Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Christmas Spirit

December 27th, 2008

It was a little after noon time this Christmas Day as my wife and I were walking our dog I saw a very cool thing. A young girl, perhaps about 9 or 10, was riding a bike. It looked very new so I just had to ask, and yes it was a Christmas present! When she answered her face lit up as a child’s face should on Christmas Day. Her Mom running along behind her said with a laugh,”She had to get out and put a few miles on it!”

Now being a stream of consciousness sorta guy, I had immediately had several runs of thought. The only “new” bike I got was when I was about 9 or 10 also. It was to replace the early 1950’s Balloon Tire Columbia I had been riding and had to grow in to. Even though my Columbia out weighed me by about double, and I nearly always finished last in any race, I liked it. Mostly because it never ever broke, the chain stayed on, tubes held air, etc.

My first real new bike was a three speed Columbia with a new fangled twist grip 3 speed shifter (See photo for a close example. Mine was red). Although not exactly what I would have picked out, I was very excited to get this bike, thanks Mom & Dad. However, it lasted about 2 years before the twist shifter broke. Because it was stuck in 3rd gear I had my first “single speed”. It was just easier to just cut the shifter wire off, repairs and parts were too expensive. A year or so later I ended up stripping the fenders off and it was closer to a road bike look that I had only seen in pictures. But that bike served me to delivering the Boston Globe 6 days a week to about 50 homes in my neighborhood. I think I made about $2.00 per week.

It was a couple of years later that I had my first job, dish washer at a local fried fish restaurant. So I got to earn minimum wage, at that time was $1.30 per hour, for washing hundreds of dishes, pots pans etc. all by hand. I worked about 10 or hours per week, so it wasn’t long before I was able to purchase MY very own first bike, a Mercier. Back in the day it was one of the finest bicycles matched only by Peugeots and other European makers. Boy did I feel on top of the world!

So this past Thursday I had suddenly remembered the great excitement of those long ago Christmas and early spring days. All brought back for a quick minute by a young girl all but squealing with excitement as she put her first miles on her new bike! Who said that the Christmas Spirit was lost?

There are many things we remember, but is there anything as exciting as a new bicycle waiting to take us wherever we want to go? And especially as a child it seemed that the world was open to our travels. I rode that Mercier for the better part of 5- 6 years before I was able to buy my own car. And to put on hundreds of miles per week was normal.

Later in life I rode a motorcycle on many a cross country trip for many years and I have to say nothing can match that except, yep a bicycle. Why you may ask? Because even on a motorcycle you miss things, like the smile of child on her first ride on her new bicycle.

Ride more. See more!

We were kids who grew up in a time and place that there were very few “rich” kids. And of those that were really rich, very few acted like they were. The fact is we are products of parents that grew up and lived through the Great Depression and came of age during WWII had cast us in a likeness of them as best they could. We were told to “make do with what you have” and “make your own fun” and “go outside and play.” Yeah, Yeah, you heard it all and that we walked to school up hill, in the snow, both ways. We are “Boomers”. OH my, we have a label…

So what does this have to do with us and bicycles? First, we did make do with what we had, or if we wanted something we got a job, paper route, mowed lawns etc. and bought it ourselves. Because, as a matter of fact, most parents in those days thought it wise to teach their children about money through the use of practical lessons. You earn it, save it, and then you will understand the value of it when you spend it. When something broke, you fixed or it sat there and maybe it got thrown out if you didn’t. And when you worked the better part of a whole summer, at minimum wage, to save say $100, you just didn’t go buy the next best version of a something because v. 2.1 was newer and had cool new colors. So we have had our hands on bicycles for many years, learning something new almost every time.

Ok, so now we leap forward a few years to 2008. With all the headlines today, 2 wars, the economy, huge wild swings of oil prices, etc. reviving the old ways of making due with what you have, etc. just might be a great “new” way to live. Now mind you we have seen Nouveaux Rich spend like a CEO of a Big Three Auto Maker on a Junket to Washington DC during those Dot Com days. I am not advocating any life style over another, but the great throw away society we have evolved into, has got to slow down or else there will be nothing left to throw away and no where to throw it. Just because it’s not in your back yard doesn’t mean it’s not in a back yard someplace else.

With all that could happen in our immediate future, not even to mention Global Warming, it has now become a very good thing to use a bicycle. And it is all the better if you can find one that has been around the block a few times before. We think it is very cool to find and rehab something that has a history, a story of moving people around perhaps over the very same streets some 20, 30, 40, even 50 years ago. To be perfectly clear, we like and deal with not so old bicycles, too. Newer bicycles have the advantage of newer technology and are great rides also! They have a place, and we carry some old school road bikes up though some fairly new rides. With us it just preferences, like one might have with food, drink, the opposite sex or say… bicycles. It is all good, just some are better than others, according to preference.

But to preserve something as if we were caretakers or guardians of a lifestyle, or place, or thing, in my opinion, is more than the right thing to do. It’s noble, in a way like helping an elder across the street, a lost child find mom, picking up a piece of trash off the street. If you think about the use of bicycles, especially in an urban setting, it is just so right. Bicycles are all that and more. Even if the parts are all used up there still is a frame, a skeleton to base a new ride on. Not just to produce a cool single, fixed, or whatever. But just how about just paying it forward?

Why do we do it, well I joked that “…you can only surf and drink so much beer…” well ok, maybe not. The truth is this bike stuff is great fun. Fun to help out with all that is above, and turn a wrench, get hands dirty, meet literally hundreds of like minded folks every month from all parts of the human constellation. The learning goes on.

We, Vin of ( ) fame and I (Shawsheen) have had a great first year in our Cambridge retail shop. You have made it what it is. A small funky place, right off the Green Line T Stop, where you can find a good used bicycle, vintage or not, from about $80 to $250. Are the bikes all perfect in terms of paint, decals and finish? Nope, but I can tell you this. The bikes are all realiable commuters, just like the people who come in here to buy them. And that is the absolute truth.