Back in college, I bought a Cannondale touring bicycle that I rode quite a lot for a while. It’s a great bike–I still have it–but the last few times I’ve tried to ride it, it’s been pretty uncomfortable. My back isn’t what it used to be and sitting all hunched over while riding can be downright unpleasant.
Ever since Kathy bought her gorgeous new bike last year, I’ve been wanting to ride again, but the inertia of sitting still was too much, especially because every time I considered riding, my thoughts turned to back pain. Then, I read a weblog entry by Matt Haughey–he of MetaFilter and PVRblog, among others–about his visit to a company that makes recumbent bikes.
I’ve seen recumbents around town and always thought they looked comfortable. They allow you to ride in a more normal seated position than traditional bikes. I decided it was worth a look. BiGHA is a new company that makes a pretty unique recumbent. They’re not cheap, but they do offer a money back guarantee (they’ll even pay shipping both ways), so I went ahead and ordered one. It arrived on Wednesday. They ship the bikes almost fully assembled (I only had to attach the seat), so it took less than ten minutes to get it unpacked and ready to ride.
My first ride down the block was interesting. As expected the bike is extraordinarily comfortable compared to a traditional bike. It also handles differently. I suspect it will take me a while to get used to the sensitive steering. Overall, though, I love it.
Getting at last to the title of this entry… I had a problem. I shifted a little too late as I was starting up a hill and it took a bit for the bike to settle into gear (same as any bike). But then, everything stopped. I couldn’t pedal forward or back, couldn’t roll the bike backwards, nothing. A quick look down and I found the problem. The rear chain had fallen off the chain ring and jammed tight between the front chain and the frame. Some determined tugging told me this was a problem that would involve tools and time.
I commented to Kathy that this would be the real test of what kind of company BiGHA is and indeed it was. I sent them an email explaining what had happened and soon after received a phone call from Lee, their “Sales & Customer Service” guy (we had exchanged emails before I made the purchase). He gave me two choices: I could pack the bike back up, ship it back, and they’d build me a new one; or he would overnight me a package with all the tools and instructions I would need to fix it myself. I chose the latter and looked forward to getting the package on Friday.
Mid day Thursday, I got another call. One of their guys from manufacturing was going to be in Seattle over the weekend and would it be okay if he stopped by and fixed it for me? Of course! So Friday morning, Keith arrived with his toolbox and fixed my bike. It took about an hour and a half, during which time we chatted about BiGHA the bike and BiGHA the company, about weblogs, the Internet, and doomed startups (R.I.P. Kozmo and HomeGrocer), about public transportation, taxes, and VWs. It was a great experience, not to mention that my bike is fixed! Cool.
I know the odds for a small business like BiGHA aren’t good. It’s entirely possible that they won’t be around in a year. Nonetheless, they could teach a lot of bigger companies a thing or two about customer service. They deserve to survive and I wish them luck. Now, where did I leave my helmet?…