Bicycle shopping woes

It’s been a month since Baby Jake’s demise, and I have yet to settle on a replacement.  After seeking a bit of input, I decided that some kind of touring bike might make a pretty decent commuter.  I was considering the Surly Long Haul Trucker or the Kona Sutra, when I wrote this post, and Rebecca brought the Salsa Vaya to my attention.

On September 3rd, I visited a couple of bike shops and returned home to post the following:

Gah — my frustration with inventory at StL bike shops continues! Visited The Hub and Maplewood Bicycles this morning. Both shops were very happy to ORDER a Surly LHT (or a Kona Sutra) for me, but neither stocked any touring bikes, so I left without test riding anything 😦

It’s a a chicken and egg problem: the shops don’t want to stock bikes that might not sell, but it’s pretty darn hard to sell a bike that you don’t stock!

Two days later, after a phone call to confirm inventory, I visited Big Shark:

Rode a Salsa Vaya [2] and a Surly LHT, and saw a Kona Sutra (two in stock, one too little, one too big for me to ride), at Big Shark this morning.

I felt a little guilty, knowing I would likely order my new bike through my preferred bike shop, and not Big Shark, but I needed to get my hands on these bikes somewhere.  I left with the information that if I wanted the Vaya, I’d have to wait until late September/early October, when the 2015 models came in.

Stock image from
2015 Salsa Vaya 3 (stock image from

I was rather decided on the Salsa Vaya 3, when a local bikey contact mentioned that he was interested in selling his year-old Novara Randonee touring bike, fully outfitted with fenders and rear rack.

It just happened to be my size, so we met for me to test ride it on a Saturday morning (9/6).  I liked how it rode and even felt fairly comfortable with the bar-end shifters.  While a used bike would not have the advantage of life-time free tune-ups that come with a new LBS purchase, the savings over new ($800-$900, in this case) were substantial and attractive.

I told the seller that I would get back to him with a decision in 24 hours.  At that point, he’d had no other contacts about the bike (it was posted on CL).  I also thought I communicated that if he received an offer before I contacted him, and I needed to decide sooner, to please let me know.

I’d pretty much made up my mind that I was going to take the “pre-loved” Novara, and I was already picturing my new ride, and really looking forward to it, especially since I’d discovered that riding BUB was a literal pain in the neck (and upper back and shoulders).

Six hours later, the bike was sold.  To another buyer.  Whomp, whomp, whomp.

So, back to the Salsa Vaya.  My next step was checking to see if The Hub could order the Salsa Vaya.  I was fairly confident they could, since I already knew they could order a Surly LHT (even though they don’t stock Surly bicycles).

After waiting for a week, I got the bad news — Salsa bicycle sales are restricted to official Salsa dealers.  That meant I could either get my first choice bike OR a [different] bike from my first choice bike shop (The Hub), but not both.  I’ve basically been sitting on this information for ten days, trying to figure out what I’m going to do.

In the meantime, The Hub got a 2015 Kona Sutra in my size, and the co-owner pointed out that they also have a [my size] 2014 Kona Rove in stock (very similar specs and geometry to the Sutra, but with integrated brakes and shifters as opposed to bar-end shifters, which was part of the appeal of the Vaya).  I’m hoping to ride both tomorrow.

2015 Kona Sutra (stock image from
2015 Kona Sutra (stock image from

Both of these Kona bikes are a bit more like a cyclocross bike than a touring bike (comparing geometries to the Vaya and the Surly LHT), and, since I’d kind of settled on a touring bike, I’m not sure how I feel about that.  On the other hand, I was pretty happy and comfortable on a ‘cross bike (Baby Jake) for quite awhile, so maybe it’s not a big deal.

In the meantime, I’m minimizing time on BUB (despite new tires, a tune-up, and a new chain, cassette, and rear derailleur cable), due to comfort issues, which means I’m riding Big Blue (the longtail), whenever Matthew doesn’t need her to transport G.  But I’m ready for a new primary bike already!!!


  1. Good luck! I hope you are able to find your new bike soon. Can’t wait to hear about the Kona test rides.

  2. EcoCatLady says:

    OY! If you really liked the Novara, could you get one new? REI has a store in St. Louis don’t they? Or, since you’ve already ridden one, you could always order it online.

    I just have to say that “Kona Sutra” is a hilarious name for a bike! The mind reels… 🙂

    1. Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      I don’t think I’d necessarily pick the Novara over one of the other bikes I’m considering — but it seemed like a decent option when I thought I could get it used. REI offers one free tune-up, but not lifetime tune-ups like most bike shops do, so that’s another mark against buying new from them.

      I can’t quite say “Kona Sutra” with a straight face. Someone obviously had fun naming that bike 🙂

  3. Have to say, though, your conundrum does make for interesting reading. Good luck.

  4. Jaycee McCormick says:

    You should consider trying out a few different shops other that just those two you listed. I know for a fact that most shops in the are don’t stock the Surly LHT, but I purchased my touring bike (barcon shifters and all) from a wonderful family business in Sunset Hills.

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