I had a pair of Mavic Open Pro 32-spoke wheels. Thet were aluminum box rim rims, “bulletproof” as people like to describe a wheelset instead of calling them “really fucking heavy and slow.”
These were sold to me by Steve Bowen, the wonderful guy who used to own the PV Bicycle Center. I had walked into the store one day with a glazed look that said “Ready to spend some money on something,” and Steve, the consummate salesman, recognized it.
He pointed to the wheels hanging from the ceiling, which I’ve always thought is a great place to sell products if your clients are giraffes. “These would be good for you,” he said. “Chris King hubs, 32-spoke, bulletproof.”
Like the old saying goes when you have a stud horse for hire, “The best time to breed the mare is when the farmer is in heat,” and I was in heat for some new wheels and Steve sensed it, despite the fact that my bike needed a set of “bulletproof” wheels about as badly as it needed a concrete saddlebag.
“Cool,” I said without missing a beat. “How much?”
“$1,200 for you,” he said in perfect contrapuntal time.
“Done,” I answered in rather more complicated 7/8 measure.
Then for five years I rode the dogfuck out of those wheels. Four BWR’s, 15k miles a year, races, trails, you name it, IDGAF what the road looked like, those wheels rode it, even the cliff down to the Nazi Camp off Sullivan Ridge. Yep, that cliff. On a road bike.
I rode the wheels so hard that I wore out the rims and had to replace them along with the rear hub. Then in November I cracked the front hub on the Nosco Ride. Apparently even bulletproof can’t withstand a mortar round. Of course, I sent the fucked over, trashed up, shattered, blasted, and deformed hub back to Chris King and told them that their product was plainly defective as it had only been driven for the last five years by a little old lady in Montebello who uses her bicycle to pedal .2 miles round-trip to the grocery store and back.
They sent me a hub the next day and Boozy P. built ‘er up on one of the afternoons when the brewery that he lives behind was closed for remodeling.
Then in 2014 I got in heat again for some wheels and for the first time in five years spent some money on my bike. Local bike shops have gone bankrupt waiting for me to spend more than six dollars at a time. I decided to test out something that wasn’t bulletproof, that is, some full carbon made of 100% carbon, you know, carbon wheels.
As soon as I bought the FastForward full carbon wheelset, my old Mavics violated the Wanky Rule of Wheels: Thou shalt have no more than two.
So I went on Facebag and posted “that” photo. You know the one. It’s where your cyclist friend leans his wheels up against the closet door for a photo and everyone on Facebag world realizes that 1) All cyclists live in cheap apartments and 2) We all have the same carpet.
I offered these beautiful wheels for the low, low, low, low price of $200, and in response to my offer received a number of caustic replies, all related to the condition of the wheels after five years between the forks of someone with a reputation as terrible as mine.
“Fuck all you wankers,” I said. “I’m calling Vinnie.”
Vinnie is an aged Cat 1 racer who is also a teacher, longshoreman, part-time bike mechanic, and most importantly, an eBay savant. Vinnie sells on eBay like he races, and by the way, he has the fitness of a bath towel. Doesn’t matter. For Vinnie, every race is a study in aerodynamics. He can finish any crit in the top ten simply by drafting.
He treats other riders as a scientific review of the principles of aerodynamics, and I have seen him reject perfectly rotund, excellent Cadillac drafts in favor of bodies that are slightly more advantageous in terms of slipstream. I have seen him do 60-minute crits without pedaling more than eleven times. He is a connoisseur of body types, and an even more assiduous student of the psychology of eBay buyers.
Vinnie will take your old frame, your old shifters, your old socks, your old boyfriend, WHATEVER, and sell it on eBay for far more than you could ever get on your own. Then he will ship it and charge you 30%.
Vinnie studies eBay like Warren Buffett studies stocks. In other words, Vinnie knows suckers.
He put up the wheels for sale and got back with me seven days later. “They won’t fetch anything as-is.”
“WTF? They’re immaculate! Perfect! Bulletproof.” It’s like having the obstetrician tell you that your baby isn’t just ugly, it’s actually a rhesus monkey.
“Yes,” he said, “they are perfect in every way. But that’s not how they’re perceived. They’re perceived as second-hand junk that has been beaten to shit and that will likely explode after two days’ worth of riding.”
“The hubs are new!”
“They’re Chris King!”
“The rims are practically new, sort of!”
“I’m a gentle rider!”
“I picked only the best lines in the last four BWR’s!”
I sighed. “Okay. So I guess I’ll come get them.”
“Not so fast,” said Vinnie. “We will get $400 dollars for them.”
“Yes, but it’s going to hurt.”
“$400 never hurts.”
“We will cut away the rims and just sell the hubs.”
“Huh? That’s nuts! We’re not going to waste those awesome rims and spokes!”
“Yes, we are.”
“What idiot would buy a pair of hubs instead of a pair of wheels?”
“Because when they see the wheels they think, ‘Those rims have been grudge fucked by Godzilla on a meth bender.’ But when they see they see the hubs, all nicely polished and leaning against my closet, they think, ‘Whoa! Chris King hubs! Imma build up some bitchin’ wheels with those bad boys! Bulletprooooooof!'”
“You’re joking, right.”
“Wanky,” he said.
“I never joke about money.”
“Do the surgery.”
Seven days later I got the text. “Hey, man, hubs sold for $400. Come get your money.”
I don’t know if he also does hits. But if does, I’m pretty sure he always gets his man.
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