Geek Out in River City
March 26, 2010
Total mileage: 149
Just last week we were driving a rental van down ML King Boulevard in Portland. Besides the stress of navigating an unfamiliar part of the city, we had to juggle traffic, road construction, and rain in our quest to find River City Bicycles. We’re accustomed to hole-in-the-wall stores tucked into fading shopping centers or tiny storefronts (you don’t make a fortune running a bike shop, after all). What would this place look like?
And then we saw it–an old two-story building with RIVER CITY BICYCLES emblazoned on the side. What made the shop truly unmistakable, though, was the parade of sculptures along the roof line, scrap-iron humanoids perched atop an odd collection of cycles. One of the figures appeared to be beckoning us: “Come on in! You’ll have a good time.”
This was the day we were picking up my new Sweetpea from Natalie Ramsland. The event was taking place at Bicycle Fitting Services, just a few blocks from River City where we planned to drop off the bike for shipment home. Because there was time to spare, we had decided to spend it finding the shop.
We parked in the lot behind the building and walked through the rear entrance, a bit untidy and scattered with boxes and fliers. Then we passed into the main shop area, a huge room with large plate glass windows typical of a turn-of-the-20th-century store. Bicycling merchandise filled the front of the room in a variety such as I have never seen–racks of clothing, bins of tires, shelves of shoes, and seemingly every bike light on the market. I lingered over the wall of gorgeous panniers but didn’t succumb to temptation because I was going to be writing a big check in less than an hour.
Bicycles left the biggest footprint in the room. Row upon row, two racks high so the uppermost machine was almost above my head (and I’m pretty tall). This is where Mr. Spoked geeked out. He salivated over a Colnago road while my jaw dropped in the cyclocross section. Wow, never have seen that many in one place before. I’m pretty sure we would have dropped some bucks if it hadn’t been for the Sweetpea. It was probably for the best that we had to leave.
Just a few minutes later we pulled up to Bicycle Fitting Services. Natalie was standing outside the building with my bike, and my eyes filled when I saw how beautiful it was. Her husband and business partner, Austin, also stood there, and so did Michael Sylvester. After we greeted each other, Michael carried the bike upstairs to his studio for the fitting. It went smooth as silk and was over quickly, almost disappointingly fast because I had looked forward to it for so long. A check traded hands, then we were outside again with Sweetpea, and she was mine.
We drove back to River City, just a few blocks away, and that’s where reality popped my balloon. I had just taken possession of her, and now I had to give her up. If it hadn’t been raining, and if I’d remembered to pack a helmet, I would have ridden around a little. But it was not to be. I rolled her back to the service desk, keeping a tight grip on the handlebars while we settled such business matters as name, address, insurance, shipping fees, and signature. Then it was time to let go. Reluctantly I relinquished my baby to strangers. The guy at the desk must have read the distress on my face because he tried to reassure me they’d do a great packing job, and said he’d take the bike upstairs where it would be safe from harm. I stood forlornly at the base of the stairs, watching those beautiful bamboo fenders flash between the ballusters, and nearly teared up again.
It didn’t even occur to us to take photos at River City, probably because we were so wrapped up in the Sweetpea fitting and then getting her shipped off. Instead, all I have to offer is this picture of the final fitting. Next post will address the first ride on the new bike.