To be a proper vagabond, you need to have some proper tools. However, in vagabondineering, these tools need not be complicated. They can be shoes. A back pack. A map. Water helps. In this here excursion, we didn’t opt to use our feet. We opted for a badass, two wheelin’, pannier-dealin’, racketeering bike machine that I’d call Frida.
But she was hiding. It was a treasure hunt to find her and took about two months.
Why was this so difficult?
My height, my budget and my location. And the fact that not many touring bikes get made.
I am 5’2 1/2, wanted to spend between $200-800 and live in the desert, an area, in which you don’t have that many bike touring enthusiasts.
Sure, perhaps it was backwards to say yes to an expedition and not have the necessary gear, but I knew I could find something. I didn’t think it was going to be this hard.
I spoke with sixteen (16) mostly independent bike shops across Southern California from LA to Coachella Valley via Orange, Riverside, San Diego and San Bernardino Counties. That is six (6) counties. And I had the option of looking at two (2) bikes.
They simply just did not have them in stock. Or had already sold out. Or would have had to special order them in, which would have meant leaving a 50% deposit or paying outright.
I also checked ebay, all of craigs craigslist spanning the entire west US region, and a host of touring bicycle websites with dedicated classified sections. Over and over again. The closest one I found was a second hand 46cm Surly Long Haul Trucker for $700 plus shipping from Chicago on ebay. It is really hard to tell whether a bike would work for me via photos and some written words. I wasn’t sure how much would really have to be swapped out and how much it would end up costing in the end.
I had also been in touch with a really cool bike shop in Pasadena called Around the Cycle who upcycle old bikes and parts into re-creations. I was hopeful that they would get in something perfect for me. On their facebook page, they featured Tara, who was going touring with her Cannondale T700. I was hoping to be Tara one day soon. But time was against me. As was luck and they hadn’t gotten anything in the meantime.
In the end, I spoke with REI about their Novara Randonee touring bike. They had one small one left. They were having a sale. And I was starting to panic. With just over a month to go, I was really starting to run out of time as I also wanted to break the ride in and make any necessary adjustments before heading out, not during. So I made my way to Rancho Cucamonga on the Friday night of Memorial Day weekend, signed the release waiver, and took her on a spin, three times round the Best Buy strip mall, signed the receipt and took her home. The 20% off helped with making that final decision. As did the really good reviews. And that she just simply felt good from the onset.
So, if this epic ride was not official before, it is now. I no longer have to walk it. Welcome, Frida.