Thursday, November 01, 2007

Equipment - UPS Rules or How I Got My Bike

UPS is awesome. When I was at the shop we'd joke that the UPS guy was like Santa every day of the year. He always brought us stuff, he was a good guy, friendly, and it always brought smiles when he showed up.

But I get ahead of myself.

Yesterday I decided to do some early morning recon on the bike, check out yet another house that's made our short list. We're ready to buy a house, we can't buy one in March or April (she does taxes, I do the Bethel Spring Series), and we'd rather move sooner than later. Hence the recon.

I knew the bike I'd ordered was on schedule for delivery that day, and since the UPS guy shows up in the early afternoon, I decided to have a last good ride on my primary Giant. The bike has done me well - Cat 3 CT State Champion (twice), Bethel Spring Series overall, big rides in California and Florida, trouble free. A good frame. In a few days though my primary bike might very well be the Cannondale - perhaps a little more focused in purpose, less compromising in certain ways.

I looked up the house and it sits a little closer than the Mountain Road house I'd ridden past on Saturday. Since I could cross over Mountain Road to get to this other house, I decided to stick to what I know - go up to Mountain Road, ride to the end, and come back via this other house's street.

Connecticut's terrain is such that doing north-south rides are generally flat, with a slight uphill bias when heading north - this is because all the rivers eventually flow south to the Atlantic. East-west rides cut across those river valleys and make for a very choppy ride elevation-wise. Since Mountain Road went east-west, and the first third of it was a steep climb (I struggled for 10 minutes in a 39x25 the whole time), I just assumed that there'd be a nice descent on the other side of the road. Mountain Road, after all, didn't end at the top of a ski slope - it's not like L'Alpe D'Huez or anything.


Well, my 20 minute estimate for Mountain Road (10 for the climb, 10 more for other 2/3 since it would be a descent) ended up taking 35 minutes - the road essentially climbs the whole way. That along with an oxygen befuddled estimate to get to the "top" of Mountain Road (I thought that it took me 40 minutes, including the 10 minute climb, to get there on Saturday - looking back I realized it really took me over an hour) meant I ended up over 30 minutes behind schedule.

To compound matters I took a wrong turn on a very swoopy and fun descent. 45 mph while braking - it's a descent I'll have to revisit as I now know the road better and there are no obstacles to letting the bike fly down the steep and curvy road.

Anyway, I was over 30 minutes further out than I wanted to be and I knew I was dipping heavily into my "cool down and shower" time. I made some big efforts to get back in time for work. This meant pushing into the upper 20s and low 30s on the mainly downhill flats, tucking aggressively on descents, drafting a truck or two, and raising my average speed to over 15 mph.

Sad, right?

Unfortunately it's about what I do when I do a solo ride and there are a couple hills.

I rolled back to the townhouse, barely on time to log in for work. I had already started thinking of how to shower, change, dress, and log in in the one or two minutes I had - and then I saw the sticky note on the door.

UPS had tried to deliver the bike. About three hours earlier than they normally show up.

Ironically I'd been out for a ride, one to celebrate my primary bike's good service to me, myself, and I.

My heart sank, my motivation disappeared, and I logged in while still in bike gear. After our morning meeting I relayed my disappointment to the missus. She suggested I call UPS. I recalled that our office manager would do the same thing at work. So I looked for a number - and the only one I could find was the national one, 1-800-PICK-UPS. I called and the conversation went something like this.

"Hi, I got a note saying the UPS guy tried to deliver a package but I wasn't here. It's my new bike and I've been dying to get it. Is there any way to get the UPS guy to make another attempt today? I've been dying to get this bike."

Stretch the word "dying" out to about one second for good effect.

I could hear a smile on the other end of the line. It's an American thing I think - empathy, help out the customer, find another path to the solution.

"Let me call the regional office and have them get back to you."

A short time later my phone rang.

"Hi, this is UPS in somewhere in Connecticut. We got a request to make a second attempt to deliver a package. Is this correct?"
"Yes, I'm waiting for a package. It's my new bike and I've been dying to get it."

UPS must have a lot of smiling customer service reps because I could hear this one smile too.

"Well, let me page the driver and I'll call you right back."

A short time later, again, my phone rang.

"The driver will be delivering the bike, um, package, in about 30 minutes or so."

So, for the next half hour, whenever I heard something larger than a car drive by, I ran downstairs and opened the door. Mind you, we live just off of a big road and let me tell you, I never knew how many trucks drove by in half an hour until then - I must have run downstairs 15 or 20 times.

The missus called and I told her excitedly my bike was about to show up. Since I was talking and couldn't hear trucks, I went downstairs.

I was standing next to the door when the doorbell rang.

I have no idea what happened with the missus because I basically said something like "The bike is here, bye!" and opened the door. The UPS guy was there, perhaps a little surprised at such a quick response.

"I really haven't been waiting by the door for you to show up," I reassured him. He looked at me skeptically.

And I got my bike.

At first I thought it was new, it was packaged so well. But a couple things pointed to perhaps a floor bike. Seatpost with insertion marks. A previously clamped fork (meaning a wheel was in there). Extra, non-factory cardboard between the box and the bike. Shopping bags containing miscellaneous things like the various manuals and stuff.

I took the bike out and examined the pieces and parts. The last time I bought a big bike item on eBay (my spare Giant frame) it arrived rattling in a big bike box, the loose fork bouncing around, and various little pieces scattered in the box. No padding, nothing secured. There were chips all over the frame and the fork. A bit disappointing to say the least. The guys who packed the Cannondale were awesome, but that didn't mean something wasn't bent or scratched. And eBay feedback is a one time thing.

I'm pleased to say it all checked out. I have yet to test the SRM but it'll have to wait.

I went to adjust the saddle since that is a pretty straightforward task (and a seatpost on its own is good at scratching whatever it touches). I'd steeled myself for the low looking position prior to buying the bike by putting the tape measure next to the Giant along the lines of the new Cannondale. I must have flinched - the tape measure hit halfway up the exposed part of the seat post on the Giant. But it's where it is, the bars would work with the short headtube so I ordered the bike.

I inserted the seatpost and pushed it down till it looked about right. Measured. Pushed it down till the letters on the post were touching the collar. Measured. Pushed down till the letters started disappearing in a rather alarming manner. Measured. Pushed a little bit more. Measured. It was okay.

My post is so far into the frame...

I stepped back and looked at the bike.

Now I realize why semi-level top tube bikes make your seat position seem so low. The Giant made me feel like I was six feet tall. The Cannondale brings me back to, well, my Junior days.

Of course I've been the same height since I started racing.

I couldn't do a lot with the rest of the bike until I got the proper stem, bars, seat, pedals, and some other stuff so I went back upstairs to work.

Later that night I brought up my spare bike (I've ridden it perhaps 6 or 8 weeks - in California, Florida, and twice at Bethel) and took the stem off - it's one of two stems I have that will work for me on a 53.5 cm top tube, and both my Giants and the Cannondale have just that. They also have 13 cm or shorter headtubes so the bars will also be at about the right height. Just take all the spacers out, slam the stem down, and presto, right position.

The massive stem sitting next to the Ritchey stem

I took the massive stem ("submarine stem") off the Cannondale, looked at the jutting steerer tube, and realized my trusty saw is elsewhere. Even my stem spacers are somewhere else. So I put on the relatively dinky stem, a Ritchey 130mm -17 degree. Because all my bars are 26.0 mm, I had to find one to replace the FSA 31.8mm carbon bar. I swapped over the levers, put it on, and called it a day. To keep things together, I piled all the two inch wide spacers on top of the stem.

It looks like I have a little black mug sitting on top of my stem.

See the black shot glass on my stem?

I didn't know what else to do so I installed two bottle cages originally meant for, well, I actually don't know why I ordered four but it seemed like the thing to do at the time. Two sit on my primary Giant, now the other two on the Cannondale.

Until I saw the top of the steerer tube off I won't be riding the bike so I need to put it aside.

I still have some changes to make.
1. The Fulcrum wheels are on there for now, but I'm inclined to sell them while they're new. I'd like to get deep section carbon clinchers and those would make the Fulcrums unnecessary. They are beautiful, have these cool looking squashed spokes, and feel featherly light (1550 grams or so per pair), but I can't justify keeping them if I get 50mm carbon clinchers.
2. I put some "road" bars on the bike but will eventually swap it out for my Mavic Criterium bend bars. The current bars are my "long steady ride" bars for Florida and California.
3. I'll use my FiR Zenith wheels for now (they're blue so they sort of match my green/black bike and my blue/green/white/black kit).
4. I'll keep the 12-25 cassette since the 19, 21, 23, and 25 are titanium. I'll swap some other cogs around so it becomes an 11-25.
5. I have to buy a new SRM computer mount since I don't have a 31.8mm bar. I might jam a lot of spacers between the clamp and bar though - the clamp is a $60 machined aluminum beauty and I'd rather not lose it.
6. I want to sell the bars (42 cm FSA K-Force), the seat (Ti railed Arione) , and the stem (who needs a 100 mm enormous stem?). I might sit on the seat on the trainer first since it looks so pretty.
7. I have to swap over some pedals - probably off my primary Giant since they have the Carbon Keos. I'll take the other Keos off the spin bike and put it on the primary Giant. My fixed gear stuff (track bike, spin bike) will use SPD-Rs.

What it looks like now

So for a little while at least, no riding the new bike. Just some patient waiting.


Anonymous said...

Sweet looking machine--that Liquigas green looks really cool. If your bike came from the Brookfield UPS distribution center, that could have explained the quick response, since the manager there is a Cat 4 regular at the Bethel races. He could have been looking out for you, although, now that I think of it, he rides the same size frame you do, so he might have been more likely to keep it for himself...

Anonymous said...

Sweet new bike!

josh said...

aki, just so you know, the arione is a relatively "tall" saddle. pop a slr, or even a "new" flite or similar "short" saddle on there and you will gain about 1.5 cm of extra seatpost......short guy tricks. :)

Aki said...

lol it is a tall saddle - and I think fiziks were even taller when they first came out, sort of "a la CODA" saddles. I'm still thinking of swapping it out but it looks so cool that I'll have to ride it on the trainer before I make that decision. gotta look cool lol.