Nov 05 2011
Early in 2008 I bought a Surly Long Haul Trucker (“LHT” to its many fans) sight unseen from JensonUSA. The bike was delivered right to my door in a big box, and I had no cause for complaint whatsoever. In fact, I’ve lavished praise on both the bike and the seller many times. JensonUSA answered all my questions promptly and accurately, set the bike up properly, and packed it well. I’d have been lucky to have the transaction go half so smoothly if I’d done business with a local bike shop. But that would have been impossible, in any case. Of the dealers listed on the Surly website, the one nearest to my home is a good 200 miles away, and neither of the two (unlisted) bike shops in the closest town inspires any confidence. Both, in fact, have given me ample reason to avoid them. Which meant that asking either one to do a special order for me was out of the question. Had it not been for JensonUSA, therefore, I’d never have purchased an LHT.
And that would have been too bad. In the three and one-half years I’ve owned my LHT, it’s carried me more than 10,000 miles without mishap. Moreover, it fits me like the proverbial glove—no small matter when you’re as short as I am. Which is why I’ve repeatedly recommended both the LHT and JensonUSA to readers of my articles over the last three years. By no coincidence, many of these same readers lived in places where there was no local bike shop (or where the existing shop was no more inviting than the two nearest my home). Yet I could always hold out my example by way of encouragement. “See,” I could say, “if you take a little time to make certain of your size—and JensonUSA will be happy to help you—you can buy an LHT or other Surly bike with confidence, even if the nearest bike shop is half a day’s drive from home. After all, that’s what I did.”
But I can’t say this anymore. Effective 1 November, Surly has restricted sales of its “complete” (i.e, fully assembled) bikes to drive-in customers. The upshot? JensonUSA and other mail-order retailers can no longer ship LHTs to cyclists across the country. And I, therefore, can no longer recommend the LHT—or any other Surly bike—to readers who don’t have a good bike shop on their doorstep.
Don’t misunderstand me. By all reports, Surly bikes are still as good as the one I bought. Yet even before this latest diktat, Surly’s approach to customer relations could often be summarized in a few words: Surly by name, surly by nature. And indeed this isn’t the first time that Surly has chosen to display its contempt for its customers. (I’m referring to the notorious Affair of the Missing Kickstand Plate, if you’re curious.) But that’s beside the point. For me and for many other cyclists without a trustworthy local bike shop, Surly is no longer an option. Period.
What will I do when I’m next in the market for a new bike? Well, I can’t say for sure—Surly may regret its latest exercise in customer disparagment and relent, after all. (And pigs may someday fly.) But if not… Well, Thorn bikes look mighty interesting, and they don’t seem to have any qualms about giving customers what they want. They also ship to anyone, anywhere in the world. They’re not surly, of course, but then again, that’s not such a bad thing, is it?