3.09.2005

the used bike....
for so many reasons I am too old for this
been down this road before...
should-a known better than to let this happen again
as a rule I like to try and avoid buying or selling used bikes
it seldom goes well for me


a month or so ago a friend at a party asked if I had a used bike to sell
I said no
the topic changed
we talked as we moved forward toward the bar to get a drink
I got my drinks he got his
we exchanged salutations and then
we each went across the room to our respective wives
delivering the drinks as good husbands are supposed to do

then later in the night as we each worked the cocktail party crowd we found that topic again...
sure enough...
again I am asked if I have a used bike to sell
again I say no
we let the topic flow into something else.... maybe our children..... maybe our dogs..... maybe real estate in our neighborhood... maybe the topic of public schools
these are the things that adults talk about

then as the night moves forward I start to think....

I HAVE MANY BIKES TO SELL!
now that I am in the world of the 29er.... I have all sorts of bikes to sell!
the 26 inch wheel bike no longer suits my needs.
where did this guy go? I need to start selling ALL OF MY 26 Inch Wheel Bikes!

so I approach this friend before I leave.... this time saying
yes... I have a bike to sell you
... I have two bikes in mind.... both beaters.... both fender equipped commuters
nothing special.... not mountainbikes... not race worth bikes
just bikes.... basic bikes
you will have to come over and take a look
we will see what fits you
we will see what appeals to you

the next day I get a call
it is this same guy
this same guy
calling to confirm that this was not just talk in the bar
that it wasn't the whiskey that needed a bike
he wants a bike
he wants to buy my bike
he wants to buy it ASAP
he wants to be on the bike and free of a multi-transfer commute that is from bus to bus to bus
he wants all of this to happen fast

I tell him that whatever I sell him will have to go into the shop for a tune up and some minor repairs
he is all for that immediate extra expense after the used bike purchase price

we hang up the phones and he walks down the road to look at what I have to offer.....
while he is headed over I grab a key to my garage to pull out the two bikes

I have two bikes to choose from that I feel will suit his needs
a two year old Cannondale Bad Boy.....
and
an ancient Trek mountain bike that is lacking vital parts
the price is 150 for either....

the Cannondale is ready to roll
I alert him to a spoke starting to pull through the rim of the rear wheel
something he will just want to replace immediately
then there is also the worn chain and cassette..... still good
but not far down the road these things may need to be replaced
for the most part this bike is ready for an urban assualt

then there was that old Trek with its slick tires and its ultra simple utilitarian persona
there were no cranks on this bike
the Alivio rear derailer did not match up with the XT rapid fire shifters
and the rear wheel as straight as it nearly was.... needed one spoke
it was the absence of the cranks that had me wondering

this person is drawn to the Charlie Brown Christmas tree version of a bike... he opts for the partless Trek
I can see the attraction
this bike has a certain character that seems more like Amsterdam than Trek
the black frame with black tape hiding all logos and names
the black fenders and the black rack
this bike could be ridden in the old country across the pond or any Mennonite community in the united states
this bike is plain
plain is this bike's character
plain yet purposeful

this bike served me well
this bike went through many phases... never much for dirt
but an excellent Canal Cruiser
an excellent winter lead sled that did not mind a pot hole here or there in the dark evenings of winter

lots of time in the big ring
lots of miles in traffic
lots of miles around town

in an effort to explain things I tell him that this is "a guitar without strings.... "
"we may find out down the road that there is a reason why this guitar lacks strings"


so some days pass, not many, then I get a call
not a rush call
but a call checking in... he is pumped... he wants a bike.... he wants this bike
I tell him that this bike needs some work... that I will assemble the bike and sell it to him for 125
having him know that it will need roughly 100 bucks worth of parts and labor
he is willing to take the bike with a box of parts and take it to a shop
I tell him that no shop will want to deal with that... let me assemble something that resembles a bike
then he can go to the shop

that night I go out to the garage and start digging for parts....
there needs to be a new rear wheel and a crankset
sure... I have these things....
but....
my most wheels that I have are worth well more than 100 bucks a piece
he does not need my disc compatible Bontrager wheels....
I bastardized other bikes
making once complete bikes incomplete to make this incomplete machine complete again

after some time in the stand I take a step back and look at this bike
with the assistance of all the kings horses and all the king's men I am not going to get this bike running again....
some things are just "a miss"

so I call this friend.... no answer... I leave a message.....

"hey.... working on the bike... I think your time and money would be better spent on a new bike.... just go out and spend 400 or 500 bucks on a new bike and forget about this ancient money pit"

later that night....

I get a call back... "I want that bike.... that is my bike..... I hear what you are saying.... but I want that bike!"

I reiterate my point....
he holds his ground

I invite him over to pick it up the next day

the next day comes and the bike is not done
with the perspective buyer there I spend an hour with various lubes, greases, and degreasers....
mixing and matching chains and cassette..... directing his attention to the missing spoke and anything and everything that needs to be done on this bike

this machine now resembles a bike
not rideable.... but it rolls

the bell is off the handlebars
the Brooks saddle has been swapped for an old Vetta Gel
I look on at the rack, the fenders, the Tioga City Slick tires... and moan as he writes me a check...

"a check?"

I don't have a good feeling about this......

there is thanks
there is a reminder of what needs to be done
in the end I tell him that he is getting the bicycle for free... I am only charging him for labor

two days later and email hits my INBOX
the shop gave him an estimate beyond what I had anticipated...
but.... you go to MIDAS.... they are going to tell you that you need a new muffler
no one wants to work and repair stuff these days
it is all about remove and replace....

the check has not been cashed
there are no worries

he tells me that I need to remind him to listen to me next time
he offers to make good by taking me out for dinner and some drinks....

I warn him that he may be better off paying a hundred twenty five bucks as I can drink more than that with ease
he laughs
we leave feeling warm and fuzzy
well.. not quite warm and fuzzy

so yesterday I am rolling down the alley towards my house
headed up the alley from the woods I see the form of a man walking a bike with a dog by his side
the silhouette does not need to come closer into view for me to figure who this person is

when he arrives we have a pleasant exchange of hellos

there is no ill will, but.... I am a tad frustrated with how this whole bike sale went

in the end the goal was achieved which lesses my frustration
he did in fact buy a bicycle and is riding it to and from work
that was the goal
not to reanimate this machine
not for me to be 125 dollars richer
the goal was to get this guy on a bike
to have him riding rather than driving or taking public transportation

not only is he riding his bicycle
he is getting more exercise
and
his world view is changing

he now sees car drivers and driving safety much how I see things
he will become healthier, stronger, and more conscionsous of the world
with a perspective that he did not hold prior

mission accomplished

it was a round about route to get there
a route that need not to have involved me
but what the hey....
so I turned a few wrenches and got some grease under my nails

no worries

now I can take all those parts back that I missed so badly....
the XT levers....
the LX Cranks....
those super wide riser bars....
all back in my hands!
back into the garage where they belong

okay....
I have a better idea for this bike....
let me see if I have enough Christmas lights to decorate this whole bike for a display on my roof
a beacon for cyclists in the night
who happen to be riding on roof tops

No comments: