Keeping old bikes

Little River at Foothills Parkway

Little River at Foothills Parkway

If anyone reads this blog consistently, and if I keep it up, my approach to bikes (and possessions in general) will become obvious. I keep what I have as long as it works for me. I fix it if it breaks and modify it to suit changing needs. At least this is my ideal, and I live up to this ideal best with bikes. Cell phones and computers I am not so good with.

My tendency to keep riding my old bikes puts me well out of the biking mainstream. When I ride a century, I am surrounded by new carbon fiber and titanium. I show up on my 30-year-old touring bike or 25-year-old sport bike and people look at me like I must be a homeless person, and the people I can keep up with wonder what I could do if I had a real bike. Really, though, if I were fast I could be fast on an old bike with a steel frame and fenders. As it is, I would still be slow on a carbon fiber wonder bike.

I am not a collector or a flipper. I like old bikes and I like working on bikes, so if a nice project bike fell in my lap I would be unlikely to say no. But I don’t seek them out, and I would not know what to do with one when I finished it. I would either lose money on it or not be able to get rid of it. If any of my friends want me to fix up their old bikes I am happy to do it if they pay for parts and maybe some beer. That keeps me away from looking for projects.

One of the wonderful things about bicycles is that they are simple machines with easily-repaired parts. Even a bike that has been used hard and maintained poorly can usually be brought back to full function with a little grease, maybe some bearing surfaces, tires, cables, and brake shoes. This has gotten more difficult and less cost-effective as planned obsolescence becomes more dominant in the bike industry and critical small parts disappear from the market, but a bike worth riding is worth fixing. And a bike worth riding is worth continuing to ride.

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