More than just a bike

For the past several summers, I have contemplated getting a bicycle.  I owned a bike as a kid, and I adored it.  I would spend hours riding around the neighborhood; my bike was my first “set of wheels”, my first taste of what freedom feels like.  Being privileged enough to own a bike, and living in an environment where it was safe enough to ride a bike, were both truly wonderful.

Then I turned 16, and got a real “set of wheels” (read: car), and my bike went into the storage shed, never to be seen again.

In college I turned to walking as my primary form of transportation.  When I entered the adult world, I pursued other physical hobbies like running and yoga – and I just never got back in to biking.

But last year I started volunteering at a local elementary school, which is literally just over a mile away from our house.  For the first few weeks of the academic year I walked back and forth to the school; but then I started to develop lesson plans that required extra supplies, and it became too difficult for me to make the 20-minute one-way walk loaded down with papers and dominoes and books and yarn and other “stuff”… So I started driving one mile to the school, feeling quite guilty every time I did it.  (Poor environment…)  Then, I started thinking about other errands I sometimes run (to the library, to the local yoga studio, to the post office, even a small grocery trip), and I thought I might be able to do all of these on a bike versus in a car.  So maybe, maybe it was time to get a bike after all?

But I kept pushing off the idea.  I didn’t know if I would use a bike enough to justify the cost of purchasing it – so I decided to save the money, and stay with the status quo.

However.  This spring and summer I have been battling a pretty bad case of shin splints – and rather than continue damaging my legs and potentially giving myself a stress fracture, I thought maybe some cross training might be in order… so if I used a bike for both errands and exercise, maybe then it would be “worth it”?

A few days ago I went to one of the local bike shops, just to do some initial data-gathering.  A sales person approached me within seconds of my entering the store, and I quickly explained to him that I was just getting information – I was not sure I wanted to buy a bike at all.  “Sure, no problem,” he assured me.  “Why don’t you tell me what you think you might use a bike for, and I can let you know if we have anything I think you might like or might be able to use.”  So I explained to the sales guy what I just shared with all of you, and he showed me a light-weight, street-friendly, hybrid bike.  He encouraged me to take it for a ride in the nearby neighborhood, saying, “I recommend you take it for a nice long ride.  Twenty minutes at least, if you have the time.  Get a good feel for the bike; really see what you do and don’t like about it.  Relax, explore – have fun with it!”  So I did.

I rode the bike on a few sidewalks, and on a paved path, and on the street… and I had an absolutely wonderful experience.  It had been literally twenty years since I was last on a bike; I genuinely forgot how fun they are!  After fifteen minutes, I returned to the shop excited, but also still doubtful.  Yes, the ride was fun – but was a little bit of “fun” worth this kind of financial expenditure?  Would I really use the bike?

I asked the sales guy to assemble an estimate for me, which he did quickly and easily; I then left the shop with a long list of items and their associated costs.

The next morning I woke up really eager to ride a bike.  But looking at the detailed estimate and the final number at the bottom of it tempered my enthusiasm.  I called the shop and asked to speak to the sales guy.  I decided to be 100% honest and transparent, and told him all of my desires and hesitations.  I then offered a few possible ideas (as I don’t like to present a ‘problem’ without also presenting some possible ‘solutions’): What if I paid in cash instead of using a credit card – could I get a discount then?  Your store wouldn’t have to pay any merchant transaction fees – so could those dollar savings be applied to my bottom line?  The sales guy said that the store didn’t have a cash versus credit card policy, so that idea wouldn’t work… but, “There is another bike in the shop I can show you.  Its’ gear shifting is slightly different than the bike you rode yesterday, and it weighs about half-a-pound more, but otherwise the performance is pretty darn comparable – and it’s $70 cheaper.  That could be a good option…”  It was a nice start, but I needed more.  “Well, you said you were going to get a different saddle [seat] for the bike; I could probably give you a credit for the saddle that comes with the bike if you want to trade that in…”  Better, better.  Anything more that can be done?  “Hmm…. You know, I bet I could find a ‘friends-and-family’ discount around here that I could apply to your purchase; how about 10% off the total?”  You have a deal!

So yesterday afternoon, I went back to the bike shop to pay for and pick up the bike (and various accessories).  After my credit card cleared, the sales guy congratulated me on the purchase, then told me it would be an hour or two before the bike would be fully assembled and ready for me to take home.  Ugh.  Having spent literally eight hours in the car yesterday, the last thing I wanted to do was hang around a bike shop for another 1-2 hours.  Again, I decided to be 100% honest, and I shared this with the sales guy.  I then stated that I totally understand the logistics of running a business, and that the situation simply is what it is; but today I just can’t deal with it, so I’ll go home, and come back tomorrow to pick up the finished bike.  Before I turned to leave, the sales guy wanted to know more about my trip.  He asked me where I had been and what I had been doing all day.  I told him the name of the small town I traveled to – and it turns out he is from that area, too!  He then pressed for details about what I was doing there; when I told him, he felt genuine sympathy for me.  (Yesterday’s trip was not a ‘just-for-fun’-type of deal.)  I told him no worries, I truly appreciated his compassion, but I was understandably tired, and I just kind of wanted to go home.  He nodded, gave me a pick-up slip for the merchandise, and said he would call tomorrow once the bike was ready.

I walked out to my car, put on my sunglasses, fastened my seat belt, took a drink of water, and was about to turn the key in the ignition when the sales guy quickly walked towards my vehicle.  Umm…. What’s up?  He explained that he talked to the guys who do the bike assembly, and they agreed to bump my bike to the front of the line.  They also agreed to both work on the bike at the same time (instead of having only one technician do it, which is their standard practice).  “So, we should be able to get your bike done in 20 minutes or so, if you can wait that long?  That way you can ride it yet this weekend, and you don’t have to make a trip back here tomorrow….” The sales guy trailed off, then looked at me and waited for my response.

WOW!  That’s fantastic!  Thank you all so much!  I really, really appreciate it!

So, to summarize.  This very kind sales guy:

  • didn’t pressure me into buying anything.
  • did find me a better bike to fit my needs and my constraints.
  • did get creative in giving me as much value as possible (trade-in credit, discount).
  • showed an interest in me as a fellow human, and went well above-and-beyond the ‘requirements’ of his job to rally other people to help me.

At the end of the day, the man saved me money, time, and energy; and gave me information, support, and encouragement.

I definitely got one heckuva ‘deal’ on this new bike!!

My new bike - complete with helmet and saddle bag. (I never had either one of these as a kid!)

The first ride I took: to the library. (Yay libraries!)

(And I am very impressed that you read this entire post all the way to the end; thank you for your support, too!)  🙂



About Stef

A "serious" gal who is trying to remember to lighten up and smile.
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35 Responses to More than just a bike

  1. Dodie says:

    Yay for bikes! Glad to see you got yourself one!


  2. Dodie says:

    What kind of bike did you get?


  3. rutheh says:

    I love libraries and there is a neat shirt the ALA has about them being endangered but that is not what I wanted to say.
    I love the WHOLE story and the bike guy and the fact that you got right back on, just like that saying,”it’s iike riding a bicycle…..”
    Great story. I read it all the way through and enjoyed your piece/post/, Stef.


  4. barb19 says:

    I loved your post about purchasing your new bike – and what a gem of a salesman!
    I especially liked “showed an interest in me as a fellow human, and went well above-and-beyond the ‘requirements’ of his job to rally other people to help me”. Now that is one heck of a salesman – he went the full 100 yards for you!
    Happy riding! I have a bike and I love it!


    • Stef says:

      Barb, he was not only a very good salesman, but truly a gem of a human. I highly recommend him! 🙂

      What kind of bike do you have? How long have you been riding?


  5. Touch2Touch says:

    Yes, the nice salesman was all that you said, BUT ALSO
    you were very clear about your needs, your hesitations, your budget constraints, your doubts.
    You didn’t whine, didn’t complain, were pleasant and understanding.
    Didn’t push, didn’t threaten, were enthusiastic about the thing that is his livelihood.
    Hey, it takes two to tango —
    and you two danced beautifully together!

    So now you pedal off into the sunset — way to go, Stef!


    • Stef says:

      I LOVE the idea of the sales guy and I engaged in a dance; what beautiful imagery. Just like the greyhound and his owner from earlier in the week… I wonder which one I am? 😉


  6. yep, read every word. Well, because I knew it would end with a smile! Plus the whole time it made me think of how much I enjoyed riding a bike in my teens and twenties. hmmm….


    • Stef says:

      Joss, thank you for sticking with me, and having faith in a smile pay-off by the end. 🙂
      Do you own a bike? Perhaps consider getting it out from storage and taking it for a spin?


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  8. TBM says:

    I hope you enjoy your bike and I would love to have that salesman in every story I visit!


  9. Yay for bikes that come with amazing service and for Libraries!!!


  10. That man sounds like a real sweetheart! 🙂


  11. Great looking bike Stef.
    I too hadn’t ridden a bike for years until Christmas when my wife bought me one. I like the easiness of not having to fight for a parking space.
    Enjoy. 🙂


    • Stef says:

      Thanks Jonathan! Do you ride your bike often? For errands, or for pleasure? (Or both?) I think once I get a nice padded pair of bike shorts, I will enjoy my bike a lot. 🙂


  12. deenie12 says:

    Like you, I would ride my bike for HOURS when I was a kid, and I loved how you equated it with your ‘first taste of freedom’. Looking back, I realize that was a huge appeal for me, as well! Reading your post makes me want to dust off my bike and go for a long overdue ride.

    And your experience with the salesman was wonderful. I agree with one of the readers’ comments- while the salesman needed to be attentive and helpful, it was also your willingness to be honest about your needs that led to the successful ending. Great story!!


    • Stef says:

      Nadine, thank you for your very thoughtful comments! Yes, as a kid so much of the allure of the bike was simply the mobility it provided: I could get away for LONG stretches of time, and just explore, be lighthearted and carefree. So, so lovely. 🙂


  13. sheila4hastenhome says:

    This was very fun to read. I told my daughter you are a real “deal-er”. 🙂 This story reminds me of a time several years ago: I had been given a bicycle that needed some fixing. My children fixed it for me as a surprise and “drug” me out to the field to ride with them. Like you, my thought was, “I forgot just how much fun this is!”
    I’m not sure about the library plug, though–my daughter has been itching for me to take her today. 🙂
    No, really, your post was great!


    • Stef says:

      Sheila, thank you so much for the comments! I think so much of “negotiating” is simply being willing to state one’s truth, *and* not be embarrassed by it.

      Do you still ride your bike? And, more importantly, did you and your daughter make it to the library? 😉


      • sheila4hastenhome says:

        That is how my grandma is, too–graceful at negotiation; I have tried to learn from her, though I am not exactly the “natural”.

        I have not ridden my bike for a long time, for one reason or another; but yes, we made it to the library that very afternoon. I had a few (relatively) quiet moments to work on a goal sheet I had been wanting to do. By that time, my two-year-old had had enough peace and quiet (haha), so I enjoyed playing out front with him while my daughters finished their book hunt. Then we topped it off with a half hour at the park. I am glad we went. 🙂


      • Stef says:

        It sounds like a really fun outing!

        What “goal sheet” are you creating? For your kids? For you?


      • sheila4hastenhome says:

        This particular goal sheet is for me. It is a Personal Goals Worksheet regarding my business, Hasten Home. It was pretty basic, asking questions such as: where I’m at and why; how I feel about my career so far and where I hope to go with it; what I should do next and what do I do best. It was much quicker to fill out than I expected, but little activities like this from time to time (coupled with prayer) help me to focus and find direction.


  14. carlaat says:

    Congrats on the bike, Stef! How exciting! And a lovely story about how it all came to be as well. Yay!


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  16. N. Barnes says:

    Fabulous bike! I had to click your link to this post just to check it out. 🙂 Congrats on your new wheels!


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