Monday, April 14, 2014

Acorn Bags - Great Customer Service

They say good customer service is hard to find.  Well if that's the case then great customer service is worth writing about.

Some time ago (more than a year, maybe two) I purchased the Boxy Rando Bag from Acorn Bags for my Surly Long Haul Trucker.   It's a solid product and does what it is supposed to do it.  It holds my stuff securely to the front of my bike just forward of the handle bars. The main opening is in the rear so when I stop for a moment I can easily open it up to fetch whatever I need, close the top and I'm on my way in a moment, still straddling the bike the whole time.  It's made of waxed canvass and I've only found wet contents once when the rain and wind combination was nearly biblical.  I like the internal stiffener that helps the bag hold it's shape. It's also white on the inside which really improves finding things with only a dim helmet lamp at night.   It has a clear plastic map window sewn in to the lid to hold my map or cue sheet securely where I can see it and protects it from moisture.  It just works.  It's one less thing to think about when I'm on a long brevet.  I like it.

I also own one of Acorn's large saddle bags.  It's also a solid product that works as advertised and holds up over time.  Others who use their products have also expressed to me similar satisfaction, that's how I heard of them in the first place, when I saw their products on other bikes and asked about them.  Those riders had only good things to say.

So you can imagine my disappointment when it broke early one morning this winter as I was preparing to commute to work.  It was cold.  Really, really cold.  Single digits on the Fahrenheit scale.  The kind of cold that included warnings on the evening news about windchill, frost bite and hypothermia. The kind of cold where a man's breath condenses then freezes on his mustache.  I opened the lid to stow my lunch and I heard a distinct "snap" sound.  But I couldn't figure out what it was. I closed the lid and opened it again, but the sound did not repeat.  I don't normally use a map or cue sheet for commuting.  Sadly, I have that route memorized.  So I didn't think to look at the plastic cover right away (it was still dark at this point).  But I noticed it just after sun rise.  The clear film that creates the map pocket on top had cracked in the cold.  A split opened parallel to the seam where the top flap folds back.  The split ran completely from one side of the bag to the other.  No map or cue would stay dry in there.

I didn't have any big rides coming up right away where I would depend on the bag.  So I shopped to see what new things were available. I was concerned it wouldn't be covered under warranty, and life was busy this winter. So I took the bag off the bike and the problem sat for a few weeks. But I like that bag, and any replacement would be expensive.

Spring rando season was coming and I would need something up front again. So finally, I wrote to Ron at Acorn and explained the problem.  I acknowledged that I'd already owned the bag well over a year and that it had seen enough weather that it was starting to show the classic fading of used canvas.  I asked what would be the best course of action to repair the bag.  I expected a price quote or a recommendation to see a canvas or sail repair service center that could do the work.  I was prepared for the possibility that cross country shipping plus time and material for the repair might make the repair uneconomical and I might have to make another purchase.   Instead I got an offer:  if I covered the shipping back to Ron, he'd repair the bag and cover the return shipping.

He did exactly that.  The round trip took less than two weeks.  We both used ground shipping services, so the majority of that time was in transit. That means the repair was done with the bag in Acorn's possession for only a couple of days.  It got an email letting me know the repair was done and bag on it's way back on a Sunday evening.  I got another Monday morning with a tracking number.  I got the back on Friday, 13 days after I shipped it.  The repair looks like the bag did when it was new.  Only a slight contrast between the faded material and the fresh stitching around the new plastic would tip anyone off that it was repaired.  My bag is ready for this season's big rides when I will really depend on it.

Acorn's web site has a page labeled simply Buying Information.   The paragraph on warranty is short and simple:

Warranty
"I stand behind my products 100%. If the bag does not meet your definition of quality and value, let me know and I'll make it right."

Clearly he means it.  If the time comes to outfit a new bike, or perhaps if the Acorn product line expands to include panniers or an even larger saddle bag, I'll buy from Acorn again.  If anyone asks, I will certainly recommend Acorn.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Coffeeneuring 2013 - 2

I spent the weekend riding a 600K brevet out of Lumberton, NC.  More on that in another post soon.  When I returned from Lumberton after 384 miles and a long drive home I needed to stretch my legs.  It was a beautiful fall day.  Coffeeneuring seemed like exactly the answer.  So I headed out to the Big Bean on my fixie.  OOOPPPPPSSS!!  Can't coffeeneur to the same place twice, and I already hit the Big Bean for Coffeeneuring 2013-1.  (See coffeeneuring rule 11).  No matter, Sophis Crepes is right next door and they serve a mean hot chocolate with their crepes.  Phew... the ride has been saved.

My legs were stiff after the big miles over the weekend followed by many hours driving home.  5 miles to enjoy a crepe and a cup of hot chocolate was the perfect wind down after a great and exciting weekend.

Sophis Crepes
560 Baltimore Annapolis BLVD.
Severna Park, MD 21146

Distance: 5.7 miles


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Coffeeneuring 2013 - #1

Wow, beautiful, sunny, unseasonably warm Sunday morning to kick off Coffeeneuring 2013.

I rode to the Big Bean with my youngest son Erik.  I had a coffee and a muffin, Erik opted for OJ and muffin, we fetched this fall's order of 5 lbs of Pumpkin Spice Whole Bean coffee.  It's a fall favorite that my wife and I look forward to every year.  5lbs should last us until mid winter.  Then we'll pine away waiting for fall 2014 and getting by on merely good coffee.

After a zippy Seagull Century yesterday, this was the perfect recovery ride.

Where: Big Bean
558 Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd
Severna Park, MD 21146

Distance: 5 miles
see also the return trip to home

Erik - hamming for the camera.

5 lbs of Pumpkin Spice Coffee goodness
in one carradice!



Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Note to the Inconsiderate Cyclist

You know who you are.   I was riding home this evening from Annapolis after the sailing races were called with no wind.  It was right at dusk.  I was equipped with lights, helmet and reflective ankle bands, frustrated that I'd forgotten my vest.

As I turned NE on King George St. riding with traffic, I saw you on the opposite sidewalk traveling in the same direction.  No lights and no reflective gear (did I mention it was at dusk?).  As we crossed College Creek you chased two joggers in to the travel lane and scared the heck out of a family fishing from the bridge, yelling for them to clear a path for you.  Did you notice that sidewalk is barely wide enough for one pedestrian? Are you aware it's illegal to ride a bike on a sidewalk unless it's specifically marked as a bike lane?

I suggest you join me in the street.  "There's no turnout lane and I don't want to get run over." you responded.  I'm sure the pedestrians you nearly mowed down felt the same way about you.  As we turned on to MD 450 towards Naval Academy Bridge we spoke briefly.  You complained that Annapolis was not a bike friendly city and told me a story about a cyclist ticketed in NYC for not using a blocked bike lane. Yes I saw that story,  but I'm not sure how it's relevant to our situation in Annapolis. I've never been harassed by police while riding in Annapolis and in fact have found them quite helpful on occasion.

You weren't done yet were you? Crossing over to the southbound shoulder on MD 450 to ride North all the way to Boulters Way.  I couldn't see well.  The light was fading and you were four lanes and a median away form me as we rode the same direction.  So I'm not sure if you terrorized any more joggers, or startled anyone pulling out of a driveway not expecting traffic in that direction.  But both are real risks with that stunt.  Did I mention you had no lights as it got dark? What do you think are the odds a driver pulling out of a driveway would expect an unlit bike in that shoulder?

Buddy - the problem is not with Annapolis streets.  Plenty of us get around on them by bike just fine.  You're not a friendly biker.  You were a menace this evening.  Those joggers and the fishing family likely all drive cars.  When they next encounter a cyclist while driving, I'm sure they'll remember you.  That's bad for all of us on two wheels. 

So now I'm going to ask you to consider one of two options.  If you'd like to find some friends to ride with and are willing to learn a little about the sport, please look us up at www.severnaparkpeloton.org.  But if whining about Annapolis streets and New York cops is the best you've got, then please sell your bike on Craigslist.org, NOW.

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 - Finding Some Balance

Yes The ChesapeakeSailor has been on hiatus since this summer.  Gone but not forgotten.  This is just a quick New Years Eve note to assure any readers I have left that I have not retired the bike; nor do I intend to retire the blog.

When last I posted I was about to head out on the Many Rivers and Fords 600K.  Like the 400K two weeks prior I wound up with a DNF on that outing.  I completed the first 244 miles of a planned 375.   I did that in a respectable 22 hours.  Conveniently the control for the intermission at mile 244 was the same hotel as the start and finish.

When I lay down I was feeling very good about the whole endeavor, looking forward to taking on the last 200K the next morning.  But when I tried to wake up and get moving again, nothing was working correctly, in particular my fingers and eyesight.  Apparently a 3 hour nap wasn't quite enough, or maybe it was too much.  If I tried to lay down for only one more hour or two I feared missing the next control.  So it was either go then or quit. I chose what I felt was the safe option and stayed put in that hotel, slept about 6 more hours.

I have spent a lot of time since then second guessing the details of that sequence.  Could I have kept riding at 2 am and then napped later in the heat of the day, with many critical miles already behind me? Could I have worked through my fatigue when I woke from my nap at 5 am, with over 14 hours left to finish the last 200K?  I'll go in to those details more in another post.

But it also caused me to take some time to reflect on some bigger questions.  Why was I riding so much?  What did I want to accomplish?  Was the time on my bike worth the time away from other parts of life?

I kept riding but not at quite such frantic pace.  I took my first "tour" on the bike.  I rode solo for two days from home in Severna Park, MD to our family vacation in Lewes, DE where I met my family for a week at the beach.  I camped over night in a state park. 190 miles total.  I loved it:  2 days of solitude, no time limits, no controls, no kids or customers to attend to.  No ride partner to worry if I was holding him up, or stewing he might be holding me up.  But it was REALLY humid in July.  Next time I think I'll find a hotel, or go in October when I can count on a little nicer weather.

After that the riding pace backed off a bit and my focuse shifted to the kids, to work, to the Cub Scouts.  The bike still has a place, but it had become a little too much of a focus.   With less miles came better balance, and I'm afraid a few lbs.  It seems I was still eating for the higher mileage pace.

So that sets the stage for my 2013 goals:  To keep the balance and get more fit.

That means smarter eating and smarter training.  SMARTER not harder.  There won't be a specific mileage goal this year.  Fitness will be measured by weight loss, how my clothes fit, and how I feel.  My left knee REALLY objected to the Thanksgiving day Turkey Bowl I played in with my kids' and neighbors.  It took nearly 3 weeks for swelling to go down.  I'm sure the extra weight contributed to the problem.  Yesterday's perm demonstrated it's healed; 200K with no knee issues.  I don't want to skip next years' Turkey Bowl.  So I'll start learning and doing, exercises to strengthen the knee and lighten the load a bit.  I'll be working on the rest of the bod too.  Off the bike, physical conditioning has gotten much attention.  I realize that needs to change.

Balance means making time for my wife, my kids, the Cub Scouts (I'm committed through February, 2014), work (not really a choice), and the rest of life. This was re-enforced by some friends' personal tragedies this year.  None of us is immune to bad things happening.  If my family should ever face a crisis or a death, I don't want there to be any regrets.  I don't ever want to say "I wish I had...." in that context.  I think my friends offered a tremendous example in this regard.  They put their family first, they did everything right.  When the time came to confront their moment of crisis, they had to deal with terrible grief and loss.  But I never heard regret.  Putting so much energy in to cycling goals, and coming up short on some of those, made me realize I was over-committed. That I might be putting myself in a situation where I'd later regret how I set my priorities.   So I shifted a bit.  Finding that balance is still a work in progress, but I know I'll get it right.

This is all a bit rambling, and if you read along this far, thank you. I don't plan to write too many more ride reports.  I'm just not that impressed with my own narrative skills.  So instead I'll use this forum to share my thoughts on what happens to me and to my life.  I'll post less frequently and only when I have more to say.  Like tonight.

Happy New Year everyone.  I hope you find your balance too.