I’m currently exploring the internet with the vague (ok, fully concrete) intention of buying a mountain bike. Doing so I’m amazed and horrified in turn by the number of advertisements which begin with statements like “as new, ridden once” or “unwanted gift” or “only cycled home from shop, never used”?!
Following on from the theme of the last blog which took at bit of a tongue in cheek look at the buying of new bikes for Christmas, I’ve been thinking more and more about the number of pre-owned bikes available out in the world and why we don’t make more use of them.
A new bike is a wonderful thing but, for me, I find much more enjoyment and some much better bargains to be had from the pre-loved, or at least pre-owned route.
I’m also an avid fan of recycling as well as cycling and what better way to combine the two. Nothing in my current bike collection was new when it came to live with me, but without exception all have been fantastic machines.
My touring bike, a Claud Butler, 21 speed Hybrid (and imaginatively named… Claud) is over 10 years old was bought for the bargain price of £50 from Ebay, just a week before I flew out to Canada. Well cared for but unused for a while, I did nothing to him before leaving except apply a bit of grease and oil to various parts. Claud started the trans Canada/USA thus and 5000+ miles later is still going strong. Of course parts have been replaced along the way as so many miles would necessitate (front and rear chainsets, tyres, chain and pannier rack), but back home I commute daily to work on this great bike.
A love of old bikes is also about appreciating things with a bit of personality and character, which you just don’t get straight from the factory. Bikes that are loved and ridden don’t have perfect paint work and aren’t free of mud and grime. They are however, too often abandoned for the most trivial of reasons. It seems in our throwaway society, the want of a new brake cable, gear adjustment or even a new inner tube leads to perfectly good bikes literally being thrown on the scrapheap.
Being able to give a new lease of life to a bike that has been unused and unloved gives me a great deal of satisfaction. Restoring something to full working order with a bit of t.l.c, making it functional again.
That’s how I came to find Neil my Falcon Black Diamond, circa 1970’s steel frame road bike. In the recesses of someone’s shed, unloved and unused for years, I found Neil with many of the original components including the 10 speed gearing and frame mounted friction shifters (or suicide shifters) as a friend dubbed them.
Bought for a token price, Neil (named after 70’s crooner Neil Diamond – outdated but basically sound!) became my entry-level bike for my first triathlons.
Racking him up next to the carbon fibre of Cannondale , Specialized and Cube at local events, it was hard not to be a little intimidated but, one of life’s lessons soon plays out. How you perform on a bike is mostly not down to the machine itself, rather the person riding it.
Riding around on steel-frame bikes is great training for leg muscles and gives you advantages that shaving a couple of ounces off derailleur weight won’t.
And so my philosophy holds true today. I love admiring the many, beautiful, shiny new bicycles that are out there. I’ll happily ogle a sleek Cervelo as others would a Ferrari, but as for owning one, no thanks.
Having an ultra-expensive bike will make minimal difference to my abilities compared to improving my technique and fitness. My penchant for falling off would also endanger the paintwork!
So, whislt my home and shed continue to become a Mecca to old bikes, frames, wheels, components and accessories and ignoring the notion that I’m turning into the cycling version of a crazy woman who collects cats. I will happily keep and add to my stable of re-homed and re-loved bicycles, enjoying the windfalls from fickle cyclists on Ebay and beyond.