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Buying a Bike and the "Melissa the Bank Teller" Incident.
Editorial by Tom Demerly.

Tom in Anartica
Here's a lesson in buying the right bike, told via a circuitous route, but learned very well nonetheless.

Melissa was beautiful.
She was a teller where we do our banking. Melissa was not just beautiful she was phenomenally beautiful. To the same degree that John Merrick, the Elephant Man, was horribly deformed and physically repellant Melissa was perfectly formed to be utterly magnetic in her appearance. You could not help but adore her.

She was a teller where we do our banking. Melissa was not just beautiful she was phenomenally beautiful. To the same degree that John Merrick, the Elephant Man, was horribly deformed and physically repellant Melissa was perfectly formed to be utterly magnetic in her appearance. You could not help but adore her.

Melissa was so beautiful that in the small town of Dearborn, Michigan where we live everyone knew her.

I would be in line at the coffee place in the morning and hear two men talking in front of me: "Yeah, I took the paperwork over to the Bank One on Monroe…. You know, the one where that Melissa girl works. Isn't she beautiful?" Everyone knew her.

One day I was in line at the bank, hoping I would get Melissa's window. It worked out and I stepped up to the altar of Melissa to make my humble offering.

Her eyes were that slightest hint of almond shape. Her skin was like the snow of Antarctica, perfect, flawless, smooth. It looked soft. She had beautiful eyelashes that curled up perfectly and her make-up was always subtle but alluring in pale pastel shades. Utterly feminine.

It is theorized that the things that cause a man to find a woman beautiful are symmetry and an appearance of youth as well as obvious reproductive capability. At a primordial level, Melissa summoned all men with her beauty.

Her ears were delicately pierced once, small and rounded and perfect. She had a perfect, playfully round nose and full cheeks perpetually flushed with the blush of youth and perfection. Her nails were always flawless, a French manicure or shiny clear polish- never too long. When colored they were always coordinated with her wardrobe. Her hair was, as you can imagine, full and silky and fell at her shoulders in a neat arrangement that was relaxed but, no doubt, the product of considerable effort. Of course, always perfect but in a way that suggested it required no effort. Her figure was no less flawless. She was not too thin, beautifully rounded and formed and full. She always dressed perfectly and demurely. Truthfully, Melissa could have worn a burlap bag and still been ravishing.

Protected as she was behind the inch of impregnable Plexiglas, as though she were a national treasure like the Declaration of Independence or the Consititution, her movements were graceful and gentle. She accepted my deposit under the clear protective wall. I watched her delicate hand touch the filthy money and thought she should not be here in the bank. Melissa should be in front of an elaborate backdrop. Crews of people arranging lighting, make-up, fawning over her hair and wardrobe and rushing to bring her herbal tea and drinking water in crystal glasses. They would attend to her, gently running a soft bristle brush through her hair again and again in preparation for a photo shoot that would produce images millions of men around the world would swoon over. The men would think, "No woman could look like this, it has to air brushed." But it wouldn't be. It was just the way Melissa looked.

A machine clicked and clattered as the deposit slip was processed and she reached for a receipt to feed the machine to complete my transaction.

"Oh, my." The words quietly crossed her shiny pink lips. "I seem to be out of receipts. Excuse me please." Melissa slid forward off her bank teller stool and took the four steps to recover a few more blank receipts.

Then it happened.

The "Melissa the Bank Teller" incident. A fable told and retold so many times for the value of its lesson that it is now a classic, and a lesson well learned if you are buying a new bike.

I should tell you, before I go any further, that while every word of this is true, Melissa has moved away so there is absolutely no chance that she will ever read this. Not even I, in my callus, journalistic insensitivity, would print this if I thought there was the remotest chance she would read it. You'll see why in a minute.

Melissa stepped back to the front of her elevated seat and stood, ballerina like, on tip toes to reach her princess' throne once again. As she did some miracle of physics caused the fabric on the bottom of her skirt to pull back slightly, and the top of her skirt to slightly slide up. Up, up it slid. That precious three inches, barely more than the length of your thumb, to reveal the darker tops of her stockings and, thank the blessed good Lord for his benevolence, a peek at her little pink garter clips.

Melissa was wearing stockings and a garter belt under her business suit.

My father had a heart attack once. He described the sensation as having his chest hollowed out and his heart exploding. He said bolts of electricity shot down his arms. I think I had a heart attack. As a photographer and writer I am an enormously visual person. This assault on my visual senses, this sexual Hiroshima tripped the circuit breakers in my brain. I don't remember leaving the bank or driving the four blocks back to the store. All I remember was the image of her legs, the dark top of her stockings and the little garter clips. Pink.

I numbly walked back to my office and sat in stunned silence. Then I raided the cash register and filled out another deposit slip and went back to the bank.

There was no chance of course. It was a fantasy. Melissa wore the ring of another man; A dashing man, a Policeman who emigrated from Lebanon. He was buff and chiseled and suave and dark. The perfect groom to the Anglo princess bride, Melissa. Of course, in Dearborn, he was famous for this. He was the fiancé of Melissa. But I could adore her, as everyone did.

Time changed the seasons and one day, a year later; I was in line at Melissa's window. Her ring was gone. There had been trouble in paradise. Word on the street was the man, her dashing Sultan, had turned out to be a bit of a cad and the engagement was over. Melissa slid my deposit receipt back under the window.

"Don't forget to read the back." She shyly smiled and attended to her next customer.

I was in parking lot when I read it. And I had to read it several times to verify what it said. In the rounded, curvaceous handwriting of a feminine hand it said:

"When can we get together?"

I was mortified. Me. Just a guy who ran a bike shop. There must be some confusion. The princess bride wanted to know when we could get together. I held the receipt like a winning Lotto ticket. When I got back to the store I phoned the bank. "Ahh, This is Tom Demerly from Bikesport. May I speak with Melissa please?"

We made a date for dinner.

I took her to a place I visit regularly. It isn't super fancy, but it is fun and familiar and the food is good. I eat there enough that I have my own table above the others in the back where I can have privacy and see the rest of the guests dining. The staff are friends and are always friendly. Heads turned as I entered the restaurant with the princess, Melissa.

Over dinner I noticed Melissa ate very little. She was also quiet, but very pleasant. "Men never ask me out." She told me. "I think they are intimidated." I assured her, they were.

The silence began to seem somewhat awkward. I wanted to ask about her former fiancé but avoided that conversational minefield. I figured I'd kept it light-hearted. Then she chimed in, to my conversational rescue:

"My Mom said she saw you in the paper, in some foreign country, dressed like an Arab."

"Ahh, Yeah, I was probably at a race or something. I am going to Africa to race next year. Where have you traveled to?" Most girls' favorite topic is themselves, so I figured if I turned the conversation around to her she would be more comfortable.

"Ohh, my family and me went to Ohio once when I was in junior high. I almost went to Mexico on spring break, but I didn't go because the water is, you know, like, gross…"

The conversation stumbled around until Melissa looked at my wristwatch. "Is that real?"

Before my eyes Melissa began to change. She was still pretty, beautiful in fact. But she was dumb. My friend Michael R. Rabe and I used to play a game with people to see how many countries in Africa they could name. Michael R. Rabe, a self-proclaimed genius, could name them all from memory. I could get about 2/3rds of them. Melissa appeared so dumb and so "unworldly" that I decided I would give her one last attempt to redeem herself. She graduated from U of M so she had to know at least a few. Maybe geography was her thing.

"I'm headed over to Morocco, Tanzania and Kenya next year. Have you ever thought about visiting anyplace in Africa?"

She arranged her food with a fork. "Too many lions I think. Don't you worry about getting eaten by lions or something?"

"Ahhh, no, Lions are mostly just in the game preserves. If you were going to Africa what countries would like to visit?" This was it, her chance to shine. I wanted her to speak eloquently about the African renaissance, about the dark days of Idi Amin, the great life of Nelson Mandela. Heck, I'd settle for something she saw on Animal Planet.

"Well," She smiled. "Ahh, Africa is just like, you know, like, Africa?" She giggled. "I probably wouldn't go there. It's all dirty and bogue. But like, I would go to Las Vegas or Florida. Have you ever been to Las Vegas?"

The rest of the date was a train wreck. Sometimes when you are on a date it is so abysmal all you can think about are the more constructive things you could be doing, like laundry or cleaning your house. Now I wished I were doing laundry. It took tremendous effort to converse with Melissa. I thought the economy would be safe ground since she worked in a bank and her degree was finance. She had no thoughts on economics. She couldn't even answer most questions about banking.

Beautiful as she was, Melissa was a horrific bore and dumb as a box of hair. That date was about the longest two hours of my life. It was exhausting. I think we both knew it. We spoke a little more on the way home, perhaps jubilant over the fact that there was now light at the end of the tunnel. But realistically, there was little to say. She was easy to look at, but agonizing to be around. We saw each other in the bank frequently after that for about a year, but never went out again. Eventually she got engaged to the male equivalent of herself, a tall, handsome and statuesque Ken doll of a man who wears suits to work, never gets his hands dirty and can't even spell "CNN".

So here's your lesson. If you're buying a bike, don't fall victim to a "Melissa". I know, in my heart of hearts, the only reason I went out with Melissa was because she was so pretty. I have no idea why she wanted to go out with me. I am utterly average with the exception of my knowledge of geography.

People do research on the bike they want to buy, read reviews, search the internet, talk to friends, get measured and feel they go through a long, empirical and pragmatic process to get the "right" bike. Then they wind up on a date with Melissa. Most people simply buy the bike that looks coolest to them. That is a shame.

I think the reason for this is similar to why I went out with Melissa. If someone had told me, prior to going out with her, "She's a pretty simple girl, not right for you." I wouldn't have listened. I would have never heard she wasn't right for me. All I would have seen were those two little pink garter clips holding up those stockings.

People do the same thing in here all the time. We measure them, ask them how they are going to use their bike, what events they want to do- everything. We go to great lengths to collect information about almost every bike readily available and some not so readily available. Once we get the person's dimensions, an understanding of how they are using their bike and what events they are doing we can make a recommendation based on real information. The product of that process will be the right bike. It will fit, it will do what the customer wants and it won't waste their money.

Despite that many people still default back to the bike they feel looks the coolest. The "Melissa". Realistically, they probably never realize they could have done much better. That is a shame. These things are expensive. The opportunity to improve your enjoyment of the sport with the right equipment is very high, especially since bike fit is the single most important factor in bike comfort and performance. If a bike doesn't fit you precisely, it doesn't matter how cool it looks; it will never work as well as it could.

People make buying decisions this way because they gather too much information, get too many conflicting opinions from people who really don't know what they are talking about. The whole process gets very cloudy and you don't know whom to believe. The one thing you can believe, through the fog of indecision and confusion and misinformation and arm chair "expert" opinions is that a bike is beautiful. So you get lured on a date with Melissa. But unlike spending $40 on dinner and losing a couple hours of your life you just blew $2500 and are stuck with a bike for at least the season. But at least you know one thing: It sure looks good.