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
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