We started getting the bikes ready on our second day. As I mentioned on my previous posts, both of the bikes were pretty much complete except for the front racks. The Duo front rack I had ordered for my bike was already there waiting for me. And there was a front rack in the box for the Kona, at least that is what we’re told by the dealer in New Jersey. All we had to do was unpack and install them. Hah, wishful thinking! It turned out to be little more complicated than that. As we were unpacking the front rack for the Kona, it became painfully obvious that the rack they put in there was not the factory rack for Kona. For that matter, it did not even look like a bicycle rack; it looked more like a motorcycle rack. It had very thick tubing and it was quite heavy. Needless to say, we couldn’t (or wouldn’t) fit it on the Sutra.
The Tubus Duo rack I ordered for my bike suffered a similar fate. Contrary to what I read previously, we could not fit the Duo on the Vaya. So we tried the most obvious thing; with some simple tweaking we were able to install it on the Kona Sutra. I had four panniers and my brother had three, so we each had to have a front rack.
Hence, the hunt for the missing fahrradgepäckträger. If you haven’t figured it out or looked it up by now, “fahrradgepäckträger” is a German term used for bicycle racks. We checked all bicycle stores in town with no luck. They all had nice variety of rear racks, but no one had front ones. The local gas station store said that they could order a Tubus Ergo for me and that I could have the next day; but the price they quoted me was somewhere between double and triple of the retail price. I figured I would exhaust all my options before I order from them. We expanded our search into surrounding towns. Same story, there were plenty of rear racks to choose from but not a single front rack. We did that for a couple of days, until I finally realized that we were wasting our time; we had to go to a large city like Frankfurt.
I started looking up phone numbers of Frankfurt bicycle shops on the internet. Neither I nor my brother speaks German. So, I had one of my teenage cousins who did not have school that day calling them up. After just a couple tries we found a shop that carried front racks and had some in stock. Well, at least that is what they told him over the phone. We decided to head over there the next day. The cousin who made the phone calls had school, so he couldn’t go with us.
The following day, we borrowed a car from one of the cousins and loaded up the directions on my phone. We initially planned on going along as we did not think that we would need a German speaker with us. Most Germans, especially the younger generations speak English to varying degrees. So, we didn’t think that the communication would be an issue (and indeed it wasn’t). But, my uncle being my uncle insisted on coming with us. He said that “we would get lost and that we wouldn’t be able communicate, and that we wouldn’t be able find our way back, and that…..etc.” Fine! But, the problem with my uncle is that he has a very short fuse. So we were not too keen on taking him with us. But they have been such gracious hosts for us that we did not want to push the issue. So, I got behind the wheel and the three of us headed towards Frankfurt.
Once we got on the autobahn the rain got heavier which didn’t really help things. This was my first time driving in Germany. For the most part, there were no adjustment issues; I felt at home driving around except for the signs on the autobahn interchanges. They were confusing at times. My uncle wanted me to plug the navigation device in the car, and punch in the address right into it. I simply refused; he was not a happy camper. I hate those things. I find them insulting. I can look at a map and I can figure out exactly where I am and which direction I a heading at any given time. I prefer it that way. I don’t think an algorithm is better than me at determining which route is the best choice for me. I just need it to show exactly where an address is on the map, and that is it! Anyhow, back to where I was…So you can imagine how frustrating it got when my uncle started nagging about the GPS once again after I got off the wrong direction at an interchange. No problem, got off the next exit a mile down the road, made a U-turn and we were back on the right direction at no time. But, that didn’t stop my uncle from nagging. But we felt pretty comfortable our navigational abilities, and even if we got lost so what? We ignored his nagging about the GPS rest of the trip. And believe me, he did not stop!
About an hour after we left Elsenfeld, I pulled into the parking lot of the bicycle store in a suburb, Northwest of Frankfurt. We walked into the store and were happy to see walls stacked with all kinds of bicycle parts. I walked up to the counter where a young man was sitting behind a computer. When he saw me, he looked up and greeted me with the usual “hallo” in German. I said “speak English?” He replied a “Yeees” that sounded somewhere between a half question and a half statement. As soon as I told him what we needed, he started looking up for the part in the computer. It didn’t take him long before he said “Sorry. We don’t have it”. What? I told him that we called a day earlier and someone there told us that they had one in stock. He checked again, and said that they can order one for us, and that is probably what we were told over the phone. Hmmm, I was frustrated and angry but there was nothing to be done. I wasn’t sure who to blame, and frankly it didn’t really matter. He simply did not have one. As I was starting to explain our situation to him, my uncle who was standing next to me the whole time and had no clue about what had just happened, asked me what the issue was. When I told him what the clerk had told me, his fuse was lit and it didn’t take long before he exploded. He started yelling at the kid in German. Now, we were clueless about what was being said! But I could tell from the clerk’s reactions that he wasn’t too happy and we were about to get the international one finger salute from him. My uncle was starting to look like a very ripe tomato as he kept shouting things in German, and I felt I had to intervene. I told him that he needed to calm down and getting mad wasn’t doing him or us any good. He was angry because he felt that we were lied to and we wasted our time driving down there. But, I told him that I didn’t think it was clerk’s fault and shouting at him wasn’t going to accomplish anything. Then I turned to the clerk and explained the situation, and asked him if he could help us in any other way. He said “no problem, let me see” and called two nearby stores on the phone: no luck there either! He then gave us an address of a bicycle shop in the center of Frankfurt, and stated that this was the largest bicycle shop around and if they did not have it no one else would.
It took us about one half hour to get to the shop. Boy, the clerk was right about the size of the place; that was the largest bicycle shop I have ever seen. It was huge. So big that, they had ramps in the store where you can test ride bicycles. Best of all, they had the Duo Ergo front racks I was looking for. Heck, they even had conditioning soap for my brother’s Brooks saddle, another item that we have failed to find previously.