Last weekend we loaded up a 22″ truck full of bikes and delivered them free of charge to their owners in the San Francisco area. It went well, mostly.
We made this trip because, frankly, our inventory of bakfietsen had become rather large just as the initial very hot sales rate in Portland cooled off with the weather. We figure that most any major metropolitan area has at least several dozen households who will leap for these things, at least once a few get rolling, and the “how can I get one of those?” referrals kick in. We wanted to jump-start that process.
We don’t think we’ll do this again, primarily because we’ve accomplished our goals of inventory adjustment and seeding future sales to the area. We delivered several bakfietsen to Jim in Chico, which he will sell [he sold out -- ed].
Another reason we’ll not likely do this again is simply that it was a lot of work, and stressful. I had naively believed that I could leave early one morning in Portland and sleep that night in Berkeley, making a significant delivery and acquaintance in Chico on the way. (That’s like Amsterdam to Milan with a stop in, what, Strasbourg?) It turns out I spent two nights in motels on I-5, with associated distress from fast food, poor sleep amid dreams of snowy mountain passes and stolen trucks, and general exposure to the monocultural vacuity of the interstate highway system. I’ve driven maybe a dozen hours a year average in recent decades. Driving 4 days with a giant truck full of costly bikes on a tight itinerary has left me pretty done. I have a new appreciation, or should I say sympathy, for those who truck for a living. It’s hard.
Handing over the keys to the bikes was rewarding, as usual. The award for most enthusiastic bakfiets reception goes to C.B. in Palo Alto, who took a “pro forma” practice loop with one of her children before coming back and loading up four more people, including her husband off the back, making six in all. Much whooping and similar signs of glee ensued. I love to watch this stuff, and submit it as exemplary of the incredibly easy handling the van Andel bakfiets design offers even with the biggest loads. (We’ve ridden superficially similar designs and, really, this one’s in a class by itself.)
After C.B.’s delivery, with great relief I dropped off the empty truck after dark in a deserted industrial area. What then? Deploy the trusty personal jetpack: a Brompton folding bike! A Brompton is the hero of so many of my travels. With iPhone providing navigational support, I rode to the nearest Caltrain stop and headed north to San Francisco. On the train I assessed some bad news from a customer in the preceding day’s drop: an egregious mechanical problem, our fault. Customer lived near the Oakland airport I would be biking to in the morning, so I planned to stop to make things right on the way.
iPhone said I would need to wait at the Caltrain stop for a bus to connect further to BART that would take me back to Berkeley where I was staying. See, the Bay Area has many overlapping layers of independent, ill-coordinated transit systems, which means sometimes you have to buy 3 tickets, wait 3 times to go just a few miles. Nuts to that: I had Brompton! The bike creaked softly under my heavy load of smugness as I flew past the bus stops of SoMa to BART, feeling a little like Spiderman in street clothes flicking skeins of web between truck and train, train and tube, tube and dinner under the full moon.
The gods punish such feelings, of course. The next day, riding that clever British contraption in the cold rain to the Oakland airport while imagining myself in the role of Bond, James Bond, I got a flat in a cheery glass-strewn warehouse district. Who knew it rained in California? Q really must sort this puncture business. Could I patch it? Absolutely, and then I’d miss my flight. Soggy but unbowed, 5 strokes of the iPhone later a cab was on the way, and in 45 minutes I carried the bike onto the plane as usual, like Bond, James Bond.
Jim in Chico sent this in. I love the way the kids pop out like peas from a ripe pod: