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!