Friday, March 13, 2009

I think I bought a bike...

I love my mountain bike. It`s a Kona Kilauea and was the Bike of the Year when I bought it. I used it for racing for years and have not only kept it maintained, but flourished expensive upgrades on it. And in addition to being expensive, every part of the bike shares an important racing-bike property; they can all be quick-released from the bike in a second. The wheels, the suspension fork, the seat and post, the lights, computer, titanium bits... it is impossible to lock securely. And so here in the bike theft capital of the world, I don`t ride my bike much.

I have often explained to people that bikes aren`t purchased in Amsterdam, they are meerly rented for a limited period. Collectively we share a pool of bikes that slowly rotate owners through a dance usually performed in the wee hours of the morning.

And last night I got approached for a bike. But in a slightly different way that makes it all seem more legitimate than normal. I met a man I`ll call a bike-repair entrepreneur. He was riding his own bike down the street when he suddenly stopped, jumped off, and picked up another bike from the side of the road. Then he grabbed a lock off his bike and started to chain up the bike he`d just picked up.

I was walking past at the time and had to stop with curiousity. He explained he repairs abandonded bikes and sells them again. Abandonded? He pointed out the huge bend in the back wheel. It had been run over by a car, apparently. And instead of locked with the other bikes in the rack, it had been left unlocked and laying along the side of the road.

Some time today Bertus (the bike repairer) will return to that spot, unlock the bike, and he will walk it home. In the coming days it will get a new rear wheel, a few little fixes, and then one more city bike will be back in service. In my service!

In Dutch it`s called an omafiets, which means grandma-bicycle. No gears, no hand brakes, wide handlebars and an upright position; I`m going to feel so Dutch going through town. I can`t wait!

Perhaps I should send a message to Bertus, just to make sure he doesn`t forget, I`ve got first dibs on the new omafiets.

1 comment:

Doug said...

I had a bike like that in Atlanta and called it my "granny bike." It was grand at a time when I lived four miles from campus where I went to school and work was three miles from home and school. $20 for a bike instead of $35/month for a public transit pass. Great deal for a time when I was generally broke and in good shape. Nowadays I'm looking for a $20 wheelchair to get from my kitchen to the car. Footmen are pricey on a monthly basis.