy what you are doing are the true measures of wealth and value. I know Jan is happy with his choices and I am happy with mine. I suspect Jan is one of the richer men in Seattle when measured by that scale. I know I'm the richest man is Issaquah.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA

27 comments:

Iron Rider said...

Excellent post. I'm glad I found the time to read it.

Signed,

A similarly rich guy in Pennsylvania.

Tim D said...

I have three road bikes, a Pompino fixie cost me £300, Ribble that cost me £600 20 years ago and a Hewitt I bought a few years ago for £1300. I consider my Ribble my cheap bike. over the years other than brake blocks and tyres I've spent the following on it:
New wheels - approx £70
Respray - £50
Various cassettes - approx £60
New inner chainring - approx £20

Just recently I went mad and upgraded it to STI
Shifters - £60 of ebay
Rear mech - £20
Cables & Cable stops - £15

Still got a long way to go before the Ribble cost me as much as the Hewitt. It has been equally reliable and needs no more or less maintenance

bikelovejones said...

Beautiful post.

Like my Wicked Step-Queen used to say, "All the time you have is all the time you need. You just need to use it wisely."

Happy riding --B

Tim D said...

I should also mention we have got a custom Swallow tandem that cost us about £1700 in the early 90's

trplay1 said...

I am enjoying reading these various blogs as they squabble over “rich bike, poor bike” associations. By all rights this discussion should move towards the humanitarian flavor of redistribution of the wealth. Whether one has a garage full of hundred dollar bikes or a single five thousand dollar bike isn’t this a bit greedy? Why more than one bike when so many can not afford a bike at all? I think its better served for that high end bike owner to downgrade and provide the net savings towards those people who have none. Or at least have high end bikes levied a respectable annual fee.
Note: TIC

Stonehog said...

Well written, post, Kent. It takes wisdom to make this point and not appear too sarcastic. I'm glad you and Jan can have such different tastes/values while still being friends.

Jan Heine said...

Kent, I enjoyed your new post.

Just like most people who say "I cannot afford a nice bike," they usually mean to say: "I prefer to spend my money on cars, eating out or other things."

Similarly, when I said "I don't have time to work on my bike," I meant to say: "I choose not to spend time on fixing bikes, but on actually riding, or playing with my children, or writing another book." These are choices we make, and I am sorry I mis-spoke.

In the end, I think you are right: We are among the richest people (by our definition) in town.

dexey said...

My first ever bespoke bike was a Hewitt fitted out with XT and XTR equipment. It was expensive, lovely and very comfortable but then I discovered recumbents and they were even more comfortable so the Hewitt went through lack of use.
The recumbents led me to small wheels and nowadays I like my elderly, pre-owned Dahon as much as any bike I've ever ridden.
Another cracking couple of posts, Kent. It has made me think about my priorities.

kfg said...

Jan - Spending time with your kids is right up there on the important things to spend you time on.

Teach them to fix your bikes. :)

The Velo Hobo said...

Okay, break it up you two or nobody’s going outside to ride bikes.

This guy, http://velohobo.com/2010/10/14/featured-rider-tomas-aperlo/ ,Tomas Aperlo, has found the right balance between “cost of bike” and “value of bike”. My wife and I hosted Tomas on his tour from NY to Miami. I’m sure when he reached his parent’s house in Miami he just left the thing propped up against a sign post somewhere, walked away and never looked back. During his stay with us we talked for hours about bicycling, and never once did anyone mention any particular brand of bicycle. Tomas seemed to like the adventure of repairing his Craig’s list treasure on the road.

I have stories of my own (like repairing a blown side wall with duct tape and a scrap of card board). I’m sure you all do as well. Riding a P.O.S. can add to the adventure.

Jack

Dan Mc said...

Tools generally do their intended job, but its the operator that makes them work well.

Kenneth Gibbons said...

Very hard core bikers on this blog. Great stuff.

Velouria said...

Oh my : ) Thank you both for an entertaining weekend!

mimi torchia boothby watercolors said...

hahaha. I already knew you were the richest guy in Issaquah and it's not because of the money in your pocket!

Brian W. Ogilvie said...

Nicely put, and I especially like the Sinclair Lewis quotation. In my case, my head is with you but at least part of my heart is with Jan. I can buy an off-the-rack frame (from the right source) and build up a bike that does exactly what I want. I do have a semi-custom Bike Friday but I've added my own fenders, lights, and rear rack. But I look at an Alex Singer or René Herse bike and my heart melts: everything seems to fit together just right. It's the work of a master artisan.

Raymond Parker said...

Excellent piece! I had so much fun reading both sides of the debate that I couldn't resist writing my own rejoinder.

When it comes to bike stuff, it does come down to the size of your wallet, but the most important thing is to ride your dreams out into the world. That's a gift.

kfg said...

@Brian: "everything seems to fit together just right."

This is just as true of an old Murray tanker off of CL. It is not a result of the artisanship, but the paradigm, the cultural expectation of "bicycle."

And the Murray might well be more reliable.

If you insist on spending a pretty penny on that sort of bike you can always look for a Rollfast Hopalong Cassidy. That puppy was designed as an integrated whole right down to the style of the panniers, handlebar streamers and . . . carbine holster.

I've searched the Riv catalog over but Grant Petersen does not seem to have seen fit to design a carbine holster for the bike he sold me. What's with that?

Pat Lamb said...

I'm trying to figure out where I fall between the "extremes" but I think I tend toward Kent's position on this one. I read Jan's original post and thought, OK, this reads like another rant against BSOs (Bicyle Shaped Objects, if you don't know, google it!). The problem I have with Jan's position is that his price point between real bikes and BSOs seems to be about ten times higher than any previous rants. And I think that misses.

A distinguishing feature of a BSO is that it needs constant repair, and can't be repaired. But, with the possible exception of machine built wheels, just about any new bike from a real bike shop is a bike, not a BSO. I expect them to be work, and to be repaired easily when something wears out or breaks. That price point is usually around $300 for mountain bikes, $1,000 for road bikes, where I live.

But that "new bike" idea is where I differ with Kent. Frankly, I'm suspicious; I don't trust a used bike to work without substantial work. Yes, a professional bicycle mechanic can do it. I could do most of it, but I choose not to. And honestly, I don't know if I trust any of my LBSs to be able to thoroughly check out a carbon bike, or the alignment of any bike.

Granted, I haven't ridden a brevet, so I'm not like Jan. Given that, this bicycle commuter and tourist will stake his "this is right" position at the new bike from a bike shop price point.

Richard Risemberg said...

I don't ride a custom but I do ride an expensive bike. Only it wasn't expensive when I bought it as it was over forty years old by then. I put an expensive Italian track gruppo on it that I got used cheap, and some fenders that were discounted because the box had been opened. Used seat and stem. I did buy a headset--Italian made by a company that predates Campagnolo, about $25 (imitation of the Stronglight Delta, in fact). Used Italian saddle, a rack I had bought new two bikes ago. Bought the Carradice new, and the handlebars.

Poor old thing has seen over 30,000 hard miles in LA since then. I replace tires, chains, and the left toe clip which I habitually bash on the ground when starting up, and I did finally regrease the headset last year. It's about time to regrease the pedals too, but I'll put that off till after the rains, if we get 'em.

Mostly I just ride the thing.

Here's a picture of 'er:
http://flic.kr/p/5Wg6vB

I've got a newer bike as well, but hardly ever ride it. Two is plenty for me. In fact, when one comes in, one goes out. (But that Bottecchia won't be the one that goes out....)

Maggie said...

Apparently you're in the 1%! Great post, Kent.

Amy said...

He passed me on the $20.00 bike on a 400k and was taking pictures the whole time - Kent's engine does not need an overall but occasionally his bikes do.

2whls3spds said...

I am sure Jan would have an issue with my "best bike"...I purchased it for $25usd in 1982, it was already 10 years old at that point. I proceeded to ride it for the next 6-7 years as my main form of transportation. To the best of my recollection I only replaced; tires, tubes, brake pads and the chain. And that was only after they were worn out. Fast forward some 30 years, the bike is now 40 years old and is still in use, although no longer on a daily basis. The original wheels are still on it! The only major parts replaced were the fork and the left crank arm, after my brother ran into a parked car.

The bike? A 1971 Raleigh Sports Standard with the venerable Sturmey-Archer AW 3 speed hub.

No it isn't fancy, but it will get you where you are going...and back, again and again and again.

Yes custom bikes are nice, but they aren't necessary.

Aaron (amongst the richest men in the world!)

Dr Codfish said...

As one of those with the busted Campy rear hub on the Van Isle, I feel compelled to mention this; That hub was laced to the third rim of it's life when the pawl spring broke. I am quite certain that the miles and moments that lead up to that event were too many and too joyous (by and large) to count, but I will always remember the sinking feeling in that one moment when my 9 speed pedal bike converted to a kick bike (I finished the ride by the way).

As it happens, that same hub still spins enthusiastically, now laced to its 4th rim. As I type, it lies in a bike shop in Olympia awaiting it's 4th overhaul since new (1997 I think).

That hub came to me as part of an 'off the shelf' bike which I rode for 4 years I believe. It was then switched to another off the shelf bike, and now is mated to a custom made titanium bike (the 3rd bike it has served under I believe) with more bells and whistles than a steam train.

Before I bought that fancy custom made bike I was possibly the richest man in Tumwater, but after the major 'investent' in an up scale bike I have slipped to maybe just mid pack wealth status. However that would be in Oakville, well known as a hide out of equity bandits from across the planet.

Nice post Kent!

Yr Pal Dr C

Chromatonic said...

Kent, I enjoyed your point/counterpoint with Jan, and my mindset is much closer to yours (and my fortune, as well). Although I admire artful craftsmanship of a Vanilla or a Hufnagel bike, I'll never 'invest' the $6,500 that it costs to possess one. My current steed has cost me well under $200 to date, and is a genuine pleasure to ride. I enjoy working on my bikes just enough to ensure they remain safe and serviceable, and I spend the rest of my vast fortune of time with my family, working, riding, or playing music with friends.

Jolene said...

Kent: I spent some time reading some of your blogs this evening and this one was one of my faves. I sometimes feel unworthy of my bikes. Until 2007, I always rode a cheap WalMart or Sears bike, but once I decided to start touring, I knew I needed something better.

I saved up half the money I needed to buy a nice Koga Traveller that I found online at B.I.Cycles on Bainbridge Island. I borrowed the other half of the $1700 and paid it back to a friend over 2 years. I have a good job that I am thankful for, but as a single parent of a special needs child, I found that I didn't have as much time to tour as I would like.

I mostly went on short weekend tours and a few organized rides. As my daughter matured and became more independent, I decided to venture out and get a mountain bike for some gravel/trail fun (I grew up on gravel roads and country biking was in my soul). I got a $400 Novara Portal for free by saving my Bike Commuter Checks ($20/mo) I got for biking to work for almost 2 yrs. I wanted to use it as my commuter bike instead of putting all those miles on my tour bike. I quickly found that the wheels were cheap and the rear spokes kept breaking and it was slow and noisy for commuting...so I decided to get a 3rd commuter bike.

I searched high and low and low and behold, I found a bike shop in Maryland that was cleaning out a warehouse and found a vintage Koga Advance commuter bike that they put up on Craigslist for dirt cheap. I had given my vehicle away a few months before and was saving my $ for bike trips, until I saw the bike and decided it was for me. I couldn't pass it up at the price (under $1000). After having the Koga Traveller for a few years, I knew of the high quality and good reputation and knew the commuter bike would last me a lifetime. (continued in new comment line)

Jolene said...

continued from last comment...

The Koga Advance (only 21 speed!) arrived a month later and I cried tears of joy when I rode it for the first time...an upright bike position that I had not felt since I was 16 yrs old...it was (and is) such a joy to ride each day. I took my Traveller on a multi-modal trip to the Olympic Peninsula and the San Juans (thanks for your info on how to get to the ferry from King St. Station) and quickly realized that it was difficult to travel with a huge tour bike on trains and buses. I had to pick and choose my train schedule accordingly. Afterwards, I swore to myself that I would get a folding bike as soon as I could save the money to afford it. As the end of 2013 closed, the lab where I worked was sold to a different company and before the end was announced, we were told we would get a good final bonus if we worked hard to meet our year end production goals (which we did). Combining my bonus money with my paltry savings, I managed to be able to afford a Bike Friday (which should be ready next week). This will open up a lot more options for me to get out of town without having to ride that one particular train. But I had a no space for 4 bikes in my tiny apartment (we scaled down from a house back in 1998). I made the decision to give my mtn bike to a friend who was also car-free but did not have a bike. If the Bike Friday turns out to be a good commuter bike,I might also decide to pass the Koga commuter on to someone else. I have given away several bikes over the years instead of selling them...it makes me happy (and helps others more) if I can donate my bikes to those that appreciate them and will use them. I have seen comments online that I am 'rich' and have money to spend on expensive bikes, but this is far from the truth. I am always one or two paychecks away from nothing but since becoming 'carfree' I find my extra money is saved for those bike trips that await me on long weekends.

I work four 10 hour days and have every Friday off. I started this shift in September and it has been hard going days without seeing the sun (I bike to work in the dark at 5:30am and home ater dart at 5:30pm with a 1 hr commute on each end). Biking saved me from winter SADD as I have rarely seen the sun this winter. Your blog has inspired me to keep on keeping on...I do more with less than any person I know.

There is no guilt in having 3 bikes (soon) when I have no car and make sacrifices to have what I earn by hard work and dedication to my job. I look forward to retirement someday, when I can really get moving on that Traveller and finally bike across the USA. Until then, I will pace along slowly and be an advocate and inspiration to others where I can.

I would love to meet you and your wife for a short tour sometime. It would be great fun to talk about books and bikes!!! Jo

Jolene said...

The commuter bike arrived a month later and I cried tears of joy when I rode it for the first time...an upright bike position that I had not felt since I was 16 yrs old...it was (and is) such a joy to ride each day. I took my Traveller on a multi-modal trip to the Olympic Peninsula and the San Juans (thanks for your info on how to get to the ferry from King St. Station) and quickly realized that it was difficult to travel with a huge tour bike on trains and buses. I had to pick and choose my train schedule accordingly. Afterwards, I swore to myself that I would get a folding bike as soon as I could save the money to afford it. As the end of 2013 closed, the lab where I worked was sold to a different company and before the end was announced, we were told we would get a good final bonus if we worked hard to meet our year end production goals (which we did). Combining my bonus money with my paltry savings, I managed to be able to afford a Bike Friday (which should be ready next week). This will open up a lot more options for me to get out of town without having to ride that one particular train. But I had a no space for 4 bikes in my tiny apartment (we scaled down from a house back in 1998). I made the decision to give my mtn bike to a friend who was also car-free but did not have a bike. If the Bike Friday turns out to be a good commuter bike,I might also decide to pass the Koga commuter on to someone else. I have given away several bikes over the years instead of selling them...it makes me happy (and helps others more) if I can donate my bikes to those that appreciate them and will use them. I have seen comments online that I am 'rich' and have money to spend on expensive bikes, but this is far from the truth. I am always one or two paychecks away from nothing but since becoming 'carfree' I find my extra money is saved for those bike trips that await me on long weekends.

I work four 10 hour days and have every Friday off. I started this shift in September and it has been hard going days without seeing the sun (I bike to work in the dark at 5:30am and home ater dart at 5:30pm with a 1 hr commute on each end). Biking saved me from winter SADD as I have rarely seen the sun this winter. Your blog has inspired me to keep on keeping on...I do more with less than any person I know.

There is no guilt in having 3 bikes (soon) when I have no car and make sacrifices to have what I earn by hard work and dedication to my job. I look forward to retirement someday, when I can really get moving on that Traveller and finally bike across the USA. Until then, I will pace along slowly and be an advocate and inspiration to others where I can.

I would love to meet you and your wife for a short tour sometime. It would be great fun to talk about books and bikes!!! Jo