Thursday, September 1, 2011


Prior to his incredible race at Ironman Canada last weekend, my friend Doug wrote a very thoughtful and practical blog post about not freaking out before race day.  With ten days to go until the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Las Vegas, his comments are particularly relevant to me right now.  Although unintentional, I find myself trying to gain control over the things that I cannot control (such as being obsessive over weather reports...42 degrees....really?!) and getting mired in the details and the "what ifs".

So, I methodically started making my way down Doug's to do list in an attempt to control the chaos.  I stocked up on nutrition, made my geeky checklists (and got laughed for said checklists), and put my plan together.

Yet, as much as we try, events beyond our control happen despite the best laid plans.  And sometimes the unthinkable happens.

To do list item #2 is bike cleaning.  This means REALLY cleaning it, with a toothbrush and q-tips if needed, because everyone knows that clean bikes go faster.  Plus...I love my beautiful bike and she's much prettier when she's sparkling.  So last Friday evening I set to work making Ora pretty.

And there it was.  The unthinkable.

An unmistakable, horrible hairline crack on my beautiful girl.  I cleaned the top tube again, desperately hoping that the thin line taunting me was just an apparition.  It wasn't. The horrible, sinking realization that my top tube was cracked.  The unthinkable was real - my beautiful, precious race bike was broken.

I was crushed.  Tears flowed.  The rule about not panicking, totally forgotten.  Sheer panic set in.

But, alas, I promise you that this story has a happy ending.  Those who know me know that I regularly wax rhapsodic about Speed Theory.  The folks there - especially Jeremy, Doug, Mike, Murray - have been so very patient and kind with me.  I walked into their shop two years ago with an entry to Ironman and a dream, and got from them in return patience, support and knowledge. And if you are skeptical, I beg you to read on.

If you are looking for a commodity, you can shop online.  You'll probably get a really good deal on your brand new, heavily discounted, late model P4 of unknown origin and you'll look really great riding those cheap Zipp 404 firecrest wheels with your half-price powertap from e-bay.  Triathlon is an expensive, gear-oriented sport and it is definitely hard on your wallet to keep up with the Joneses in the carbon, aero-everything department.

But is it worth it?  A resounding no.  The more expensive the purchase, the more you have at stake.  If you expect a warranty to be honored or if you expect any aspect of service whatsoever, then you deal with a local bike shop.  Yes, the prices are retail.  However, you are not paying for a commodity or an off-the shelf do-dad - you are paying for the service that goes along with your precious carbon baby.   You are paying for the expertise and the time of the people that you involve in your purchase decision, and for the help you will inevitably need when your bottom bracket starts to click or your seat position hurts your knees.  When I made the decision to buy a tri bike, Doug literally put in hours of time with me bouncing around options and ensuring that the fit was right before I committed.    Utilizing this expertise only to walk out the door and purchase the bike on the internet would have been an embarrassing deception.

If you are unconvinced and still sitting poised to buy those Zipps on craigslist, perhaps the rest of this happy story will change your mind.

I sent a note to Jeremy about 30 minutes after finding the crack.  Friday night, 9pm.  It was the weekend of Ironman Canada, the shop was closed for three days and the timing could not have been worse.  Yet, Jeremy responded instantly and jumped in without hesitating.  Less than a week after discovering the damage, a new frame is on its way. Not only that, but he took the time to speak with me several times and allay my fears.  While the butterflies in my stomach will not entirely settle until the new frame arrives, I am floored by the astounding responsiveness and immediate plans set in place to resolve the truly unthinkable by these exceptional individuals at Speed Theory and Podium Imports.  Their unwavering commitment to service and the product they sell, in my mind, is unparalled.

Cracks in carbon frames are remote, but manufacturing flaws can occur despite anything we might do.  For this reason, many manufacturers (including Orbea) stand by their products with lifetime guarantees.  However, it is the strength of the relationship with the seller and distributor that will enable a warranty claim. This story could have ended very differently.  Had I bought my bike second hand or had I purchased it on the internet - I would now be sitting without a bike for my A race.  Up sh*t creek so to speak.

Instead, I chose to deal with a local bike shop (and its distributor) who are committed to their product and dedicated to the highest level of customer service possible.  It is relationships that create a sound purchase, not the mere act of purchasing itself.  Jeremy and his team have gone above and beyond for me, and quite frankly, I cannot express enough gratitude right now.

Sorry, internet, this customer is sold.    

(Thank you - Jeremy, Brian, Doug, Mike, Murray.  You are A-list, second to none in this bike business stuff.)

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