Wednesday, September 12, 2012

So I Went Automobile Shopping...


So I went automobile shopping the other day... I know, I know, you're probably thinking “Why would you do such a silly thing as that, a man of your age..” but hear me out. Automobiles are becoming quite popular, I'm sure you've seen them around. I understand in places like Portland they're actually more popular than bicycles. There are all those public service advertisements about sharing the road and it got me to thinking that maybe I should get one of those automobile things that all the hipsters are “driving” these days.

So I cycled over to one of my local “car” dealerships to see about purchasing an automobile and what I found was quite enlightening. When I first entered the shop a young fellow there was vigorously engaged in conversation with a customer about the merits of one particular transmission brand over another, something about how the latest electronic syncromesh whosits made last year's syncromesh hopelessly obsolete and how he couldn't believe anyone would still considering driving such junk. This discussion went on for quite a few minutes so I kept myself busy by examining the various automobiles displayed in the shop. They were shiny and looked expensive and frankly I had no idea exactly made one better than the other or why I might want to select the red one over the blue one. Eventually the car fellow noticed me and asked if I had any questions. “Oh yes,” I assured him I had plenty of questions. “I'm looking to buy a car,” I began.

“NASCAR or Formula One?” the fellow queried.

“Excuse me?”

“What kind of racing are you going to do?” the man asked.

“Uhm, I wasn't thinking of racing, more like maybe driving to the store. I understand people do that?”

The man sighed. “Well,” he explained, sadly, “you could do that. I mean, some people do, but once you get a car, you'll want to race. You're really better off getting something race-worthy to start with.”

I could tell I was fortunate to have come into a shop staffed by a man so willing to educate me. “I'm afraid I'm rather new to this whole 'driving' thing.”

“Oh, it's quite simple,” the man assured me. “Thousands of people drive, you'll pick it right up. Here," he said, "why don't you try this one.” The man opened the door of something very red, sleek and low to the ground. I settled into the seat.

“Um, the seat isn't very comfortable,” I noted.

“Well,” the man explained, “you're not wearing driving pants. Of course, you'll want driving pants.”

“Really?” I asked. “I was thinking I'd probably just drive around in my normal clothes.”

“Oh no,” the man laughed, “you'll want driving clothes. We have a nice selection in a variety of bright colors with a variety of logos on them.”

“I see,” I said, although I wasn't quite sure that I did see.

Looking at the floor of the car I was surprised to see there was no gas pedal. “Isn't there supposed to be something I push with my foot to make it go?”

“Oh,” the man explained, “the nicer cars don't come with gas pedals. That way you can select your own. We can install a test ride gas pedal for you...” He then went on to explain the virtues of the various gas pedal systems, how they would hold my foot in the optimal driving position and that all serious drivers had such gas pedals. I could get a simple pedal if I wanted to but...

I opted for the gas pedal that the car man assured me that he himself used.

Of course, I'd want a helmet. I mean for gosh sakes, who would drive without a helmet? Didn't I value my brain?

And so I got the helmet. It was red, like the car, and made from some material developed by NASA.

It turns out the stock tires were “junk” and I'd need to upgrade those right away. When I insisted that I might park at some time the car man sighed a very heavy sigh and told me he could install a parking system in my car but it would just be an extra thing to lug around and how often was I going to park anyway? He also vigorously worked to dissuaded me from any thought of fenders or carrying luggage but I convinced him I was willing to pay extra to get these features. He looked very sad as he added these items to my bill.

In the end it was my credit card that saved me. The car man actually looked rather relieved when it was declined. “Maybe driving's not your thing,” he consoled, “it's not for everyone.”

And so I'm back on my bicycle. It has a kickstand and fenders and lights. It has a rack on the back that holds bags that carry my groceries. It's got big plain pedals that work fine with my normal shoes. It's just a bicycle and I guess it's how I'll continue getting around.

I imagine if buying a bicycle was as complicated as buying a car they wouldn't be as popular as they are now...

38 comments:

Michael R pdx said...

You might consider visiting the Community Car Center, CarWorks or even Clever Cars. I understand they may be more attuned to your attitude.

Great post, exceptional clean consistent writing.

Robert Cannon said...

Word! Nothing better than going to the LBS and having some triathlete come up to you and treat you like a martian. It is truly amazing how many LBS' dont get small things (went to one yesterday whose bike rack was a wheel bender -- um, first mistake).

The Velo Hobo said...

I hope you got the spandex driving pants with the extra padding. Everyone now-a-days drives with those. Great post, Jack

Shanghai_or_Bust said...

DEAD ON THE NOSE!

I keep trying to tell the guys at the shop that I want to tour and commute but they want to sell me carbon fiber and aero-water-bottles.

Fortunately, I finally found a shop where a guy does the exact thing that I want to do and wasn't just trying to sell me a NASA-class two-wheeler.

sean carter said...

Bang on!

Brian W. Ogilvie said...

Well said!

munsoned said...

All new bike shop employees should be required to read this post. Maybe then, average people wouldn't get turned off to cycling.

Barb Chamberlain said...

Just imagine how much more awesome the experience would be if you were a woman. He wouldn't have believed you COULD drive and would have waited on every guy first before talking to you at all.

Fantastic post.

Yokota Fritz said...

I like the blue car. It's pretty.

A friend of mine got a settlement from a lawsuit a couple of weeks ago. He immediately went out and bought the most expensive carbon fiber road bike he could find.

Ugh, Google Captcha.

mrk. said...

Home Run Kent!

Lisa said...

I love this post. Sounds just like the first time I went into a bike store. Thank goodness there are now stores that cater to the commuter and casual rider where I am.

Don S. said...

I wish this were more of an exaggeration, but sadly, your parable was all too accurate. The question is whether a local bike culture will sustain a transpo venture. It's the ridiculous race stuff that has the profit margins that perpetuate it all. Or the other extreme, grown adults riding big-box bike-like objects that are too small for them

We need a Model T LBS--any color, so long as it's black!

Jay said...

Kent:

Great post, but you stole my analogy. I tell people, if most car dealers were like bicycle stores, you would have your choice of a Porche or a Hummer.

Jay

Wheels of Justice said...

I've heard there are these huge car recycling graveyards where you can go and pick out broken cars and parts and for not a lot of money you can build your own car if you'r good with tools. Lots of people just throw away their cars when they can't drive them anymore, but you can recycle them.

MimiTabby said...

YAY KENT! I love this.
You now have to now describe what happens to overweight women when THEY go to a bike store and end up with a 40 pound bike with a tractor seat and they wonder why it's so hard to ride (and keep up with their husband) and the seat is so uncomfortable.

Anonymous said...

You had me going there for a bit, but what a post. Love it! Keep the good thoughts coming.

dougP

Anonymous said...

When I went to buy a car they told me I'd need a proffessional "fitting" for $100, though they'd apply that amount to any eventual car purchase. The "fit specialist" had me get into a simulated car "cockpit" and made me contort my body in the middle of the showroom so that my butt was in the air while the "fit specialist" encouraged me loudly to "lift it higher and wiggle it back and forth a little to get a feel for it."

cd biker said...

meh - different strokes for different folks. If you want a commuter or touring bike, don't go to a shop that specializes in fast carbon racers.

There's plenty of places in town (Free Range, Counter Balance, 20/20, Bike Works, etc, etc.) that won't look askew at you if you want to ride in your jeans, but some of us actually do race and actually do want a ridiculously light, NASA designed, pop-corn fart...

Go to a shop that fits your needs - you wouldn't walk into a Lamborghini dealer and expect to walk out with a Hugo...

fatbob29r said...

To steal a quote from another Peterson "Just Ride"

Bike Hermit said...

Did you ask the salesman how much it weighed and then try to pick it up?

Anonymous said...

I worked in a bike shop before that sold their own brand of titanium and carbon fibre bikes. One chap came in and, with the help of the manager, selected a very nice titanium touring frame and racks and panniers and fenders and Campy Record flat bar components to go with his upright riding position. It was truly a magnificent bike. However, a couple of the younger folks working at the shop were laughing as soon as the customer left the store, and remarked at what a stupid bike the guy was having us build, and that why didn't he just buy a racing bike if he wanted a racing bike. Their attitude was that there are real cyclists and there are people who ride city bikes and hybrids and never the two shall meet. It was a real eye opener.

Anonymous said...

Phew! You had me there for a minute. I'd never realised what a colossal let down it would be if you ever bought a car.
Obionecognobi.

Bill Kuhn said...

Did the salesman mention that when driving in the special driving pants you shouldn't be wearing underwear?

Anonymous said...

I walked into my local bike shop called "The Citizen Cyclist: Urban Bikes For Real People" and demanded they sell me a carbon fiber racing bike. I got so angry when they told me they didn't carry such a thing! Also, I went to the local runner shop and asked for a pair of penny loafers. All the had was RUNNING SHOES!!!

What's the hurry??? Feet are made for walking people!!!

Anonymous said...

" Of course, you'll want driving pants.” LOL!

Of course, it should amuse you to know that not only do I own driving shoes, but the stock tires (and wheels) on my car were junk and they went first. Followed soon after by the stock lights, shifter, and exhaust.

Then I got into cycling, and commute of course I commute in Lycra. The stock tires are a distant memory, and the stock wheels serve as fancy conversation pieces on my driking bike.

Wait..they maker aero water bottles?

JDuck said...

There is some criticism here about being in the wrong bike shop. In my area there no other shops but the ones that sponsor the local Lance wannabes. Some may have a couple real bikes back in the corner, but no employee knows much about them. I have to have them get out the catalogs and educate them as to what a real bicyclist needs. Fortunatly I can do my own maintenance after that. I wish I had access to a shop that catered to the real clothes, rack, and fender crowd.

Doug said...

I am happy to life in Seattle, where the cycling market is broad enough to support multiple bike shops that cater to more practical bicycles. I send all my cycling dollars to Free Range, 20/20, Bike Works, and, to a lesser extent, Recycled.

I also know that having this many options for bike shops is extremely rare. The vast majority of Americans do not have access to anything other than mainstream racing-oriented shops. If there is a bike shop nearby at all, that is. This fact that seemed to have escaped the critics above.

Anonymous said...

Try to buy a recumbent anywhere.

david boise ID

MzunguEriki said...

I live in paradise.

the trek dealer closed up, and now am only left with the second hand parts dealer and 50 shops selling single speed chinese and indian bikes.

Hard to get tempted by shiny things at the second hand shop.

Leedo said...

I took Kent's dialog and created an Xtranormal cartoon-

http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/13713359/so-i-went-automobile-shopping

Enjoy!

Roger Waggener said...

What you describe in this post is why my FLBS is thirteen miles from my house instead of the UFLBS that I wish was F which is three miles from my house.

I really wanted to like the close shop, but there's nothing there for me and I don't fit in. The one I'd love to just ride over and shoot the breeze a while every now and then is a bit far away for that.

BobWölfé Jung2 said...

Here be a list fer ye, if ye be interested in such... perhaps there be an outlaw (er, community) bike shop near ye...

http://www.bikecollectives.org/wiki/index.php?title=Community_Bicycle_Organizations&Itemid=100015#United_States

Sergiy Sosnytskiy said...

Hello, Kent,

Would you mind if I translate it to Russian and post it on a local bicycle forum?

Kent Peterson said...

Hello Sergiy,

Please feel free to translate this or any of my posts. All I ask is that you include a link back to the original post here.

Anonymous said...

Very smart and nicely written! Thanks! I had a laugh reading this true story )))

Anonymous said...

Hi Kent. Can we reprint this in Rivendell Reader #44?

Lost your email in our database. Dave@rivbike.com
800 345 3918

Kent Peterson said...

Hi Dave,

You have my full permission to reprint my essay "So I Went Automobile Shopping..." in the Riv Reader, on your website or wherever. Just keep my name on it and link back to my blog and we're cool.

Kent

Kevlarbikes said...

Did you tell them "I want to buy an inexpensive car first to make sure I like it, and then come back and buy a better one if I do."?