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Anyone go bike hunting among the homeless ?

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Anyone go bike hunting among the homeless ?

Old 08-07-12, 10:58 PM
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Anyone go bike hunting among the homeless ?

It bothers me somewhat to admit, but I find myself always checking out the bikes that homeless people ride. It may be because Salem has a high rate of homeless that are visible. I imagine that some are probably riding some pretty nice classic bikes that they have always owned, bought from a thriftstore, possibly stole, or were given to them and they don't know what they have.

Most are probably happy that they have a mode of transportation.

That brings me to a question of ethics. What would you do if you saw one of your holy grail bikes being ridden by someone in a worse situation than you? Do you ignore it and keep on going as that is their ride, offer them money for it (and if so how much...how much it is worth to a normal person or how much to a C&V enthusiast), offer to buy/trade them another bike that may work better (Hate Wal-Mart all you want, but even those bikes can be better than a C&V bike poorly maintained) or what?

It seems like this could be a goldmine in which both sides benefit if done properly. It's a fine line between keeping both parties very happy with a deal like this or just coming across as an insensitive jerk and possibly ripping someone off (even if not on purpose). I've never bought/traded a bike from a homeless guy before, but I'm sure there are some very sweet bikes I'd love to refurbish for my own needs that are only being ridden because that is the persons only option.

I think this touches on some ethical boundries that I'm not comfortable at approaching right now.

Sidenote, please keep in mind I'm a guy who volunteers quite a bit, donates blood, serves his country, etc. I'm not in the business of ripping anybody off.
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Old 08-07-12, 11:03 PM
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Old 08-07-12, 11:06 PM
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I met a very poor fellow riding an old Alan. The bike was in decrepit condition. I was not tempted.
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Old 08-08-12, 12:15 AM
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They ride them more than I would. Bikes should be ridden.
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Old 08-08-12, 12:28 AM
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The only issue here is that deliberately treating people differently based on their apparent wealth/lack of wealth seems morally questionable.
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Old 08-08-12, 12:39 AM
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I think the OP is considering treating them differently based on the potential to benefit from a transaction where the seller is desperate and is inadvertently taken advantage of. Being considerate is not morally questionable.
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Old 08-08-12, 12:43 AM
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Originally Posted by lasauge
The only issue here is that deliberately treating people differently based on their apparent wealth/lack of wealth seems morally questionable.
Yeah, I see that. Just treat everyone the same and it's not a problem.

I HAVE bought a bike from a homeless man, my Lotus America. It was a real low-end wreck. He had been riding it on the bare steel rims, no saddle and in the highest gear. The components were trashed, but I liked the frame.

I asked him two questions:
Would you sell your bicycle? he said yes
How much would you like for it? he said 10 dollars.

I paid him what he asked and never though twice about it.
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Old 08-08-12, 02:24 AM
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I don't see anything wrong with giving them a fair price for what they've got, and if you happen to have a spare junker bike you could give them as part of the deal so they can get around, that would be ideal though not necessary. I don't think it would be right to take advantage of something like them needing food and willing to sell their bike for dirt cheap to get a bite to eat. If someone takes advantage of someone else like that then they're flat out a sack of **** and I hope they get hit by a car on the maiden voyage of their new ill-gotten bike.
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Old 08-08-12, 02:31 AM
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Originally Posted by 3speed
I don't see anything wrong with giving them a fair price for what they've got, and if you happen to have a spare junker bike you could give them as part of the deal so they can get around, that would be ideal though not necessary. I don't think it would be right to take advantage of something like them needing food and willing to sell their bike for dirt cheap to get a bite to eat. If someone takes advantage of someone else like that then they're flat out a sack of **** and I hope they get hit by a car on the maiden voyage of their new ill-gotten bike.
Believe me....10 dollars was top dollar for that bike. I've got a picture of how it looked, i'll post it in a little bit. I definitely don't feel like I ripped him off and that was never my goal.
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Old 08-08-12, 02:45 AM
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^ I was totally not talking about you and sorry if it came off that way. As you described it, I would agree that you probably gave a fair price. It's not some super high end frame, and with steel wheels and everything on the bike being trashed, you basically bought a haggard project bike. $10 is about what you can find those for on a fairly regular basis.

If I had seen a homeless person riding around on my Miyata 914 with nice-ish paint and Dura-Ace and got it from them for $10, I'd deserve to have my legs broken. I just think a person is a crappy person if they don't give at least a decently fair price. Not saying top dollar on ebay price or anything like that. Chances are a bike from a homeless person is going to need work anyway. I'm just saying that if you feel like you're taking advantage of someone, you're probably being a ****ty person.
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Old 08-08-12, 02:52 AM
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I figured you weren't talking about my post... but I wasn't sure. You're right though, it's low to intentionally rip someone off, homeless or wealthy.
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Old 08-08-12, 03:47 AM
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I ride my old bikes a lot to work or to local towns for business. I am a welder and my clothing is often tattered and soiled. I had stopped in front of a store to get some water and a nice couple pulled up to the curb and offered to give me 1/2 a pizza. I didn't really know what to say so "thanks!" was what I said and I sat and enjoyed their good will!

I wasn't sure if they thought I was homeless/beat down or they were cyclists and figured I might be hungry.

You just never know..


However if you see me and want to make an offer on my Peugeot U0-8, keep in mind those are G1 Phil hubs and brand new Conti tubulars on there.

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Old 08-08-12, 04:23 AM
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Originally Posted by ftwelder
I ride my old bikes a lot to work or to local towns for business. I am a welder and my clothing is often tattered and soiled. I had stopped in front of a store to get some water and a nice couple pulled up to the curb and offered to give me 1/2 a pizza. I didn't really know what to say so "thanks!" was what I said and I sat and enjoyed their good will!

I wasn't sure if they thought I was homeless/beat down or they were cyclists and figured I might be hungry.

You just never know..


However if you see me and want to make an offer on my Peugeot U0-8, keep in mind those are G1 Phil hubs and brand new Conti tubulars on there.
I had the same thing happen to me about once a month when I was tugboating. Big guy, outdoor tan, scruffy beard, buzzcut, filthy clothes, backpack... all the tropes were there. I really couldn't blame people for makimg the mistake, I always smiled and said "No thanks." I did kind of blow my stack at that one guy who offered me a sandwich and some free counselling for my addiction, though. Motherfather, I got nine hundred bucks in my pocker and if I didn't have to get to work, I'd teach you some manners.....

I agree that it's a fine line. One thing to bear in mind is that bicycles are one form of currency among the underclass, and that classic is very probably stolen.
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Old 08-08-12, 05:02 AM
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I have collected abandonded or donated bikes and repaired them to give to homeless people for about 25 years and is several cases those bikes could have brought $500 or more on the open market. One in particular was an early '80s Colonago with a full Nuevo Record group that we rattle canned just to disguise it to keep thieves from knowing what it was. To me (and to most homeless people) the real value of their bikes is the transportation value, but some of it is actually pride of ownership as well. Yes they may sell you their bike so they can eat or satify their addiction in one moment, but my guess is that they will often suffer from buyers remorse later on.

I have no interest in "farming" C&Vs from disadvantaged people unless I can offer them a more suitable trade in exchange. But thats just me......
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Old 08-08-12, 05:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Stealthammer
One in particular was an early '80s Colonago with a full Nuevo Record group that we rattle canned..
With piles of sturdy ho-hum bikes out there waiting to get repaired and given away to get abused and thrown away, this seems amazingly silly. A racing bike and a transportation bikes have very different prerequisites anyways.

I'll tell you what, if I see the guy with a milk crate strapped to his Moltini Merckx ride by with a cigarette butt hanging out of his mouth again, i won't stand there like a deer in the headlights this time. We both will have new bikes.
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Old 08-08-12, 05:38 AM
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I have collected abandonded or donated bikes and repaired them to give to homeless people for about 25 years and is several cases those bikes could have brought $500 or more on the open market.
Whilst I 100% admire your selfless actions, I can't help thinking that the lucky fella might've preferred a serviceable $10 bike and $490 to spend on more pressing needs.
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Old 08-08-12, 05:53 AM
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The state should care more about the homeless. In most cases it's impractical for them to have race bike. A cargo bike would be much better. That would make their life easier.

Give the poor a quick start. Better for them and cheaper for the state. Give them cargo bikes with sleeping shelters and trade it for their current bikes.

Example of excellent cargo bikes:
https://www.larryvsharry.com/english/
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Old 08-08-12, 05:57 AM
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Here is the one that I bought. Keep in mind, he was actually riding it exactly as it is in this picture. The rear rim had nothing covering it. He must have been seriously strong.


1 by mkeller234, on Flickr
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Old 08-08-12, 05:57 AM
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Why not set up bike shops and employ homeless people and let them work for other homless. They manufacture their own designs of cargo bikes and work from that. Any way out from the street life seems more attractive.
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Old 08-08-12, 06:10 AM
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Originally Posted by ericbaker
With piles of sturdy ho-hum bikes out there waiting to get repaired and given away to get abused and thrown away, this seems amazingly silly. A racing bike and a transportation bikes have very different prerequisites anyways.

I'll tell you what, if I see the guy with a milk crate strapped to his Moltini Merckx ride by with a cigarette butt hanging out of his mouth again, i won't stand there like a deer in the headlights this time. We both will have new bikes.
Originally Posted by Nerdy Norm
Whilst I 100% admire your selfless actions, I can't help thinking that the lucky fella might've preferred a serviceable $10 bike and $490 to spend on more pressing needs.

The guy I built this bike for had been homeless for 18 years after an accident while working for the railroad had left him with head injuries that made him appear to be schizophrenic or mentally diffident so he swept up the gutters around the village and swept out mechants stores for food. He slept behind dumpsters and used cardboard as blankets, and he lived in an upper-middle class suburb that only tolerated him due to their liberal leanings. But in 18 years no one had reached out to learn who he was or about his past, or to find out that his sister lived 20 miles away but knew nothing about where he was or how he was living.

When I and a friend took the time to get to know him we realized that for 18 years he had been eligible for full disability from the railroad and Social Security but he didn't understand what that meant so he lived on the streets. Once we were able to get him into the system and he began receiving checks, we helped him to find an apartment and replaced his old Trek 720 (that I also built for him years earlier) with the Colnago to help him transition into his new life. He valued that Colnago as most Porsche or Ferrari owners value their cars for the next five years until he died. The bike then passed to his sister"s teenaged son in memory of his uncle.

To be honest with you, there was no better place in this world for that bike to have landed and there is no one one earth that would have cherished it more.

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Old 08-08-12, 06:17 AM
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Nice story, makes sense.
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Old 08-08-12, 12:23 PM
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I have 3 or 4 times....

Pawn shop: A person of lesser means was trying to sell a Trek IGH bike and wasn't happy with the pawn stores offer. I waited for him to come out and asked how much they offered. I upped the pawn stores offer by $20 and he accepted. I flipped it on CL for a nice $200 profit the next day.

7-11: Dude rolls up on mint Miyata 721a. I ask if he wants to sell it and says 'how you give me for it?" He declined my offer for $100. we got to talking and it turns out he got the for free from the 'bikes for less fortunate' venture. i volunteer there on occasion.

Fleamarket: I see this monster 73cm Colian and inquire, vendor tells me he's watching it for a guy. I wait around for the owner to get back and ask him if he wants to sell. he says 'no' and I give him my number. A week later he calls and we work out a deal. I gave him $XYZ and had to drive him to abuot 5 pawn stores so he could buy a new bike. He walked with $YXZ and new pawn store bike.


I dont see it as taking advantage of the homeless or less fortunate. In the big picture they need money and transportation so it can can be viewed as helping them. From a transportation perspective they dont care what it is as long as it gets them from point A to B. If I buy bike X for whatever $ they now have cash which keeps the electricuty on, puts food in the baby's mouth or whatever. It's their decision to say yes or no based their specific needs.
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Old 08-08-12, 12:38 PM
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I was going to post a long, well thought out reply...but this thread is destined to be cantankerous and bitter. It's an interesting question with lots of shades of grey.
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Old 08-08-12, 12:42 PM
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thread title made me laugh
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Old 08-08-12, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Stealthammer
I have collected abandonded or donated bikes and repaired them to give to homeless people for about 25 years and is several cases those bikes could have brought $500 or more on the open market. One in particular was an early '80s Colonago with a full Nuevo Record group that we rattle canned just to disguise it to keep thieves from knowing what it was. To me (and to most homeless people) the real value of their bikes is the transportation value, but some of it is actually pride of ownership as well. Yes they may sell you their bike so they can eat or satify their addiction in one moment, but my guess is that they will often suffer from buyers remorse later on.

I have no interest in "farming" C&Vs from disadvantaged people unless I can offer them a more suitable trade in exchange. But thats just me......
Is this as an individual or as part of a group? It's extremely interesting regardless.
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