CC Issue 25 / Reflections

Observations on a Year in Possession of my Tragic Flaw

Last summer I bought a new, old bike a little bit on a whim. But hey it only cost me $50 at “The Bike Dump” so what’s the big deal right? After a year on this bike I’ve come to a period of contemplation Re its value/usefulness.

My bike is really cool. It was made in Quebec and it says CCM on it, which means it was built before CCM was bought by Nike and in a time before it was discovered you could pay Vietnamese kids three times what they were making on their dads’ fishing boats to assemble them (the bikes) for ten times less than what you’d have to pay Canadians. But anyways so the bike is cool because it says CCM and Made in Quebec, and also because of its curled handlebars and vintage light blue hue and its throwback rat-trap and various stickers.

As I mentioned it was $50 at “The Bike Dump”, “The Bike Dump” being maybe one of the top 10 hippest inner-city locales in Winnipeg, generally speaking. It’s a co-op run somewhat mysteriously by volunteers who fix your bike for you or give you parts or whatever – basically for free (‘basically’ because the policy kind of differs depending on who you talk to, so I’ve heard). So people donate their old frames or parts and the volunteers assemble the refurbs and sell them super cheap. It’s located on North Main Street, which in Winnipeg doesn’t look like this but more often than not like this , and reached only through the back alley/parking lot, giving it a ‘we’re doing good things for the neighborhood’ kind of vibe while maintaining the ‘super gritty, urban’ vibe, which, don’t get me wrong, are both things I like.

Seen as a kind of intersection between hipster and enviro-hippie subcultures, its general consensus is of the really cool among those who know of it.

So but apart from its coolness the bike I got there sucks on a few levels, is the thing. It’s heavy, it’s old, and there seems to be a minor, crucial fault in every part on it. So far I’ve had to replace the derailer, re-tighten the brakes 4 times (which means that I really just need new brakes), file down 14 protruding spoke ends (only after replacing my front tube nay not twice but thrice in two weeks), and replace the gears. Yet to restore are a compendium of minor, crucial things.

Why am I complaining about this on the internet? While besides being the completely appropriate venue to do so thank you very much, I have a developing theory. It is actually with growing conviction that I espouse the notion that I’ve actually repurchased my old black 10-speed, which I forsook a year ago to this week. I remember why I decided I needed a new bike. It was because the Cycle Master or whatever at Bikes and Beyond told me that my ride was worth about as much as the new tubes I was buying from her. I laughed it off, of course, hey what is a bike snob if they aren’t honest right? But I’m pretty sure that was the moment. It’s not like there was anything really wrong with the black bike. More like a bug I caught from the Cycle Master which infected me, tricked me into thinking I needed something different, nicer, newer, whatever, than my functioning cycle.

And then I realize in a true ‘flash’ of revelation: by these same means did I procure the black 10-speed. By this same chicanery was I coerced into accepting the (okay, admittedly free) 10-speed from my neighbor as a boy: “Bryn, you gotta be riding something better than that piece of junk!” But I had loved that ride – mountain bike with cage pedals, white with red and green stripes, rusted with the same honor as she was painted, discarded like a carton of gross Chilean milk left out in the sweltry sun to curdle. I took the 10-speed and never looked back.

It’s rare that you notice something destructive you’ve been doing your whole life before it’s too late. It’s rare you’re given the chance to correct it. I’ve been unwittingly throwing out shitty bikes and buying those of equally shitty value, in some bizarre hope that the former will not possess the latter with its cheap reincarnate curse. Has this practice been too thoroughly inflicted on me, too enmeshed in the fabric of my wishful heart and my skinny jeans, born of my capitalist desire for new things via the protestant work ethic, fueled by my love of culture and trend, and maintained by my Mennonite desire to not spend more than $50 on anything, again via the protestant work ethic (little joke for the religio-sociologists out there…oh, none, I see, okay)? I guess I’ll just have to look to the next year for some kind of answer.

Maybe I should switch to garage sales.

One thought on “Observations on a Year in Possession of my Tragic Flaw

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