Thursday, June 16, 2011

Daisy the Secondhand Bike

Meet Daisy.

I found her around 2005. I'd been looking for a cruiser bike I could use for local errands, but was unwilling to spend the $80-$100 which seemed to be the minimum price for a new one, so I spent months cruising area thrift stores, looking for a bike to adopt. I wasn't having much luck, but I kept looking. I knew she was out there somewhere.

I don't usually get out to St. Vinnie's - a charity store that sits by itself on the outskirts of a neighboring town - but one day I happened to be driving past, and looked over at the motley assortment of kiddie bikes and battered department-store 10-speeds on display. In the midst of this unlovely pack stood a classic cruiser bike, so I pulled into the parking lot and walked over to check her out.

She was beautiful. Dirty, but beautiful. She had the original metallic blue paint, tattered streamers hanging from the handgrips, and a wonderfully tacky vinyl seat cover. (Sparkly blue vinyl, like the banquette upholstery from a 50's diner.) Her frame was straight, and her wheels in acceptable condition.

The other bikes were all priced at $5 - $10, but she had no tag. I went into the store and asked how much they wanted for her, holding my breath as the cashier consulted the manager. At last they turned to me and said, "How much would you give?"

I'll admit I was tempted to offer them $5. But that would have been stingy - St. Vinnie's is a worthy charity, after all - so I asked if they'd take $10. They were happy with that price, and so was I.

I wrestled her into the trunk and proudly brought her home, where Mr. M cleaned her up for me and did whatever bicycle-y things were necessary to get her into cruising form.

She got new tires and a basket, which cost more than she did. I cut off the streamers and decided not to replace them (I'm middle-aged, after all). I kept the tacky vinyl seat cover and gloried in its sparkly blueness until it eventually wore out. (The original saddle is still in pretty good condition, and I like the clean white silhouette, so for now I'll stick with it the way it is.)

Daisy is a model of cycling simplicity: one speed, which means no gears, and the brakes are the wonderful pedal-backwards kind.

She has seat suspension (of a sort):

And she's certified for safety standards:

As long as there's no ice or snow on the ground, Daisy is my transportation of choice to the grocery store, the post office, and anywhere else I need to go in the village. Every autumn I put her away with regret; every spring I wheel her out with delight.

I used to fantasize about meeting some famous Tour rider while riding Daisy through the grocery store parking lot.  "Nice bike," he'd say (and me not knowing whether he was being sarcastic or serious.)  "Thanks," I'd say.  "She'll never get me up the Alpe d'Huez, but she's great for around town." The famous cyclist would then be covered in confusion, and I'd invite him home to talk cycling with Mr. M. (Thus far my fantasy remains unfulfilled.)

Some years ago I looked up Daisy's serial number on the manufacturer's website. I was hoping to find out how old she is, but her number wasn't listed.

I like to think that means she's a special edition.

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  1. I'm putting My Lizard on the case to see if he can come up with at least a good guess at Daisy's age...

    Back in the day when all I had was a department store bike, denim shorts and T-shirts, all kinds of people used to tell me it was a very pretty bike. Then one day while I was riding a classic training ride with my little putter, a guy in real cycling clothing and on a very fancy bike slowed to tell me I had a beautiful bike. I was still single then, and my heart skipped a few beats. I thought maybe he was trying to tell me something! But then he said, "It belongs in a museum" before pedaling away so fast, he wouldn't have heard my comment if I'd had the air to utter one.

    Pikes Peak is closed to bicycles except for one day in August. They say guys on fixies pirate it at night after it closes. So maybe Daisy really could get you up the Alpe d'Huez. You'd just have to train at night on Pikes.

  2. I don't know - Daisy's pretty heavy. Fixies at Pikes Peak? I'd like to know what size gear they're using.


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