Thursday, August 2, 2007
This represents a triumph for me. Not only did I walk into REI and buy a bike rack for the roof of our station wagon but I attached and assembled it with only the help of my younger son, an expert at putting small things together.
The bike rack is one of those things my husband and I have been going around and around about and neither of us has done anything. Here's the conversation:
"Honey, let's go on a family bike ride."
"Our bike rack is too wimpy for more than two bikes, it'll wreck our hatchback and they're not secure, they might fall off on the freeway and it's too much hassle to try to put them in the car, etc. etc."
"Okay, let's buy a roof rack so we can get them all up there and bring them when we go on vacation."
"It's too high, you won't be able to lift them up on the roof, etc., etc."
"Oh, forget it."
But yesterday I was having lunch with my mom and stepdad and sighing about how we couldn't bring our bikes on vacation with us, and how my husband had even checked to see how much it would cost to rent a car that we could put our bikes in ($500 for the week), and rejected the idea. They said, "Just. Go. Buy. A. Bike. Rack."
They accompanied me for moral support. Once the 9-foot-high bike rack expert started talking about Thule parts on Yakima racks and Yakima parts on Thule racks and attachments kits and optimum attachment positions, our eyes began to glaze over. "Pay attention," I told myself, while he scurried around the racks collecting feet and kits and bars and totalling it all up: just over $200.
"That's not bad," said my stepdad.
"'Course, you need the locks," said the bike rack expert. "You need a minimum of 4 for the rack, and one each for the bike carriers, but they only sell them in even-numbered packs. And how many bike carriers do you want?"
"Oh, is that extra?" I asked nervously. It turned out the $200 was just the cost of the rack, and I needed three bike carriers at least (we didn't all have to go cycling at the same time, did we?). I gulped as he added up the costs to a ridiculously large amount (let's just say more than the cost of renting the damn SUV), and then I stood there paralyzed, trying to make a decision.
My stepdad wandered over to the racks that attach to a hitch. "Do you have a hitch?" he asked hopefully. The ones that attached to a hitch were half the price.
"Uh, yeah," I said. "Maybe we should go with that."
He looked at me a bit doubtfully. "I'll go outside and see what size hitch you have."
He came back a few moments later, grinning. "No hitch. I guess it was just a figment of someone's imagination."
It was either the roof rack that cost more than my new bike, or nothing.
Here's how I rationalized it:
1. We could keep it after the vacation, unlike the SUV we weren't going to rent anyway.
2. It could be transferred to any future car that we might buy when our station wagon conks out ("Of course you may need different attachment feet..." the bike rack expert said).
3. It could be used to attach the cargo box we've also talked about buying for our camping trips.
4. It would increase the number of activities our sons will consent to do with us.
5. It would be nearly impossible for our bikes to fall off on the freeway, and we could lock our bikes onto the rack, enabling us to stop at the supermarket on the way without worrying about getting our bikes stolen.
Feeling a bit intoxicated, I bought it. We are REI members, after all.
So there would be no chance for second thoughts, my son and I spent an hour attaching the rack that afternoon. Actually my son spent about 20 minutes and I spent another 40 minutes in my windbreaker in the wind and fog. His contribution was mainly his can-do attitude, gained from years of assembing complex Lego constructions from wordless diagrams. "Remember, this is just a big Lego," I told myself as the wind whipped my hood off. It would have helped if the Thule people included a diagram showing how the whole thing was supposed to look when it was all assembled, the way the Lego people do. There were lots of close-up diagrams showing how the bolts fit into the washer plate and how the key fit into the lock, but no diagrams of the successfully assembled rack with bike attached.
Also, the REI bike rack expert had specifically mentioned that it was important to attach the feet at the optimum point indicated in the instructions. The instructions did not say anything about where to attach the feet, although there was this cryptic expression next to a picture of an allen wrench tightening a bolt: "2.5Nm/1.8ft-lb/1,8pi-lb." Could it be that I was actually supposed to measure the force I was using to tighten the bolts? That was laughable.
I finally called REI and asked to speak with our bike rack expert but he was "at lunch," so I explained my worries to the other bike rack expert who answered the phone. He said not to worry about it. "Okay," I said.
I stopped worrying about if I had attached the feet in the correct position and started worrying about how I was going to install the bike carriers. I studied the Thule website and downloaded the instructions for my model, but they were different than the instructions in my box. I decided to call it quits for the day.
The tricky part was that evening, announcing the fact of our new bike rack to my husband. To my credit, I did not lie about how much it cost. To his credit, all he said was, "I have my doubts."
But the next day, it all became clear. It's amazing what a good night's sleep can do. I finished installing two of the carriers, and me and my son got the bikes in the rack and drove down to Crystal Springs for another great ride, this time with some friends.
Here is that photo of the fog creeping over the hills that I wanted to get last time.
When my husband came home tonight, he said he was glad the bike rack worked out. Not another word about how much it cost. He is a great guy.