Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Amazon Apathy

What glam the Aurora lacks when coated with dust, it makes up for in utility.

What glam the Aurora lacks when coated with dust, it makes up for in utility.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time modifying my Aurora e-bike since I got it last summer. Why so long? Other projects, calamities, shipping of parts, bad weather trimming back evaluation rides, and unsuccessful mods trimming back evaluation rides and requiring respite. But I think I’ve finally got it nailed, and I’m doing what I hope will be the final-final-final testing. General interest in the result should be pretty limited, since the stock Aurora, properly optioned, can take care of 95% or more of the people who would buy it. A few people replace the mountain bike handlebars with cruiser bars, and that’s pretty much all they need. The stock seat’s quite decent, for what it is.

As an explorer, the 500-watt Evelo Aurora is agile and powerful enough to work well.

As an explorer, the 500-watt Evelo Aurora is agile and powerful enough to work well.

What I’ve been doing in concert is to build a dedicated Evelo Aurora Pack Mule page, which outlines what the features were that made me choose this brand and model for the starting point, and why. And what type of service the e-bike has been pressed into service to do (and why). And a complete list of parts and mods, complete with explanations and links. Oh, the things I do for the two readers who will at least make a token effort to start sawing their way down that page! And oh, my pity for them!

Can an affordable urban commuter fun e-bike handle this? Barring falling into a rut or launching the front tire, yes, if it has mid-drive.

Can an affordable urban commuter fun e-bike handle this? Barring falling into a rut or launching the front tire bucking bronc-style, yes, if it has mid-drive.

Thing is, that page has been squirming all around, successfully slithering away from the “Publish” button, because of trying to keep up with the ever-changing bike. The page just never really settled down enough to publish and then await running changes. Most all my photos are out of date. When you’re nitpicking your way through multiple seats, handlebars, and both handlebar and seat stems, one thing starts affecting another as to how they work in combination.

So how does Amazon figure into this, you ask? Well, it did, but now it doesn’t, see. Bloggers love to set up an associate’s account with Amazon, and rake in the pennies as people click on their links to this and that product. I’ve wanted to do that for a long time because I’m old and it seems cool and big-time. I dreamt of telling people, “Now I are a Amazon Assosee-ate!” But, my “home” mailing/residence in Illinois scotched that. The Illinois loonisl legislature, goaded by Target, other Big Box stores and a small retailer’s association, enacted an Internet sales tax law, and Amazon backed out of registering Illinois associates so that they would not legally have a taxable presence in that state. Illinois listened to the lobbyists promising untold tax revenues, and predictably got what other similar states had already gotten: numerous small Internet-based businesses moving one state away, decreased sales tax revenues, and decreased income taxes from all those shafted Amazon associates residing in the state. Some of the larger ones had to move out if they wanted to keep eating. I guess I need not go off on why Illinois is endlessly bouncing against bankruptcy, I mean aside from graft, misuse and embezzlement. At least they’re exploring new avenues beyond the same old staples. Not to brag, but I suspect Illinois leads the count in states whose governors served prison time immediately following their service to their constituents.

To save legislators from having to repeal the law and so admit stupidity, the judicial arm was thoughtful enough to declare the legislation unconstitutional and against existing Federal laws prohibiting it. That allowed Amazon to resume operations. I signed up last summer and started building links to my Aurora Mods page. But, no publish = no links = no clicks = no associate account for long. They dropped me. No biggie. I was ready to sign up again recently since the page is almost done, but then I realized something, and faced a moral dilemma of sorts.

I realized that I’d be sending my readers to various Amazon suppliers which, in many cases, I’d never used and could not personally vouch for. And I recalled the simple fact that Amazon is often not the lowest-cost retailer (it is sometimes the highest by far), refuses to accept returns on many items, and offers no shipping choices as to carrier. That’s selected for you by automated software. Some vendors on Amazon stink, and many seem to be simply moonlighting from their day job to forward your order to the manufacturer, to drop-ship to you. Camping in a place with no local mail street delivery, and no address to accept a “last mile” FedEx SmartPost or UPS SurePost? The Post Office will often refuse those if they are addressed to General Delivery for pickup. Who is the carrier and what is their shipping method? Unless stated otherwise, it is usually these two non-solutions, because of lower costs. Amazon reserves the shipping method choice for itself. MSRP is not unusual because of manufacturer insistence, but I’ve seen over double MSRP there! I’ve seen prices double once an item runs low in stock. Needless to say, I don’t always check Amazon first.

Have you ever recommended a great place to a friend or acquaintance, and then found that their experience was disastrous? It’s humiliating, in a way. It’s like the shop has potentially betrayed your trust, depending on what actually happened. Well, I realized that I’d be recommending to you some Amazon links that I was happy with, some that I didn’t know from Adam, and some where I knew I could actually get it cheaper and faster from a reputable firm with a solid track record. But I’d be sending you to Amazon instead, because I could get money for doing just that. It’s commonly done.

And maybe that would be okay with you, because in your world, Amazon is the cheapest and fastest. Well, that’s not necessarily the case with the parts I’ve used in my modifications, nor many other things I’ve ordered on the Internet. So, I’m revising the links to go to the sources easiest to order from, and at a low or the lowest price mixed with proven good customer service, stocking, and shipping practices. They are who I deal with for that type of part. And when it is an Amazon link, it’s an above-board recommendation without the potential taint of cash as my incentive to recommend them. I won’t get any, because I’m not associated with them. I get that most people will shrug, take Amazon as the default, and be happy to cause the Big A to sprinkle a few pennies someone’s way. But Amazon is too big, disparate, and variable for me to give a blanket endorsement to. See, for better or worse, these days I very rarely give a damn what others think of me, but I do care very much what I think of me. I’m the only one who has to live with myself. So to me in my little world, wholehearted links to Amazon can be a fine thing, and very helpful. Sometimes they are the best or only viable source! But being an Amazon whore is not for me. Recommending for money when I know damn well there’s a better, less expensive source out there for a part or item that I’m pleased with is not going to happen.

Same with that part or item I’m pleased with. As so many find out the hard way (me included), when you drop below a certain threshold of quality for certain categories of things, it no longer matters what the price is, even if they are paying you to take it off their hands. This is especially true for Chinese-made products. Sometimes great, and often not worth kicking into the sewer. I describe, specify or link to what has proven itself to me as a great value, and is still serving well. There may be a particular brand or model that I have no reservations about because I’ve used it, or a friend or relative has abused his or hers without a problem. I might let you Google it, or I might provide a link, if I can recall where I got it from.

Again, none of my links will earn me anything – with the exception of Evelo e-bikes. I’m now a card-carrying Evelo “Ambassor”, proudly goose-stepping along with head held high. I get a referral fee if someone ultimately buys an Evelo e-bike using one of my links on this blog. Or rather I would, if someone actually did, someday. That’ll be awhile, realistically. Quite a while. I’m not promoting Strolling Amok, because I’m not intending it to become an “income stream that makes money while you sleep!!” It’s not some kind of RV Community blog, either. It’s just a personal “Let the kids that know Grampy’s trailer isn’t burning in the ditch…yet” blog, gone bad.

And that’s okay, because at this point, with or without a referral fee, I’d be breathlessly hyping Evelo e-bikes, regardless. I really have been pounding my Aurora hard, and just kind of leaving it out to dry rot. I pity it. It gets no TLC, and no pampering. I’ve been waiting for the “Uh-oh, I think I killed it,” since early last October. The fact that it still works like Day One is a continual surprise to me – like every single time I climb on and light up the controls, in camp or at the store. Bikes are not like cars. They can get finicky real fast, and begin some pretty bad behaviors that put them out of service. The American Southwest is a bit of a disaster area for bicycles, unless you reside in a major city. Nine months of urban apartment living for a bike is a cakewalk. Out where I am, it’s death to anything requiring clean, lubricated anything in order to work right. Even dry lubes heralded to “not attract dust” can’t do anything to repel it, either. One system after another gets the sniffles, and the next thing you know, your bike is something to lean the folding lawnmower handle against. Not so, this. I’m stoked.

 

If you dehydrate easily, the details of what you pick for a bike and how you outfit it keep things on the enjoyable, fun side.

If you dehydrate easily, the details of what you pick for a bike and how you outfit it can keep things on the enjoyable, fun side.

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7 thoughts on “Amazon Apathy

  1. Hey Doug, hoping you r enjoying the fry desert. I luv it. I am home in Nc. now, got here last week. Along the way my bike rack metal fatigued and broke dragging Susans regular bike to almost nonexistance. MY EZIP electric bike wound up on top of hers so was not as bad but still totally trashed# Therefore you can add me as the third person interested in your Evolo bike and mods! Keep on writing about it pardner!!! Bless ya, Bill

    • Glad you two made it back, Bill, even if the machinery didn’t. I’ve dropped a bike and carrier on the highway, and it’s a pretty convincing way to upgrade the carrier. I have a now-unused Swagman two-bike carrier on the trailer, and its arms bent with one 30-pound bike, since trailers are noted for rapid bouncing. Many carriers warn against mounting them on trailers. My Swagman was made for a trailer bumper mount. Oh well. That’s part of why I went to the trouble and expense of using a dual e-bike Hollywood carrier and had a front hitch receiver mounted on the pickup. At least now I’ll be able to watch myself run over it! The front springs are unusually stiff (snowplow option), and Hollywood cautions against rough roads, but it is doing just fine with the Aurora and bike trailer. I’m reasonably careful on rocky trails, but can now afford to be well out of paranoid territory. Still workin’ on that mods page, which is also kind of a bike review in terms of what I do with it. Thanks for the motivation to keep pushing to get it out!

  2. Rod Duell on said:

    Great insights into the Amazon world, which I for one wouldn’t have understood otherwise. The Aurora long-term test is helpful too since these sorts of conveyances are becoming increasingly relevant for reasons relating to both economics and the limited physical capabilities of our rapidly ageing population. Thanks for your efforts.

    • Thank you, Rod, though I must admit that what you read here is opinion. I do buy from Amazon, but only after window shopping elsewhere to check for better. Though I’d love to get rich as an associate for big-ticket items like my B.O.B. Ibex trailer and its options, there are just much better sources out there (which I will link to). Potentially getting a couple of bucks at the end of the month is not worth sending people to a supplier I wouldn’t touch with a stick when my own cash is on the line. If my readers can trust that there are no shenanigans going on in this blog (merely defective thinking and naiveté), that is far more valuable to me than gas money. I would say “that’s just me”, but I think a lot of people feel that way. If I’m potentially getting a referral fee from a company that I already fully endorse (like Evelo), I say so. The referral would happen regardless, and the “kickback” out of Evelo’s pocket is just icing on the cake. To my way of thinking, I’m taking advantage of THEM, not the readers I urge to seriously consider their e-bike product line. I’m thinking, “They could have gotten my referrals for free! Hee-hee!” I can’t say that about Amazon, since I can’t give them a blanket endorsement.

  3. When I order something from Amazon thru someone’s blog I do it to help them out. It’s something I am going to order from Amazon anyway.

    If you don’t like Amazon you don’t like Amazon, kind of like people feel about Walmart or Ford. It’s just a store.

    Recommendations?
    When someone says they have a left handed widget from “XyZ Corp” and it’s been doing the job daily for 2 years I’ll pay attention if the left handed widget I’ve been using does not last past 6 months.
    I may or may not buy my “XyZ Corp” left handed widget from the recommend source, that’s my decision.

    As a side note I’m not going to spend that kind of money on a bike but it is fun to read about your experiment.

    • Rob, I do agree that if you’re pleased to help someone out, the particular product is available and priced well (which is usually the case on commodity items) and Amazon is your preferred source anyway, then it’s all good. Win-win. My little “dilemma” began when I found that one of the “associate” item links on the early version of my Aurora Mods page was slightly cheaper but was locked to a single, incomplete configuration that did not match current production. The required options for it were not available from Amazon at all, which meant sending people to one vendor for a potentially older, unimproved product, and then to another to complete what was needed, just so I could get credit for the referral. Since the entire assembly was available outside from a single source who offered similar pricing, very good customer service and simple checkbox ordering options with full descriptions, it seemed crazy to maneuver people to do what I would not do myself, and scatter the order. And then I noticed that both Amazon itself and a few of its vendors apparently resell certain defective returned and worn items as new, according to customer comments. So, that complicated my choice of where to link certain individual parts to with good conscience, all other factors being equal. In the end, I decided to “remove the temptation”, not be an associate, and link to whomever I would order from myself. It’s not that I don’t “like” Amazon or that they’re some kind of Axis of Evil – I often order from them myself and am pleased – but the issue is sending people where I would avoid going myself on certain parts, particularly when the result would cost more anyway. If someone just prefers getting all they can from Amazon, it’s an easy matter to ignore a link and just look it up there. That won’t have any effect on me at my end, and I won’t be “losing a sale” either way. One can even order an Evelo Aurora there, though the bottom-line cost is considerably more and there would be no “StrollingAmok” $100 discount on top of that. As you say, in the end, sourcing is just a personal decision, as will be each of the links that I’ll be providing. Some readers may be able to locate even better sources than I’ll be recommending.

      I’m glad that you find the various e-bike posts interesting, which of course is my hope. I’m also glad that you have the mindset of not buying what you don’t need. That’s the most effective way to “get the best deal”, by not coughing up cash for something just because it’s new or interesting. The bandwagon can be an expensive method of transportation!

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