In with the new

Prior to his unexpected health scare, Matthew was in the midst of dealing with bicycle trouble.

His Craigslist-ed Surly Pacer quickly became his primary bike, with his hybrid Giant relegated to the back-up bike role.  Not long after finally taking it in to a LBS for a minor shifting tune-up (after attempted tries to tweak it himself didn’t quite do the trick), he faced a much bigger problem.

On his way into work a few weeks ago, the shifting lever for the rear gears broke off in his hand.  He called to tell me that it was going to be a very slow ride home from work.  I suggested the bus.

Now, some people are in to fixed-gear bicycles, but we are not those people.  Anyone who’s bothered to get out of his car and onto a bike in the St. Louis area can tell you that, contrary to some perceptions, St. Louis is not, in fact, flat.  Nope, from minor inclines to some pretty major hills (including The Hill, which is often part of our bike route), having gears (and knowing how to use them well) is an essential part of a good biking experience around here.

After much research, Matthew had a few options, ranging from expensive to more expensive:

  1. Buy the part and pay for labor to replace the broken shifter — $200
  2. Upgrade to a new shifting system (he wasn’t crazy about the existing set-up) — $450+
  3. Cut his losses, ditch the Pacer, and buy a new bike

Option #1 was by far the cheapest, especially after he managed to get the maker of the shifter to cover the cost of the part (his research revealed that there was a known defect/weakness that led to the break), leaving us to cover just the thirty dollars of labor.  Done.

We could have stopped there.  But in the course of his research, he had already gone back and ridden the [new] Salsa Casserole that he was considering back in March when he bought the Pacer.

The lure of a new bike, which came standard with the upgraded shifting system he was considering for the Pacer, plus the benefit of free tune-ups for life, was hard to resist.  That, combined with the discovery that his Craigslist bike was not the standard Pacer that you would buy from a bike shop, but something that had been built up (with perhaps cheaper components) by the seller, weighed heavily in favor of the new bike.

Until his hospitalization, I had been mostly a neutral party, acting as a sounding board for the options, but mostly encouraging him to decide.  Seeing him in the hospital prompted some kind of “life is short” mentality for me, and I started advocating for the new bike (a decision toward which he’d been leaning anyway).

He picked up the [repaired] Pacer and the new Salsa Casserole on the same day, and then perhaps set a record for length of time elapsed from purchasing to riding a new bicycle (19 days!) due to recovery/fatigue and the timing of our trip.

Sunday morning, we finally all headed out for a family bike ride — the Casserole’s (he going to name it soon) maiden voyage.


The bike wasn’t the only new thing:  Sir sported his new helmet.


I’m pretty sure that thing would almost fit me.  Not to name names, but someone has a big head.


The Casserole is really a beautiful bike (another factor in its favor) — a light silvery blue color.  It came with the small front rack (I guess we need some kind of a basket for that), and the bike shop staff transferred the fenders and rear rack that Matthew had put on the Pacer.  (While they weren’t willing to negotiate on the price of the bike, which was already discounted due to it being a 2012 model, Matthew did negotiate for the labor of moving the accessories, which, at over an hour of time, was well worth requesting.)

While there’s some temptation to keep all of the bikes (two back-ups is better than one, right?), we’re planning to sell the repaired Pacer, hopefully for close to what we paid for it.  While it could have been worse, this was not the best introduction we could have had to buying a bicycle on Craigslist.  If the seller cannot produce specifics on where he/she purchased the bike — buyer beware!


  1. Oooh! The Casserole is lovely. Great shade of blue (and I agree it needs a name)! I really didn’t have the confidence to buy a bike through Craigslist, and my short stature (I’m 5’3, with very short legs) means I have a history of teeeeeesie bikes (my Trek mountain bike is 14.5″, my new Linus Dutchi is a small (17″) and I’m guessing my mom’s 70’s Motobecane mixte (which I’m hoping to rehab) is, at most 17″. I couldn’t find any used bikes that met my aesthetic and set-up needs that were less than 19″. Womp-womp. I’m also busy and I value a good deal only when I don’t have to spend a disproportionate amount of time pursuing it (I had already invested about a month’s worth of research into determining what I wanted from a bike).

    So, yeah. Craigslist could be fabulous, but only if you know what to look for, are pretty dang handy, or have a stockpile of decent components to use if the ones that come with are disappointing (that’s a no, no, and no on this end — at least so far)!


  2. EcoCatLady says:

    I bought my bike new for similar reasons. Since carbon fiber bike frames tend to fail catastrophically when they do fail, having a lifetime warranty on the frame seemed like a good idea. I have to say that I absolutely love my bike, and have gotten so much enjoyment out of it, even though I haven’t even had it a year yet. It was well worth the expense.

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