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Singlespeed & Fixed Gear "I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft...As for me, give me a fixed gear!"-- Henri Desgrange (31 January 1865 - 16 August 1940)

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Old 06-10-05, 06:47 PM   #1
bikiola
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philosophy behind "ownership" of bikes & multiples

ok, so i've been thinking about this topic for a while, privately. to me, biking is a vital alternative not just to cager culture, but to many non-self-sufficient means of living, many of which fall under the over-generalized heading of "capitalism," i suppose. meaning, capitalism is about accruing property and absolving yourself of the production of energy, etc, in order to reap the benefits. its a bit highminded, but it works, somehow.

now, a lot of bikers are anarchists, activists, etc, especially us critical mass-ists, who aim to reject much of bourgeious material culture in favor of some sort of collectivism. despite this, of course, the twist is that bikes ARE material, and if you love your bike, your are displaying some sort of materialistic impulses about something that is, after all, just a product, and is never as valuable as friendship, love, knowledge, etc (or at least, thats what i'm basing this rant on).

so, how do we reconcile many of these communitarian impulses with our love of bikes? and on that issue, how can we possibly accept owning more than one bicycle? shouldnt' we just own one, run it into the ground, and buy another? yet i find myself "coveting" bikes and recently bought a second one, a piece of sh1t $30 old seventies bike, but nonethless a material product. i'm feeling guilty because i ostensibly reject this premise.

does anyone else have any thoughts about this? am i a raving moron, or just a hypocrite?
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Old 06-10-05, 06:59 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by bikiola
does anyone else have any thoughts about this? am i a raving moron, or just a hypocrite?
i'd say a little of both, mixed with some lefty guilt

nothing wrong with it in my book, but there's also nothing wrong with wanting things, especially pretty things. and it's not like you're trashing the planet in any serious way by owning more than one bike.

or maybe i'm just rationalizing my bike jones.
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Old 06-10-05, 07:14 PM   #3
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i bring this topic up with some good friends every now and then... how silly it is, our bike scene here. there are the real bike activists that run the bike co-op/bike church and help people fix their bikes and build cool bike stuff... then there are the bike lovers that put on that semblance of a bike activist, but they really just love bikes and biking... paying a bunch of money for a hot pink paint job and flashy wheels is hard to justify as activism...
currently i'm more into the act of biking... i'd like ONE DAY to do some meaningful work and better the bike/environment cause... but for now, i'm lazy.

i understand what you are saying and i don't have any real answers. but if i compare you to a person who collects cars, i'd pick you for my team it's ok to be a weirdo that likes to have more than one bike... if you happen to have any friends that don't have a bike (shudder..) you can always loan one out
on that topic, i need to start letting my "friends" know that if they don't get bikes soon they can try and win me back if they ever do acquire one in the future...
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Old 06-10-05, 07:29 PM   #4
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ride a bike, drive a car..who cares? just give me your nice bikes that you can't keep because your trying to be too "active".
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Old 06-10-05, 07:48 PM   #5
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Multiple bike justification.
You need more than one for several reasons:
You crash one
You wake up late for work and one has a flat
A friend drops by
........
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Old 06-10-05, 07:49 PM   #6
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Well I love old bikes especially old Raleighs so I am actually recycling by owning and using them I own two old Raleigh bikes which would have most likely gone to the scrap heap if they hadn't been purchased by someone who appreciates such craftmanship.

Bikes and bike parts are art especially hand-crafted frames. We live in a time that everything is mass-produced and there is just no individuality to many items that are created. By keeping many of these old frames and parts in existence we can see the differences in aesthetics and geometry that are part history lessons and part art and design critique.
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Old 06-10-05, 07:57 PM   #7
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If I'm going to reject multiple bikes because they aren't absolutely necessary, then I'd better sell a lot more than that. Get rid of all my extra shoes, extra clothes, computer (!), books, art...

In order to be rational, I accept that while rejecting material wants is great in theory, but in reality satisfying my wants (at least some of them) is what makes me happy. The where your balance lies is up to you.
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Old 06-10-05, 08:02 PM   #8
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the idea that collectivism and social equity needs to be reflected in a spare life devoid of beauty is one I reject.
Get the bike for any of the reason mentioned above.
What you should really be thinking about is what you do for a living, where you live, how your food comes to you, and your place in the larger capitalist picture. To live in brooklyn and think you're living a sustainable lifestyle seems to me to be highly unlikely. Not that I'm trying to bring you down.
Get the bike, it's only thirty bucks. At this point you're not paying for the materials to be extracted, refined, whatever. Stop worrying about it and start wondering what you would do if there was no gas tomorrow. Imagine how quickly the shelves at the safeway would be empty. How long before you starved?
Do what you can to be a good person, have ideals and work towards making them realities. Buy the bike and take a homeless person out to breakfast.
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Old 06-10-05, 08:14 PM   #9
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i don't think that there is a way to reconcile it...and if there is, its going to be personal.

i haven't found it for myself, and as i spend more money on another track bike (the LEAST utilitarian of all bikes) i feel guilty. and no, it isn't "lefty guilt"...it's the guilt of choosing beauty over funtion, and the guilt of excess. its not a guilt felt because of starving kids in africa or any of that ****, it just means that you shouldn't, and you know it.

if you don't feel that guilt, you're not paying enough attention.

i realize that this is one of those threads where hardly anyone reads others' opinions, and just try to purge themselves of their own thoughts, so i'm going to stop wasting my energy with the whole pursuit.
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Old 06-10-05, 08:20 PM   #10
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I think about this a lot actually. Tough question. . . Here's how I end up justifying it: As long as we aren't hurting anyone, the earth, and / or letting our financial situations get out of control I don't think there's anything wrong with it. There's a creative aspect to building a bike exactly the way you want it. So in a way we may be harnessing that creative energy artistically (Excuse my woo wooness.) in the same way that a painter paints or a writer writes etc. Not only that, but there's always more to learn.

And yes there's definitely an element of materialism when I see those pretty little pink Phil Wood hubs and just HAVE TO HAVE them!! But there are so many vices one can adopt. Collecting bikes is a fairly healthy one. You have to pick your battles and like I said before as long as you're not hurting anyone and as long as it doesn't get out of control, why fight it? Now please excuse me, I've got to go paint my nails to match my new hubs so that I look hot for all the cute anarchist biker boys.
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Old 06-10-05, 08:21 PM   #11
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if you're so "anarchist/leftist/activist", you shouldn't even own a bike. Just wait for the one communal bike to be passed in your direction after everyone else gets their turn.
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Old 06-10-05, 08:24 PM   #12
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if you're so "anarchist/leftist/activist", you shouldn't even own a bike. Just wait for the one communal bike to be passed in your direction after everyone else gets their turn.
that's neither true nor clever.
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Old 06-10-05, 08:27 PM   #13
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that's neither true nor clever.
I forgot "IMO". Just ride.
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Old 06-10-05, 08:32 PM   #14
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I think people here ARE reading each other's posts... this is very interesting, and enlightening. and by the way, new york city is the greenest city in america -- being packed like sardines and sharing resources, despite being counterintuitive, actually makes it greener than many other "rural" places where people drive everywhere and the petroleum needed to transport everything outweights all else.
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Old 06-10-05, 09:19 PM   #15
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my view is, i really feel that i need to treat bikes as tools (and really fun ones at that!), not commoditities--especially after reading what Guy DeBord has to say about the commodification of life in "The Society of the Spectacle" (the translation published by Black and Red kinda sucks, makes it unreadable...).

it got to be interesting after buying my fixie. that made me have two bikes. and yesterday i got a third when a friend of mine left town and gave away most of the bikes that had come into her possession (bikarma comes around in interesting ways. i'm riding this road beater of hers cuz my fixie needs work and is unrideable till i get cone wrenches--i miss my old bike coop i shouldn't have moved...)

anyway i like to evaluate things based on need, not desire. i'd like a bling as f.u.c.k. wheelset with phil woods and shizzle, but i don't need em, cause right now my suzue basic (yeah, i know) works fine. i'd like a frame with tigher geometry--and you can find me on the lookout some hypothetical rad deal on craigslist--but *whatever* cause when i get on my bike--be it going for a buncha miles for fun or running errands or getting to a friend's house--i'm still loving the ride.

not sure if that's a real worthwhile contribution, but whatev
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Old 06-10-05, 09:29 PM   #16
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Every culture has had materialism, and has had objects that are coveted. Older cultures have found ways to channel that in useful, or at least relatively harmless, directions. In the South Pacific, groups of islands have a custom of passing shell necklaces from island to island, adding a bit to them each step, according to set and complex rules. So everyone gets something to brag about, but it's a harmless use of a bit of excess energy and ... shells. The Tlingit etc tribes of the Pacific Northwest use to accumilate food and goods, and then share them all and destroy much of the goods (such as ceremonial copper shields) in their "potlatch" parties.

It seems like materialism is instinctual in humans but there are various ways to act on that instinct. Our own culture has had characters like Andrew Carnagie, who said the most fun about having great wealth was in giving it away, and did so.

I don't see any problem with your "coveting" a $30 bike that you'll probably get into tip-top condition and then eventually give away or sell for probably less than you actually have in it. That's a pretty far cry from the head honcho at Nike making tons of money on the backs of slave labor.
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Old 06-10-05, 10:37 PM   #17
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As a buddhist, I don't see any need for acetism in my life, just moderation! I've never purchased a new bicycle, not once in my life. Even my bikes as a child were hand-me-downs or used purchases.

I take old bikes, and help them keep living. My friends use them, and eventually I get rid of them by sending them (in good working order) to a new owner who will use them. I didn't request the bikes to be made, and I'm not creating new bikes, just breathing life into what would ordinarily be so much landfill.

So what if I own a bunch of bikes. Do you condem the recycler for owning a bunch of aluminum cans? Or the gardener for owning a lot of compost? Its not new material being created for the sake of material. Its not like I bought the bikes at Crate and Barrel. Its something that was already here, and I exert a little influence on it to keep it from being trash, and that just means that a bunch of them live at my house like feral cats.

Bicycles are practical things, and if cared for, will last for a very long time. Your bling bling Phil Wood today is going to be my beater bike 20 years from now. But you know? It'll still run nice, and I'll have a good time on it. And no, I won't feel guilty for owning it.

peace,
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Old 06-10-05, 10:45 PM   #18
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umm I ride cause Im a lazy comp tech and its my only exercise, I dont have to pay insurance, if I wreck its a cheaper fix, its funner to drink and ride than to drink and drive, and for the chicks.

being a pouser has some benefits......
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Old 06-10-05, 10:58 PM   #19
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I ride a old fuji-turned fixed I bought from a neighbor a decade ago and a 20" I rescued. It had no moving parts when I found it. It does seem silly sometimes, to own two bikes (my dad sometimes says, why have lots of CDs? why not find one that's right?), but really, they're more my children. I've spent so many hours on them, I could draw you a mental picture of every single part on each of them. I venerate my wheels not because they are signals of coolness, but because they are extensions of my desire to create and improve my life with those creations.

As for money, I think we often demonize money on principle. But if the transaction is human and real, the money is just a tool. I mean, buying $100 dollars of groceries reminds you of how much money it costs to live, but buying a $100 bike from a friend (or from a new friend) shows your respect for the other person. You wouldn't scam your friend, right? All interactions can be brought a human, real level, and there, exchange isn't about materialism, but rather reciprocity between friends.

And I love coaster brakes.
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Old 06-10-05, 11:51 PM   #20
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i wrecked my car today so i guess im forced to bike [ or ?]

1 fixed, 1 lower geared SS for when im tired and/or want to coast, or when the 1st is broken
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Old 06-11-05, 06:12 AM   #21
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Easy solution: sell your bikes and walk. But make sure to do it in bare feet, shoes are products too!

Bikes are tools. But I'll make no apologies about liking or owning them.
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Old 06-11-05, 06:26 AM   #22
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I justify my bike collection by rationalizing that I 'rescued' them from being potential trash.
I spend time cleaning them up and refurbishing them, and I feel I've been 'active' in my community.
If we had a bike co-op (trying to organize one) I would donate time, energy, and materials.
It's a nice karmic cycle that would work well within my moral/ethic beliefs. Save a bike = help a person.
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Old 06-11-05, 06:27 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bikiola
ok, so i've been thinking about this topic for a while, privately. to me, biking is a vital alternative not just to cager culture, but to many non-self-sufficient means of living, many of which fall under the over-generalized heading of "capitalism," i suppose.

[snip bike envy]

does anyone else have any thoughts about this? am i a raving moron, or just a hypocrite?
- nope, i'm kind of a sick monkey in that if i like something i'll buy TWO!

- i was told that moving down here would be a culture shock... but i was quite surprised to learn that the high-class bums rode bikes!

;-)
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Old 06-11-05, 06:52 AM   #24
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There are a lot of fantastic responses here, for something I thought was too 'out there' to speak of out loud. I worked it out in my head once, that as a human and as an animal, we would have to walk on the earth just to live anyway: I mean literally walk on the earth to survive. Our footprint effects the world around us in the small and large sense. Riding a bike is the the most efficient way for a human to move themselves, and a bike is the most efficient machine with a human on it, for that I absolve myself of guilt. The mechanized alternative our culture has embraced is extremely destructive; not just pavement or exhaust pollution, but the worldwide effect of our neighbors who "must" drive and consume such extreme amounts making others lives considerably less healthy and full. Sure bikes had to be machined and painted, but as a Western human your footprint is much less on the world than so many others near you in your respective Western countries.
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Old 06-11-05, 07:20 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fixedfiend
if you're so "anarchist/leftist/activist", you shouldn't even own a bike. Just wait for the one communal bike to be passed in your direction after everyone else gets their turn.
That is funny!

Last edited by DKfix; 06-11-05 at 07:59 AM.
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