May 7, 2011 Ride: Making Lemonade

Okay, so life just issued me a rather large lemon. Oh how I wanted that Creme. Oh how disappointed I was with what I got.

Those welds just get worse the more I look at them. So I’m not looking at them anymore. I emailed Chain Reaction Cycles, who I bought the bike from, and Creme. I included photos of the bike from Creme’s site, and of the bike I received. I asked for my money back, and for them to pay to get it packed and ship it back. I will update you all on how that goes. But fair to say: the bike is junk, as it is. The components are great. The frame makes a Walmart bike look nicely-finished.

So now I must wait to see what will happen. I don’t, as you may have gathered from my impatience with shipping the Creme, enjoy waiting. So what to do this morning? Hang out and stare at the ugly bike? Mourn my lost internet innocence? I have certainly received things I didn’t like before, but not things that were nothing like what I ordered! I felt sullied.

I decided to go to The Dutch Bike Co., check on The Raleigh, and rent a bike for a couple hours to ride on the Burke Gilman. I called first and asked about The Raleigh. The spokes in the correct size were in at last, but the wheels were still several days from done. In the process, I explained about the Creme, as they had been quite interested in how the bike turned out. They offered me a rental for free for the afternoon to make me feel better.

When I got there, I decided to test-ride the Linuses they carry. They run about the same price as the Cremes, and are similarly equipped, though, you know… they have frames that aren’t crap. I expected to like them.

I started with the Linus mixte. Fritz, the DB Co. mechanic, raised the seat way up for me, as the Linus mixte only comes in one size, and I have a long inseam. But with the seat up, the bars felt too low. We rolled them back, and off I went.

The Linus felt… light. Road shocks echoed through my arms, my hands and my rear end. My hands are particularly painful right now, so that was not a good thing. I rode it just a couple miles, then brought it back. Next, we tried the Dutchie, which is Linus’s Dutch bike.

Meh, as my students would say. It was bland and boring to ride. No zip, no fun. I tried the mixte again, but if I sat up enough to stop my hands from hurting, the frame felt way too small.

Ah well, I thought. That’s that. Fritz and I discussed options: “You should test more bikes,” he advised. But where would I do this? No one else in Seattle carries nice city bikes, and really, very few manufacturers make them. Fritz agreed, and wasn’t sure what else I could do.

I could get a used bike, of course, but then I’m running all around Seattle chasing Craigslist finds, and for what? I can’t tell what can be fixed up, and what can’t from a 2-minute test ride. I can’t wrench a bike.

Feeling discouraged and frustrated, not to mention still angry, I asked to just get the rental and go while I still had time. Fritz had a new bike in to rent (new to them, though several years old): a Viva Kilo with a 7-speed hub.

The Kilo is a fat-framed, fat-tired, fat-racked bike. It’s sort of a monstrosity, in a good way. As big as a Dutch bike (and it is a Dutch firm), it’s loopy and strange and not nearly as elegant as say, a Workscycle or a Gazelle. It is fully-lugged (unlike some bikes I could mention… ehem…. CREME). It certainly wasn’t what I was looking for, but I figured it would be okay for a few miles.

Then I got on it. I think I’d ridden perhaps 15 feet before I KNEW I was going to love this bike. It was responsive, and surprisingly nimble and fast. In fact, it reminded me of The Raleigh, but bigger and goofier, like The Raleigh’s silly cousin. It’s a fully upright bike, but felt surprisingly powerful. I rocketed my way through most of the 7 gears, loving the click-and-go-or-click-and-don’t-go-ness of the newer hub. The Fat Frank tires cushioned every bump. I was grinning from ear-to-ear on that bike, and folks on the Burke Gilman noticed, smiling right back. I even got looks from hipster 20 year-old guys who could be my sons (should I admit that? Saying it aloud is a bit unnerving). 

The giant bell on the handlebars of the Kilo was honestly the loudest bell I’ve ever heard. As I rode past one couple, I heard him remark: “that’s one damn loud bike bell.” It has a lovely, sonorous tone, like something one would hear in a Buddhist temple. No ding-ding bell here. It says: “dong DANG!” and even joggers with headphones jump out of the way.

The pedals on this bike are enormous brown rubber blocks that only a mother could love. The fenders are as wide as my hand (but they have subtle pin stripes). The little bag on the back (don’t know the brand, and wasn’t excited by it enough to find out) was dwarfed by the beefy rack tubing. I suspect the Kilo racks could carry a truck. The paint was a nice shade of cream (NOT creme), with slightly darker fenders and a beautiful matching chaincase. I usually find cream bikes a bit bland, but I liked this one.

So now for the bad: the bike was neglected by the previous owner, and has surface rust on the handlebar chrome (I, however, know many ways to deal with that). It rattles in about 10 places, only most of which are fender-related. It needs a serious cleaning, as every surface is dusty and dirty. There were cob-webs on the logo! The grips are cheap black vinyl (why, on a $1300 bike?), though they are nicely ergonomic. The saddle, though a Brooks, is someone else’s Brooks, and needs the laces tightened (otherwise, it looks hardly ridden). The kickstand is barely functional in that capacity.

Still, I liked it. I rode it about 10 miles in less than 45 minutes, pictures included. That’s the same speed as I ride The Raleigh. At the 5 mile mark, somewhere around the UW campus, I turned around due to time constraints, and wished I didn’t have to. Back at the Dutch Bike Co., the very friendly barista said as I opened the door and wheeled in the bike: “You look like you had way more fun on that one!” Indeed.

Fritz is inquiring about selling the Viva to me. It won’t be cheap, as it’s priced around $1300 new. In fact, it would probably be nearly as much as the Creme by the time I finished adding new grips and a new kickstand (grrr, wimpy stand!). So maybe I will, maybe I won’t. But it was fun to have the lemons turn unexpectedly sweet on me!

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14 Responses to May 7, 2011 Ride: Making Lemonade

  1. Girl, buy it before someone else does. See if they can throw in a full tune-up with the price, then take it and run.

    Why do you think it’s goofy? I think the angle of the handlebars makes it look a bit out of sorts, but otherwise it is an elegant balloon-tire bike. I like the brown pedals. If I lived in Seattle, it would be in my apartment by now!

  2. Amesja says:

    I like that fat bastard Kilo. I think that’s what I’d get if I already had a Raleigh and wanted a second bike that wasn’t just more of the same. While not the same bike at all it is a perfectly serviceable alternative and still with a comfortable upright position.

  3. rideblog says:

    To both Amesja and Veloria…

    If they offer it to me tomorrow at a price I can afford, I’m going to buy the Viva. It’s had a tune-up, but not a cleaning or tightening of rattly things. Mechanically, it’s totally sound. I’m aiming to get it with the Portland Dans for around the price of the Creme (and a big ol’ honkin’ kickstand).

    As to goofiness… It was standing next to a Workcycles Oma. The Oma is like a grand old woman. The Kilo is a goofy tall girl with feet that seem a bit too big. Does that analogy work? Goofy in a good way. Like someone took a normal Dutch bike and slightly over-inflated everything with an air pump.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Oh, I hope this works out for you! It’s a lovely-looking bike in my view. It reminds me very much of a Retrovelo. Maybe it’s fate and it’s the one for you. Will be checking back to see how things go.

  5. Erin B says:

    Look at the racks on that one! ;)

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist!

  6. Jim & Mathilda says:

    Vivas are gorgeous. Be aware, from what I understand, they are out of business so I’m not sure if warranty claims will be honored.

    I have a very loud bell that I ding well before reaching peds. No need to startle them, after all.

  7. rideblog says:

    Jim & Mathilda,
    They are in business, just not here in the US.

    http://www.vivabikes.com/

    As it is a used bike, I wouldn’t expect that to be an issue anyway.

  8. Jim & Mathilda says:

    One of the Euro bike bloggers tweeted a few months ago the owner took off owing a lot of money to creditors. Perhaps this is unfounded, perhaps the creditors control the site, perhaps the site maintenance was pre-paid.

    You are right, warranty fulfillment on a used bike isn’t a big deal. There might be a moral component here, but that’s your decision. I’m just passing along gossip.

  9. rideblog says:

    Jim & Mathilda,
    I checked and checked, and found nothing negative about Viva Bicycles. Viva Motorsports, however, who make motorcycles, filed for Chapter 11 this year due to basically what you described. Perhaps that’s what you were hearing about. The bike manufacturer, if they are having problems, are hiding it well.

  10. Corey K says:

    I think that is a nice sort of mix between a modern Retrovelo and an older German or Austrian swan-framed bike like an NSU or a Steyr Waffenrad. I second Velouria’s comments.

    Sometimes the girls with the big feet and hands make the best dancers.

    CK

  11. Grant says:

    Slight correction to the post. Viva are Danish, not Dutch. Visiting Copenhagen regularly I see Viva’s everywhere.

  12. rideblog says:

    I just learned this as well, Grant. Thanks!

  13. Steve C says:

    I am happy to report VIVA is not “out of business”, and is on the rise in the USA. You can contact Mike’s Bikes in the San Francisco area, or Grand Central Cycle Supply (smc@grandcentralcycle.com). These bikes are built to ride every day in all conditions, much nicer quality that most of the “replica” bikes out there, for only a little more $.

  14. rideblog says:

    Thanks, Steve. Mike’s didn’t have my model when I bought mine. I’m happy to hear that more Vivas are around. It’s a very nice bike!

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