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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Oasis or Desert?

For the final week of our American adventure, we drove my father and his friend to Palm Desert, California. Now that I am blogging, I am trying to pay more attention to the various forms of cycling going on in these exotic and far away places. I was looking forward to seeing what the cycling scene in the Coachella Valley has to offer. The place is ideal for cyclocross bikes and mountain bikes. The bills are covered in trails that duck through canyons and over desert. Lots of dirt roads and singletrack. For road bikes there are some nice roads, but it seems a little limited for a dedicated roadie. I WOULD love to ride Joshua Tree some day.

The daytime temperatures varied between 106F. and 117F. Still, I saw several people out on city bikes, flat bars, and BMX bikes. It is a dry heat, so I can easily imagine how those temps could be tolerated during the summer months. Still, the majority of the population receives a pension and prefer golf carts to Campy.

I was pleasantly surprised to find an extensive system of marked bike routes and marked shoulder space for cycling. I saw a few men in their 60's riding some expensive road bikes in the heat. The TREK Madone is a big seller.

I thought I would look for something to buy at one of the local bike stores. Velo Bum is one of my favorites as it is run by a diehard and he doesn't carry much. He sells mainly Look, Time and Felt bikes. He had a real nice Calfee in there as well. He just didn't have much of anything. He told me to drive to Laguna on the coast if I wanted more of a selection.

I then went to Palm Desert Cycles, which is a novice-friendly shop where they assume you don't know much about cycling and charge an arm and a leg. I asked if they had any small jerseys, but they didn't and told me to go to Laguna.

Bikeman was great. I stopped by 15 min. after the posted opening time and it was closed. I stopped by again an hour later, but it was still closed. Finally, I returned again and it was another one-man operation with the owner/wrench busy working on a bike. He gave me a hello, and resumed his work. The owner, Kevin, seems to be an old racer with a great supply of new and used Italian bikes. I looked around, but nothing I could use.

The last place I went to was Tri A Bike. They are the big Giant dealer. There was a sign on the door advertising the "Composite Challenge", a Pepsi Challenge for bikes, and a silly gimmick to get the novice to part with their money on a scam as the "feel and comfort" of a bike can easily be manipulated with a quick adjustment in air pressure or wheel choice.

Next time I'll try Laguna.


  1. First off I live in the Desert and I am not RETIRED, just an FYI the average age is 48.
    As for the bike shops you went too I personally shop at several of these and it is off season in a poor economy so these shops are going to carry less product right now, one shop in particular Palm Desert Cyclery that I have purchased several bikes from, all below MSRP might I add and pretty much in line with the cheapest I could find on the net. I think its pretty poor decision on your part to give all these businesses and our city some bad comments.

  2. Anon,

    I understand the population of the valley swells in the winter to over twice the current size and many businesses even shut down during the summer.

    The Coachella Valley economy is built of consumption and services. The age demographic is mostly lowered by the military base and the providers of services to those who consume... the retired. I am not aware of any other industrial production in the valley other than the Arrowhead bottling plant. So, with plenty of snark, I mentioned the retirees as they are the center of the economy.

    You may have misread my comments as saying I gave "bad comments" to all of those shops or have incredibly thin skin to read into lack of stock as a bad thing. If you re-read my comments, I simply cited that most of them didn't carry a lot of stuff. That is not a bad comment, but a simple observation. Although Velo Bum was small and limited in stock I actually like it the most and was disappointed I couldn't find anything to buy. I tried. He is a perfect example of a small LBS and a guy who does it for the love of it.

    I don't think anything I said about PDC was inaccurate. They get lots of novice cyclists in there and while I was there they were selling a massive Mtb to an 8 yo. an overweight novice came in and had no idea what he wanted as he had not been on a bike in 15 years, they could not offer me more information on a product than what was on the package, and they did not have stock. Again, I was not trashing them, but just reporting my experience. I have been there before in the winter and my experience was quite similar, but I wan't looking to buy anything but CX Tires and they didn't have any.

    Bike Man wasn't open as posted. I loved the shop and he was a no nonsense guy. He let me browse without getting into the sales schtick. I don't think I mentioned that was a negative. He let me do my thing and I let him do his. He was an excellent wrench. Saying it was "great" doesn't sound "bad" to me.

    Tri A Bike... yes, I DID say they have that promotion about carbon fiber. A lame promotion aimed at selling more carbon fiber bikes over the cheaper aluminum bikes with lower margins. Knowledgeable riders understand that the material of a frame will not influence comfort as much as proper tire pressure and well built wheels. I DO feel this is probably the idea of the manufacturer or supplier and their marketing team that has been busy pushing carbon fiber, but the shop should be more responsible and not promote misinformation and a complete fallacy.

    Looking for some things was quite difficult in the desert in the summer. The road rides look ok, but I see a lot of potential for cyclocross bikes in that high desert and through the canyons. I believe the Mtb scene is already heavily promoted. Relax!

  3. Oh... for the record, I was looking at clothing, tires and Garmins... and any deal I could get on quality items that I usually have to order in Taiwan.