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How I got my bike

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How I got my bike

Old 08-19-11, 07:00 AM
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How I got my bike


I was just reflecting on my first week (ha!) with my bike. Sorry if this is a little long. I thought it was a great story about how love of bikes can last the whole life long.

I recently took up riding again, when my advisor (I'm a PhD student) egged me on to start biking to school. Turns out she was right...it's a blast! Great exercise, and I get there in 1/2 the time. I had a bike already (Raleigh Marathon) but it was too tall for me. Riding it felt hazardous and precarious. So, I sold it to my boyfriend (Luckily, it was a man's bike...)


I was on a crusade to find a bike that wasn't too expensive and would work for my city's many hills. I stalked Craigslist. I even started coercing my mom to drive across town for "girl time" and go to garage sales with me. But no bikes.

I was getting strangely desperate to ride. My boyfriend had a bike and here I was, rollerskating along behind him when he went out. I had no money, so I couldn't buy a new bike from the LBS (lowest price there...400 dollars). I got obsessed with an Electra Townie on Craigslist, but the thing was 250.00 and yeah, still no money.

One day when Ma and I were out for garage sales, I saw an old man setting out five different children's bikes. My logic was thus: an old guy with five kids' bikes has to have some adult bikes somewhere. So Ma pulled over and I went up to him and asked him if he had adult bikes.

Boy, did he ever. He took me back to his garage and in there were at least 20 bikes!

Ma had joined me by now, and while I tested bikes, she found out his story. Turns out the guy was 91 years old, had started a local successful pizza restaurant in his youth (it's still open), and now that he was retired, didn't want to sit around and do nothing, so he started buying bikes from flea markets and fixing them up for the neighborhood kids. His girlfriend (yes, his girlfriend!) had told him that she didn't get why he was always in the garage messing with bikes. He said, "You've got your bingo, but I don't like bingo, so I got my bikes."

God love him. What a great guy! All his adult bikes were priced between 40.00 and 65.00. Those are prices I can deal with.

I bought myself a bike from this man that won't get a lot of respect here (well, I understand why...it's heavy, unwieldy, and not at all a precision machine!): a 1970s red Brittany Free Spirit. It was the right size for me and the right price. There were better machines in there, for sure, but they just weren't the right size.

As I left, though, I saw a big tall young guy coming up the driveway to look at some bikes, so I bet he was able to find something good among all those tall-people bikes.

But every time I ride my Brittany Free Spirit, I think of that little old man, his garage full of bikes, and his pride in doing something beneficial in his retirement: fixing up the bikes for the people of his neighborhood. Ah! He was so nice!

Any stories about your classic or vintage bikes?

Last edited by PhDestroyer; 08-19-11 at 07:01 AM. Reason: spell check, ahhhghh.
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Old 08-19-11, 07:08 AM
is just a real cool dude
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Sometimes you just have to ask is how a lot of people on here found bikes.
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Old 08-19-11, 07:11 AM
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This is How I Find Vintage Bikes. And I find quite a few, often times paying less than the price of a small box of beer.
"98% of the bikes I buy are projects".
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Old 08-19-11, 07:33 AM
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I've got a few interesting stories that go along with some of my bikes.

My Marnati was custom built/painted for me and I picked it up in Milan, on our honeymoon. The fact that my wife would go with me to a bike store during our honeymoon says all there is to say about her. Anyway, I still owed 600 Euros on it and we had a crises paying for it. I suspected that paying Daniele with a CC would be problematic, so I tried using a few ATMs en route. None of them were accepting my card/password. We eventually decided we'd be better off on time meeting him and dealing with the payment problem there. As anticipated/feared, Daniele was not able to take a credit card. My wife had recently taken money out and had reached her daily limit for a few more hours.

Stefano, who ocassionally posts here and is a WONDERFUL person, showed up to help us fascilitate the purchase with Daniele. He took me, on the back of his scooter, through Milan to find a bank. Once again, I tried my card and it wouldn't work. The ATMs wouldn't even accept all eight digits of my password. I was about to give up and say we'll have to come back tomorrow or later today, but as a hail mary, I put in just the forst 4 numbers of my code. I felt like someone winning at the slots as my money request was processed! Taking it home on the plane was also interesting, as when it went through the x-ray machine, it looked like a series of pipe (bombs).

The story of my Merckx is, I think, interesting (and told else where):

I had just bought an SLX De Rosa and it had a fairly low end mish mosh of parts. Needless to say, that could not stand on a dream bike like this. I didn't really have the bike slush funds available for the expensive parts upgrades, so I posted a CL ad. I had a Kona Jake the Snake which I found myself riding less and less as my stable quality began to upgrade. I found myself enamored with the C and V more than the modern, and the JTS became expendable.

The ad was a hail mary pass...I offered the JTS, which was 2 years old in model year and had been ridden lightly for a season...for a bike with c-record. I never expected anything to materialize. Eventually I ended up buying parts from some forum folks and built the De Rosa up as a record-ergo bike. A few weeks passed, I'd forgotten about the ad...and I got an email. Would I be interested in trading for Steve Bauer's Eddy Merckx from the Motorola team?

It came equipped with a c-record-record ergo mix, including delta brakes (one De Rosa panto'd). It needed a LOT of work..the PO tried using Shimano cables in the ergo levers. Still...how could I not trade a JTS for Steve Bauer's bike? The more I learned the cooler it was. It's Reynolds 753, not the TSX claimed on the badge and the Merckx factory confirmed it was built for Bauer. It had been ridden for a few years (92 and 93...maybe 91) so it was clearly one of his favored bikes.

I was able to track SOME of its history. It was sold as a frame set through a store in the North West and had a decal from that shop on the chain styay. At some point it had been built up with Campy instead of Shimano (I far prefer the Campy, despite its not being the "correct" group). There is a gap in the history here but it next shows up in Philadelphia being ridden as a commuter to Temple University. I suspect the owner couldn't afford to fix things as they broke, and he made some errors in repairs he couldn't fix (like the shimano cables). He abandoned it. It remained locked outdoors at Temple for several months, and by some miracle no one stripped it! The Temple grounds manager is an avid cyclist and he brought the bike, which he planned on restoring, to the local police.

Months went by and no one claimed it...so ownership reverted to the Temple grounds manager. The manager then broke his commuter, a cross bike, and wanted another. Though he loved the Merckx, he needed something practical and saw my ad...the Merckx was found money to him and the rest is history. I had help from a LBS restoring it (mostly removing those cables) and I made an up grade or two and brought it around to my tastes.

The triplet has an interesting background as well - I was 12 and in a car with the family. We passed a tandem out on the curb, with the trash. I thought I counted three seats and my father said I must have miscounted. We argued and he eventually went back to settle the dispute. I was right, three seats. We looked at each other, nodded, and walked it home together as my mother cringed at the idea of this monstrosity filling the garage. We got it working together, cleaned it up a bit...found some parts from another person who converted his to a racing triplet and rode it around as a family until i left for college. It sat in the garage for 20some years afterwards...until my dad and I took it down to Philly last month. It's almost ready now and will soon ride again!
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Old 08-19-11, 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by PhDestroyer

...An old guy...took me back to his garage and in there were at least 20 bikes!...

.. Turns out the guy was 91 years old, he was always in the garage messing with bikes.

...All his adult bikes were priced between 40.00 and 65.00.

I bought myself a ... 1970s red Brittany Free Spirit.

But every time I ride my Brittany Free Spirit, I think of that little old man, his garage full of bikes, and his pride in doing something beneficial in his retirement: fixing up the bikes for the people of his neighborhood. Ah! He was so nice!

Any stories about your classic or vintage bikes?
I might be that guy...in a few decades. My garage is full of bikes; I like fixing them up and selling them cheap, whenever possible.

Most of my customers are women who are not interested in lightweight racing bikes. They like inexpensive, reliable, sturdy, attractive tourist-style bikes with upright seating position: the Schwinn Breezes, Collegiates, Sears Free Spirits.

And I have a dark red Brittany Free Spirit hanging in the garage, awaiting refurbishment.

My current daily rider is a Campus Green 1972 Schwinn Suburban that was given to me about eighteen years ago by a nice older neighbor lady, a widow my wife befriended.

The bike was her late husband's. She also gave my wife a 1980 Raleigh Sports that was her own bike.

But my classic and vintage bike habit was started three summers ago when I bought a Pinarello, a Raleigh, and a Bianchi for $1 each at our neighborhood yard sale.

I have told this story elsewhere in the C&V forum. These bikes led me to Bike Forums, and to Sheldon Brown, and the resulting research led me to respect the Schwinn far more than I had.

And this increased my interest such that I learned to repair and refurbish neglected vintage bikes that I find at yard sales, church rummage sales, and the curbside trash. I expect this will be my lifelong hobby.

Welcome to the forums, PhDestroyer, and congratulations on finding your bike!

P.S. We need to see pics of your bike, or it didn't happen.

Last edited by DavidW56; 08-19-11 at 08:33 AM.
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Old 08-19-11, 09:27 AM
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I had that same feeling at an estate sale. I didn't see any bikes, so I asked. There were two 50-year-old English 3-speeds, and I love those. I finally found my holy grail bike, a men's Rudge. I got the pair of bikes for $30. They needed work, but not terribly much. One day, I might put lightweight rims and tires on my Rudge.
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Old 08-19-11, 03:06 PM
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I lucked out.

I'd had a deal on a bike go very sour and was convinced this was going to be yet another bikeless summer.

I had decided it would be cool to see what's available used on my budget of very little. Vintage bikes appealed to me and there were a few advertised locally but they had been bought up. After about a week of looking, Sunday night I was checking the site and found a Raleigh Sports had just been posted for $75. I sent an email and by noon on Monday I had a call from the owner. I arranged to see it that evening and, with pretty much the money I had left for that week in my pocket, I arrived after work to see it.

The owner was great and had just come back from getting the tyres filled up for me to try it. I rode it, was sold on it, and done! I rode it to the train station from the owners place and took it back to my place. I had to catch a ride back to my car and then headed to the pub to celebrate my good find.

Even though it was advertised to be a '60s model and it turned out to be from 1980, I didn't really mind after some thought. I had a bike and a pretty cool one at that. And I think that ride to the train station through the river valley was probably the longest I've continuously smiled in ages.
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Old 08-19-11, 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by PhDestroyer
. . .

But every time I ride my Brittany Free Spirit, I think of that little old man, his garage full of bikes, and his pride in doing something beneficial in his retirement: fixing up the bikes for the people of his neighborhood. Ah! He was so nice!
Some nice Saturday morning, or so, ride your bike over to see him. Even 5 minutes to tell him how much you're enjoying the bike will make the man's day/week.

1959 Hilton Wrigley Connoisseur (my favorite!)
1963 Hetchins Mountain King
1971 Gitane Tour de France (original owner)
* 1971 Gitane Super Corsa (crashed)
* rebuilt as upright cruiser
1971 Gitane Super Corsa #2 (sweet replacement)
1980 Ritchey Road Touring (The Grail Bike)
1982 Tom Ritchey Everest
(replacing stolen 1981 TR Everest custom)
1982 Tom Ritchey McKinley (touring pickup truck)
1985 ALAN Record (Glued & Screwed. A gift.)
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