Friday, May 11, 2007

An ode to a workhorse

Speaking of buying things for you bike, I've often heard: “I’m not getting that. That’s more than I paid for my bike!” Well, so what? Cheap bikes are great. But that doesn’t mean you can’t buy anything for that bike that costs more than you paid.

I found my one-speed bike stumbling home from The Abbey Lounge in Inman Square about 10 years ago (back when it was still just a neighborhood bar, before it became a cool dive). It was a rainy night and I was thinking about where I could buy a basic Amsterdam-style one speed, and there it was! Lying there. Abandoned with a broken fork. I took it and added fenders and a front brake and some BMX-style handlebars to sit upright. But basically it was a free bike. And the first thing I did was buy a $60 lock to keep it (and later a bike chain to lock the seat). Why? Because I need this bike.

That’s the Bluebird on the left. I’m talking about the bike on the right.

For quick errands, you want a bike locked outside for convenience (and to take up stairs, this bike weighs a ton). Day, night, rain, and snow, this bike has been locked outside for 10 years (with just a few minor incidents… like the mysterious handle-bar loosener of 34th St.). The big rear bags I got from Amsterdam probably cost more than the bike and lock put together. (Luckily, bike thieves in this country are too stupid to recognize true value.)

I probably couldn’t get more than $25 for it on Craigslist. But I keep it in good condition. He doesn’t have a name, it’s not a pretty bike, and certainly not sexy (if it were, he would be a she). And if something happened to this bike, I would happily assemble a better one that served the same function (or bring a nice old Batavus Barcelona over from Amsterdam).

But get this, if I could really only keep one bike, and as painful as that choice would be, thousand-dollar bikes be damned: I would keep this bike! If you don’t have a car, the bike first and foremost needs to be functional. And that means it has to carry. And carry a lot: groceries, books, furniture, whole lambs. This bike has carried it all.

1 comment:

Sara said...

I'm all for cheap bikes. I bought a Citizen folding bike a year ago for less than $200 and I am so happy with it. For me, it serves its purpose and is better than paying upwards of $500 for a folding bike.