Tuesday, April 10, 2007

eBay Madness, Surprises and Keeping Secrets

My wife and soulmate of 15 years has desired (or I dare say "coveted") a vintage steel Colnago bike ever since she saw one and learned of the history and heritage of the marque. She has had many bikes in her 20+ years of cycling, starting on a Huffy, and then on to her "first" bike, a new Cannondale 3.0, which she purchased from George Rian at BGI in 1989.

When we met, she had the Cannondale and while it fit her well, she was uncomfortable because it rode so harshly. Being aluminum and her being of slight stature, the combination wasn't the best. So, shortly after we moved in together in 1992, we acquired a beautiful Ciocc, made from Columbus SL in a bright white and chrome scheme. It had Shimano Sante (that gloriously hideous white grouppo positioned between 600 and Dura-Ace). She loved it and couldn't believe the difference between it and her Cannondale.

A couple of years later, the cycling team that we were a part of acquired a Serotta sponsorship. Taking advantage of this, we ordered her steel Serotta Atlanta (which the no longer manufacture due to the labor of a lugged steel frame), which was a lugged steel bike crafted from the "Colorado Concept" custom drawn tubing from Reynolds. It is a proprietary steel, but I suspect it was similar, if not the same to the 853 tubing of the time (1997). We got a good deal on some not-too used Dura-Ace 8sp components and I built it up. I also laced up a nice set of traditional wheels with Mavic Open Pro rims, Ultegra hubs and DT Champion spokes. All in all it made a nice package. The only problem was that it was just a bit too small. It was tolerable and some compromises had to be made, but ultimately it was not as comfortable as the Ciocc and did not have the same feel. The Serotta was skittish, wasn't stable and was very "twitchy" as my wife likes to say. I vowed to get her a new bike, but she insisted that it was okay and she wasn't racing anymore so we should focus on ME getting a new bike.

The problem is, I really like my wife to have what she wants. She doesn't ask for much. She doesn't complain. She is not high-maintenance. She works hard and takes things in stride and is good at making the best out of everything. I like to make her happy whenever I can. So, this year I decided when I got my bonus that I wanted to buy her something nice. She has hinted at wanting diamond earrings for a long time and I was strongly leaning that way, until one evening in mid-March while sitting in front of eBay, I found it.

I said, "hey honey, look at this". She glanced over and got all quiet. It was a 17-year-old, NOS (never seen the road) Colnago Superissimo frame, pink and white, with chrome lugs, fork and stays, Columbus SL tubing in a size 49. All she said was "wow, I'd really like to have that". And with that, it was sealed.

The auction didn't end for another 4 days. I didn't tell her what I was planning, and I just kept watching the auction...and so did she. She kept updating me on the current bid. I tried not to seem to interested, but it was clear that she wanted this frame.

So, it gets to be the last day of the auction (a Saturday) and I go take a look at the end time to my dismay, it's 12 midnight PDT, which is 3am our time. I could have put up a bid and walked away, but I wanted to win this. So, after dinner I do something I rarely do...I had a quad shot latte, knowing full well I'd be up into the wee hours.

It got to be bedtime, and my wife said she was "heading up" as she likes to say. She was quite tired from her workout of the day, so I knew it wouldn't be long until she was out. I told her that I'd be along in a minute, knowing full well it would be a while before I hit the bed. I sat in front of the computer for another 4 hours, doing various things - updating my blogs, working on training programs for the guys I am coaching, updating my training journal, reading, shopping the online bike stores...anything to keep me awake until 3am.

In the final hour, the bids started to go up. It had sat for almost the whole week at $340. I knew it would go up, but didn't know by how much. It was now up to $510 and there was still 20 minutes to go. In the last 10 minutes there was another bid that took it up to $575. I sat there, patiently awaiting the final minute.

I contemplated my bid. Bidding to win is a tricky thing because you never quite know who is watching and how many are going to bomb bids all at once in the last minute. I have lost a LOT of stuff on eBay by such antics. Most of the time, I am sane about it. I put up my bid - the max I want to pay for it - and walk away. Not tonight. I was here at the table ready to go "all in".

In the last couple of minutes it went up again, to $620. I took a look at the bidding activity and there was one bidder who kept re-bidding over the top of anyone who bid. This was not an automatic bid either, because the times and amounts were not consistent. I could tell this would be a final seconds shoot out.

I decided that $701.99 was a good bid and should get it based on the history of the last few minutes activity. I waited until 45 seconds left, typed in my bid, counted to 10 and clicked "confirm". It came back with 18 seconds left and said I was outbid. I was going to lose this auction.

I quickly typed in $850 and hit confirm. It came back with 8 seconds and I was now the high bidder, at $751. It was too late to bid higher and all I could do was sit back and wait. The next 8 seconds took forever.

I won. No higher bid was placed and my opponent threw in his cards. I was giddy that I won this beautiful piece of Italian art for my wife. I was so excited that now I wanted to figure out how to build it up. There were a number of options - move the DA 8sp from the Serotta to the Colnago, find a nice clean "period piece" Campagnolo Record Ergo 8sp - current high-end stuff for that time, pickup some nice clean used DA stuff, or buy new stuff entirely. I started shopping ebay now for components.

I finally got tired and crawled into bed about 4 am. The next thing I knew, my daughter was in the room and it was daylight...a mere 3.5 hours later. A nap...only a nap. My wife asked me, "what time did you come to bed?", to which I responded that I had insomnia. She said something about having that latte so late...

We went downstairs to have breakfast and I sat there with this HUGE secret eating away at me. I wanted to surprise her with it for her birthday, which wasn't until May 26th..quite a ways off. I wasn't sure I could hold on for that long because I am really lousy at keeping secrets and I was so excited about this that I couldn't contain myself. It peaked when she informed me that the frame went for $751. I was almost sure she knew at this point that I had won it because she knows my eBay username, and in fact she has used it to sell stuff before.

Several minutes went by and I finally decided that I couldn't do it. I looked at her and said, "Okay, so you know I am horrible at keeping secrets", and she turned and looked at me very puzzled and startled because she didn't know what was going to come out of my mouth next. I confessed that the reason I was up so late was that I was trying to win something on eBay.

She blanked for a moment and then this big smile spread across her face and I told her that I decided 4 days ago that I was going to win this for her. She was as giddy as a schoolgirl.

Over the next few days we explored all the options as to what to build it with. In the end, she said that she would really like to have Dura-Ace 10sp on this one. It's the best and it lasts and she like the older stuff she had on her Serotta.

I bought it all online, saved a chunk of change by taking advantage of a perfectly timed PerformanceBike.com 20% off sale and dropped another $1500 on the full kit plus bars, seat, wheels, pedals, tape, tires, and cages.

Here is the beauty:

See more at: http://picasaweb.google.com/Greg1992/DottieSItalianStallion

She rode it for the first time on this past Sunday. It was 25 degrees and she came in after an hour...all smiles. She said that it fit her perfectly, like it was made just for her. In many ways, it was.

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