“Pristine lightweight vintage 14-speed Schwinn Traveler built for speed & ready to ride. Comparable bikes listed on EBay for much more. 100% of proceeds will be donated to @shatterproof, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the devastation addiction causes families.”
This was the text of the listing on Facebook marketplace when I sold this bike. The previous owner was a man I met when our kids were in preschool. Rob was a caring dad, involved and engaged in all the ways that we suburban parents think we should be.
You can tell by looking at Rob’s bike that he was a guy who liked adventure. This bike says “take me on the road.” The handlebars and their extended grips convey long distances up and down the rolling Hills of the Delaware Valley. It was immaculately kept. I had to do very little to bring it back to fully functional. One of his sons kept it for a while afterwards. But in the end, it wasn’t really the right bike for him and the circumstances of it’s vacated saddle were too much. Not the right fit. And I imagine too much anger. Too much grief.
Rob lived with Crohn’s disease and chronic pain. The nature of his job made access to opioid pain killers a little too easy. As our kids got older and went in different directions, I did not stay very connected to Rob and his family. I did not know the extent of his downward spiral until after his death. He lost his family first. I don’t know if he lost his job. I don’t know the circumstances around his overdose. I just know that he was a regular guy with a lovely family and that addiction was his demise. You wouldn’t look at his bike and think “there’s a guy who’s gonna die from an overdose.”
When his widow gave me the bike to rehome, it only felt right to invest the money in helping someone else.
With some research, I selected shatterproof. I don’t know if they are the right organization. I don’t know for sure if their approach saves lives. I might have made the wrong choice. But if they save somebody else’s husband and father, then it will be Rob that saved that guy’s family.
* his name wasn’t really Rob. Everything else is true.
I've learned a lot about fixing bikes in the last five years. Thank heavens for YouTube for all of the content provided by dedicated bike fixers! And, while Amazon may actully cause the downfall of civilization, it has been invaluable for sourcing parts for obsolete bikes.
It's generally expensive to fix even easy things on an old bike and difficult to recoup the investment on resale.
In normal times, there are lots of quality used bikes and you can score a good one and save a pile of money, even though you may need to do some minor repairs yourself. Don't be afraid of a bike that's 20 or more years old...
...unless it's rusty (no matter what age.) Rust makes the work hard and unrewarding IF the bike can be salvaged, and usually makes the bike look ratty and unappealing. If it's a rusty cute bike, turn it into yard art.
Check to see if the seat post is frozen. It's not so easy to fix and tougher to sell if the new buyer can't adjust the saddle height.
During a pandemic, people will buy very crappy bikes for too much money (not that I sold crappy bikes for too much money, but I helped friends find bikes to buy throughout the COVID times and prices were really high.) I found buyers for 100% of my bikes, even the fairly-priced crappy ones that were not worth fixing (at least, not worth it to me, but happily most of those went to other enthusiasts to fix and flip -- good for edification, not so good for the financial end of things.)
Facebook Marketplace is a much better distribution vehicle than a stand-alone website, especially if you don't ship.
All of that is to say -- (cue Air Supply music) -- I'm all out of bikes. I'm so lost without them... Well, the first part is true but I don't know that I'm all that lost. My garage still has six bikes for personal use. I expect that when the vaccine is well distributed, there will be a lot of people dumping their crappy bikes again. And I will still have my tools and know how to fix them if I want to. And maybe my bike story muse will return with the sea of sad rides and I can focus much more on the narrative.
Since my last post, I have re-homed a bunch of bikes. The ones with names definitely have stories that should be told, a couple happy, a couple sad. May their new riders coast through a healthy 2021.
I haven't been posting, but frankly, it's because the bikes come and go before I can write their stories. Here are some of the rides from the last bunch of months. Their names reflect the story they would tell, if only there were time.
Bikes are arriving daily! My available time to repair and post lags a bit. And... True confessions... I list bikes for sale on the Facebook Marketplace, so sometimes things go quickly and never get their stories told. Today is not the case!
Meet Raw Savage, Thunderbolt and Pinky Tuscadero. Not having met before arriving at the Recirculations Bike Corral, they have become allies and friends. Each satisfies a unique niche, so there's no competition. Each looks out for the other in companionable bike silence. Each would have had a really good chance at ending up in a landfill if Bike Gal Claire hadn't intervened.
Read their stories. Let them ride on.
Even wheels have stories. This gal was separated from her bike long ago. A sad tale, really, since the wheel was very attached. Her bike suffered severe trauma in an accident and she was harvested from the wreckage -- a bicycle organ donor. Unfortunately no match could be made.
Then one day, I went to a bike-geek garage sale. Dave had a few bikes, but mostly unattached parts. It was a little macabre, to tell the truth. Other than a nice looking new bike seat, I didn't see much I wanted to work with. But I persisted, on a quest to rescue at least one orphaned part. I asked Dave, "Do you have any wheels that you think won't ever see time on a bike again?" He produced this gal. Intrigued by my plan to create a spinning stained glass piece, Dave gave it to me, wished me well, and I drove off one wheel richer.
This awesome Raleigh C30 bike was left on a curb near my son's elementary school. Wrong. Just wrong. With new tubes and tires and a more comfy seat, this bike harkens back to its badass days in the early Mariah Carey years. New it was listed at $260.
The owners weren't bad people. Their hands were tied. After several years of serious commuter riding and the occasional trip to Valley Forge, Bob had to make some hard decisions. It was 1997, and their family was growing. They had no idea how much stuff they'd have to acquire just to keep their three kids, Bandit, Brandy and Bonnie in sports equipment. Bob and Bobbi decided to build a shed out back, stored the C30, and... and. They forgot about it, except on the occasional trip to the shed to look for hedge clippers. There it was, peeking out from behind the WorkMate work bench and the forgotten Scarecrow on a Stick fall yard decorations.
Then one day, the shed purge came. With the kids out of the house and no longer doing yardwork, Bobbi got tired of the push mower and got herself a nice red riding mower. It took up too much room in the garage though. Bob needed it to be a big dust-free space to build and varnish his canoe. So one day while Bob was at a counted cross-stich convention in Roanoake, Bobbi did the only thing that made sense to her. She cleaned out the shed and the C30 was just part of the collateral damage. It's soft parts were all disintegrated, of course. But it still had good structure, just a little rust, and it twinkled at me just a little. Of course, it was raining. And I couldn't get it in my car. And I couldn't ride it. We had a nice walk. And thanks to this C30, who's wheel nuts were rusted solid, I bought my first bike-specific tool, a 3 Wrencho Tire Tool from Portland Design Works.
And that's how it all began. The C30 became a family bike, but the kid who claimed it is MUCH taller now. No need for it to get lost in the back of MY garage.
These bikes have all flowed through my process. No two were alike. No two had the same problems. All of them have gone on to their next story-making opportunities.
As I work on bikes, they tell me their stories. Forensic bikology. Because I'm not a speedy bike fixer, I spend a lot of time with each bike. So, when I'm done, I kinda want to know what happens next. Of course I know how to take a bike to Good Will. But then I miss the opportunity to connect and to tell the next person the bike's story.
I also know how to sell it for a little bit of money online. My usual customers are either flippers or think I'm weird for wanting to chat. They usually just want to get going. I think they must think that I'm selling my own ride. That just seems wrong.
I'm not trying to quit my day job doing this bike thing, but I definitely AM doing it for the environment, the exercise-promotion, and the entertainment. It pleases me greatly to think that even after a bike leaves my care, its got a chance to help someone in their next story.
These bikes gave me the inspiration to tell the stories. Hopefully they are being ridden and cared for. If not for me, their story would have already come to an end.