Whatever happened to the friendly neighborhood bike dealer? Actually, I've never known one myself, but somehow I get the feeling that these guys are at least supposed to care where you spend your money. I contacted Peter Stull, "The Bicycleman," and though I found him friendly at first, after a long ten or thirteen-minute telephone conversation he hangs up on me 'cause a customer suddenly walked in the door. He never answered 90% of my questions -- very basic ones like "how much does it cost?" -- though it was an interesting enough conversation otherwise where he told me about his bike races, his customer from Australia, the guy who works for him that specializes in recumbents.... Before he excused himself with the near-equivalent of French Leave, I asked him whether I might wrap things up via e-mail. I could almost see him shrug casually -- "sure," he said. Three weeks now and no response. So I get in touch with another dealer, Northeast Recumbents. E-mailed, phoned, left messages...nothing. Finally got through to him last weekend, set up a look-see tomorrow. But there's rain in the forecast, and now this dealer is incommunicado. WTF?! Are my expectations out of order? The LBS on the next block from me where I got my Trek 1000c, the Bike Stop in Astoria, was another crazy place. The owner himself insisted on selling me the display model. It was in good condition, far as I can tell (though by the time I'd noticed some marks and scratches, a week had gone by and I couldn't be totally sure they weren't caused by me somehow), but apparently all bike shops insist you pay "new" prices for "good as new" bikes. Small matter that, sure enough -- but then the headset wasn't quite right. Turned out to be defective. But Gus, the owner, tried to convince me that its being loose was nothing to worry about! And indeed, I could ride the bike fine...but it just didn't feel right that I had a moving part where things are tight on other bikes. Or another LBS, in Manhattan, the Pedal Pushers...Evan over there is a nutcase. He's very charming and talkative like Peter Stull, but he's got a weird switch which somehow gets flipped and he'll go schizo on you with his passive-agressive act. One day I came in for a flat fix. While he was ringing up the sale, I noticed that my tire cap was gone and asked him where it was. He told me he put it outside the shop -- ??? I asked him what he meant. He nodded incredulously at me and repeated that he left my tire cap outside. Not only was it a bizzare enough thing if true, but doubly strange was the fact that it wasn't true, he never touched my bike until I brought it in. So I asked him how could that be...he responded that, duh, how? I used my hands, you know, hands, and unscrewed it and gently placed it on the sidewalk. So I'm just really mystified at what's going on -- him swiping my card and all all this time -- and I ask him why would he do that. He goes, well, where do you put your TV in your place? I'm like, what? Where do you put your TV, he repeated. I asked him why. He said that just as I have my reasons for placing things in my apartment, so he has his reasons for organizing his shop the way he does (actually, it's owned by a sour old fart, Roger, who's absent half the time -- another neurotic cat). Now I ask you all; does that sound crazy or what? What's even more bizzare is that there was a line of customers behind me, every one non-plussed by the brief conversation. Tell me, is there some bike shop etiquette I didn't observe? Is there some kind of secret bike shop salute or handshake I should have employed? Did I bother them somehow by smiling? Honestly, I don't get it. Now I'll have to contact the fella over in State College, PA, for the Velotechnik SMGTe. I am not awarding ~$3K (maybe even more, if I don't contain my newfound lust of Rohloff gearboxes and other exotica) to folks who don't care enough for it to return a goddamned phone call or e-mail!