A few weeks ago I purchased a used bicycle. Several years ago, when I lived on the beach, I rode a bike almost daily. It was always a fun experience. I also saw it as a useful tool for exploring several of the forest service roads around the Croatan National Forest where motorized traffic is not allowed. And, to be honest, a little exercise wouldn’t hurt either. So I started watching Craigs List, local classified ads and checking area consignment stores in search of a bike.
The bike I settled on was a Trek 7200 Multitrack. A hybrid bicycle, it is a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike. It’s narrow tires certainly aren’t suitable for hard-core trail riding. However it’s fine for putzing around forest roads and some of the easier sections of the Neusiok Trail. That’s exactly the kind of cycling I had in mind.
The day after I bought it I headed over to the Neuse River Recreation area (Flanners Beach) between Havelock and New Bern. The recreation area has a nice paved bike path that circles the campgroung, with a gravel loop that runs back into the forest. It seemed perfect for a trial ride on my newly acquired bicyle. The first lap around the perimeter was uneventful. I took the longest leg of the paved path, plus the loop through the woods to maximize distance. There is a section of the “natural surface” portion of the trail that drops down into a swamp, crossing over a wooden boardwalk. That boardwalk took some serious damage during last year’s hurricante Irene and has not been restored to original condition. Simply put it wasn’t something a novice rider wanted to cross on a bike. So I walked the bike across that section. For my second lap I decided I avoid that bridge by reversing my course and heading up the other side of the “natural” path, making a loop back rather than dropping down into the swamp. On that lap I managed to catch a limb between the rear derailer and wheel, breaking the derailer hanger. First trip and I had the pleasure of walking my “new” bike out! Ah well.
I did a little checking around and found a bike shop that would be open on a Sunday, loaded my bike and headed down highway 24 towards Cape Cartert. The employee working that day assured me there’d be no problem fixing the bike and that I’d hear from the mechanic in a couple of days. Instead I got a phone call from the same employee telling me they didn’t handle that brand and wouldn’t be able to fix it. Fair enough I thought. The first day I’d have to go retrieve it would be Wednesday. As I was enroute to pick-up the bike I get a phone call on my cell phone. It was the bike mechanic. “No problem Mr. Decker,” he said, “I’ll order the part and get it fixed for you.” I headed back home. The very next afternoon I come home to find a message on my answering machine from the shop telling me they couldn’t fix it. If I wanted to get a part off the internet or at a dealer and bring it to them they’d be glad to do the service but they couldn’t get the part. Really! A simple Google search of “Trek Multitrack 7200 rear derailer hanger” results in hundreds of choices. You could order them for anything from $10 to $40 with no problem. The bike shop couldn’t do this themself? Talk about poor customer service! My next opporunity to pick-up my bike was Saturday. I picked it up, head to Jacksonville to visit the dealer down there, bought a hanger and fixed it myself. Easy, peasy. Now I’m not going to mention the name of that bike shop, located on highway 24, in Cape Carteret (wink, wink). That would just be too crass. But I will say they’ll never see a dime of my money after a run-around like that. Heck, when I picked it up the owner was working and he didn’t even offer as little as an apology!
Since repairing my bike I’ve explored a few trails and forest roads. As I suspected it makes a great tool for quick exploration to find areas with potential for nature photography. It’s also a great deal of fun. When I’m just looking for a little exercise rather than exploration, my favorite ride is to hop on the Neusiok Trail where it crosses Alligator Tram Road (a forest service road). I head towards the trail-head at the Newport River. That stretch of trail is perfect for a hybrid bike with most of it being gravel surface and/or hard pack. It’s fairly flat and relatively dry. A round trip works out to be about 7.4 miles (per the bike computer). There are options to return via Mill Creek Road and/or Old Winberry Road if one doesn’t want to do an out and back route. It’s good exercise, a great way to get out into nature and one heck of a lot of fun.