I was looking at a new mountain bike this summer and an old shop owner I’ve known forever informed me that it would be the last one I would ever buy.
It wasn’t an off-hand remark. He meant it.
I chuckled and asked if he knew something that I didn’t. He replied that he didn’t; it was only that I was afraid to admit the obvious. I must have looked shocked, because I certainly was.
In order to give me time to regain my senses, or knowing he had created the perfect opportunity to continue uninterrupted with his guided retail tour, he guessed my age correctly, figured out how long I owned my previous bike and calculated approximately how my annual mileage on a mountain bike had declined logarithmically over the past 10 years (and knew from experience that this trend was likely to accelerate.)
He seemed to know more about me than my parish priest, doctor, and even Google. It was almost like an out-of-body experience after that. Everything he said suddenly sunk in like a thunderstorm deluge into my wife’s vegetable garden that I forgot to water last week when she was out of town for a few days. While the harvest there might be beyond salvageable, the fruits of truth had blossomed in my mind and were now forming fruit.
“You want me to buy a more expensive bike!” I exclaimed. He smiled. Then he gave me the logic for free, and it kind of made sense. If it was going to be my last bike ever, I might as well get a really good one so that it would last that long. It would be nice to leave a little something for the kids, too.
Fortunately for me, I come from a long line of tire kickers when it comes to buying stuff. I’ve been thinking about a new Toyota 4Runner, and have been since the spring of 2016. I’m not only talking about expensive stuff like a new car, either. I sleep with a mouth guard to keep from grinding my teeth and it has been getting a little brittle over the years. I look at the $30 replacements every time I go into a Target store. “Next time”, I say to myself.
Needless to say, I backed out of my conversation with the bike pusher and pretty much forgot about it. Before I left, I assured him it was all me and nothing to do with him. I needed a little space, I told him. I have to find myself. Maybe what I really needed was a new pair of trail running shoes instead. I was a mess. I was at a point where I had no idea what I really wanted to get out of recreation or even what I deserved as an achy, upper-middle-aged weekend warrior. All I knew is that I am a good person and will eventually find my real VO2 max.
Time passed, the season began to drop hints of changing and I stopped dreaming about a new mountain bike and turned my post sheep-counting thoughts toward maybe getting a new pair of ski boots, which I haven’t had since my college sophomore daughter was in third grade. But, before you judge, you need to know that I have never, ever, purchased second-hand footwear. … Except for my A/T boots, which were actually given to me.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I came home one evening and my wife told me that a pipe had burst in our shower and the damage was extensive. And, yeah, I didn’t see how this disaster was related to anything I have talked about thus far, either. I headed dejectedly up the stairs to assess the destruction. There would be no fresh mouth guard in my future, much less a new pair of ski boots or a snazzy SUV. Life has unique timing in playing cruel jokes.
Fortunately, so does my wife. As I opened the bathroom door, far from soggy drywall falling off bare studs, what did I find? A brand new, totally awesome mountain bike standing in the shower. That dang bike salesman went behind my back, explained that I was going to die before my next mountain bike wore out and, because of that, convinced her to spring for the really nice one. Out of total surprise and utter relief of not having to file an insurance claim, I just started laughing until I was crying. It was all so perfect. I loved it! You just never know what you’re going to get when you shop local.
Roger Marolt has a bad case of fat tire fever. Email him at [email protected]