T-24: Beginning with some Background - China Blues - CycleBlaze

July 22, 2020

T-24: Beginning with some Background

Upon my arrival in Shenzhen last Tour, a picture showing where the handlebars were when the bike arrived (red), what the steer tube extender managed (blue), and what flipping the handlebars did (green).
Heart 0 Comment 0

As mentioned at the beginning of last year’s journal (Oh Hai), I currently have a new custom titanium take-apart frame that I got from the factory who was (but possibly no longer is) making bikes for Habanero Cycles. I understand from my grousing to Mark about the shitty behavior I was getting from the factory spring of this year that they were not limiting themselves to being assholes to people who only ordered a single bike and, considering how thoroughly horrible they were being to me, I wouldn’t be real surprised if, after 20 some-odd years, he’s found a new factory.

I should have gotten my bike from Mark. My not getting my bike from Mark was a huge mistake. It was a huge mistake that was partially on the basis of my being an ass to him and partially on the basis that, had I gotten my bike from Mark, it would have had to go factory → US → me and would have added over USD 1,000 in customs and shipping fees alone. I don’t have a problem with giving that money to Mark but—especially as a Chinese speaker—giving it just so something made in China could leave and come back, that’s plain stupid.

Forgetting the opportunity cost of my tour bike being disassembled and in storage at my local bike shop for the past 7 months because it didn’t have a fork, and forgetting the $250 I paid to Stephen Bilenky to look over fork drawings and then design me a fork, and forgetting all the other headaches that the factory caused me, when it comes to other things that their carelessnesses, incompetences, and just general shitty behavior cost me, I’m getting real close to that $1,000 that I saved on customs and shipping.

I wanted a bike with 26” wheels that could fit 29” wheels. Take apart frame. Planned to put a Surly ECR fork on it with all the squazillion rack mount points. Upright geometry suitable for cross continental touring and the short upper torso I got from my Mom.

They told me they had a touring fork in stock.
They did not have a touring fork in stock.
What they might have had was a touring fork in their catalog, ready to be made.

And what they gave me was a “something” matching no known standard or request or style. It lacked rack mounts and fender clearance. And, in order to achieve the perfect upright geometry of handlebars 2 inches below the saddle, the steer tube hadn’t been “cut” too short, it had been intentionally manufactured too short.

Bearing in mind that it was already well too late by the time I got this photo but one of my big mistakes was in thinking that the crazy drop between saddle and handlebars was caused by a long legged tech test driving my baby
Heart 0 Comment 0

Having sent up a huge howl of disapproval when the bike arrived with too few days before my last tour started to even reasonably have them swap my surprise custom fork for one of the touring forks they turned out not to even have in stock, they agreed that I could send it back to them and could get the correct one sent to me when I got back.

They apparently forgot that they made this promise in writing.
Or they thought that WeChat doesn’t count.
Or they didn’t realize that, if they’d actually kept pushing, I would have gotten a lawyer involved.

Once the fork was sent back to them, I insisted that before they give me my new fork, they give me technical drawings. These took over a month to arrive after which I paid Stephen Bilenky $50 to take a look at them and confirm what I already knew: of the three clearly laid-out issues where they had openly ignored my written instructions, they had modified one.

The next technical drawing (which I also had to pay Bilenky $50 to look at) achieved two of the three very serious issues and, it was at this point that I said “fuck it” and asked Stephen if he’d be willing to just design me a fork, even though it wasn’t going to be made by him.

As it turns out, although the handlebars are the right height, and the rack mounts are all there, the money paid Bilenky to reverse engineer and create a fork for me was unnecessary because the factory that was used missed this drawing and gave me a "did our very best" which I'm not going to complain about.
Heart 0 Comment 0

That took a while. It would have been easier if I’d gotten more photos of me riding the bike with my steer tube extender and my upside down handlebars (like, um, any) but he basically reverse engineered me a fork that was tall enough, that had fender clearance, that could fit 29” wheels if I wanted them, and that had rack mounts. And, the factory went “hold up, you want us to make you an entirely new fork? We thought we’d just, I dunno, cut some bits off and weld other bits on.”

Considering that both the top and the bottom of the fork were the wrong dimensions and that titanium needs to be welded in a super clean environment, I’m not entirely sure how they were planning on doing this but, yikes. This was followed by roughly a week of increasingly nasty arguing where they basically told me that the reason they gave me the ‘perfect custom fork’ they had (rather than what I’d requested, or what was in their catalog) was because they knew better than me with regards to what I wanted for a cross-continental loaded tour (like, um, an inability to mount front racks without resorting to zip ties).

Faced with the ultimatum of either “make what I fucking ordered in the first place” or “give me a full refund” they offered me a partial refund because my fork was used and I went ballistic, contacted everyone I knew who might have any pull with the people above whoever the fuck I was dealing with in “customer disservice” and everyone I knew who might know anyone who knew anyone and forwarded them choice bits of the conversation where I was mocked for the “stupid requirements” that they had ignored “because they were dumb” and the bits where they straight up said they planned on giving me a death trap (a re-welded fork), and asked if they could help.

And they gave me a full refund on the fork.

But, this put me in the position of having to find a new factory to make my fork. Which my local bike shop did but which didn’t pan out because that factory kept not opening back up again post Covid.

And, then they found me another new factory. Who—in a moment of wonderful kismet—requested the payment for the fork on the same day that the Rohloff distributor for China said “yes” he would be able to get all the bits and bobs to my LBS in time for my hoped for August 15th departure.

Rate this entry's writing Heart 3
Comment on this entry Comment 0