Friday, July 25, 2014

Waiting for "Someday"

In the roughly eight months that I have been in the world of bicycles, I have already come across countless stories of bicycles languishing in garages for years, sometimes decades before hitting the road again.  Many of the blogs from which I acquired information on my bike had reader-submitted stories and running comment threads that contained posts like "My parents gave me this old 3-speed they had in the back of the garage for twenty years ..." or "I just got an old Raleigh for $20 that had been rotting away in a guy's shed." While I am aware this happens not just to bikes, but to many different kinds of vehicles, I was slightly bothered by the fact that people can essentially forget about their bikes, leaving them locked outside at college for eternity or letting them gather dust in garages.  I mean, bikes aren't that small and they aren't cheap so in my eyes, it didn't make sense that people could just let them fall by the wayside like that.  Garages aren't usually that big either, so how could someone just forget?

That was until I realized this exact thing was happening at my own house.

Besides my department-store mountain bike that sees a lot of miles when I'm at home, none of the bikes in my parents' garage really move more than a few inches any given month.  Dad keeps saying that he will ride his bike.


So, yup.  This is what it looks like at home.  Sitting dormant are my sister's yellow 24-inch-wheel Magna Excitor that used to be mine, my dad's 26 inch Excitor, my 20 inch Magna from way back in the day, my first bike which was a used 16 inch Pinnacle BMX, and my first set of wheels, a tricycle.  Here in the suburbs, most things like school and work aren't close enough to home to bike to and from on a daily basis.  At the same time, school wasn't far enough away to warm up my car's engine before arriving which wasn't good.  There are barely any nice, long bike routes, except maybe Hines Drive which itself is a few miles away.  There aren't any good places to go that are close enough for the other family members to want to ride.  Those are just a few reasons why the bikes aren't ridden.


The 24 and 26 inch Magna Excitors (my goodness that's such an annoying name) are cheap store-bought bikes.  Dad's bike probably hasn't been ridden in at least four years although I think I have filled his tires since then. Aside from a layer of dust, the bike is in like-new condition.  My dad did let his friend ride his bike to Ann Arbor twice, a 40+ mile round trip, but besides that, it hasn't seen the road much.  There was a period of time when I was riding the yellow bike that my dad and I would ride together a couple miles every week or two when the weather was nice.  That's about it.  I kept teasing my dad about when he'd get on his bike again and he just said "I will, okay? Someday."


My dad's was assembled well, but it took us maybe four tries (four different Target stores) to get a yellow one that worked sort of okay.  I rode this bike from maybe 5th to 7th grade and it was such a piece of junk.  The rear brake was never of any use and I had to keep tweaking the front brakes to find the sweet spot between "useless" and "screaming."  The front wheel is untrue and the gears didn't shift well.  The only good things about this bike were that it didn't fall apart and the soft suspension was nice for neighborhood cruising. To be honest, I actually thought this was a decent bike up until I got my '58 Raleigh 3-speed.  I do appreciate what my parents bought for me.  I put probably less than 100 miles on it total before I outgrew it, then I gave it to my sister and she reluctantly rode it every once in a while.  I aired up the tires and tuned up the brakes a month ago but she still hasn't ridden it in maybe two years.  Ten years old and it still hasn't been broken in.

I outgrew my two tiny bikes 8+ years ago but I think they still get pedaled around more than either of the two bigger bikes.  I feel bad for letting my vehicles and other things sit unused so maybe once or twice a year, I'll take out the tiny 20 and 16 inch bikes, fill up the tires, and yes ... I'll ride them around the driveway.   Actually, it's not as much guilt from letting them sit as it is just simply riding something different and feeling nostalgic.  I almost miss having a coaster brake.


My first ride, as well as my sister's, was the red tricycle.  Still in good shape, I took it out today to tighten the front fork.  I no longer try to ride it because I don't want to bend any parts.  I used to do front-wheel burnouts on this thing around maybe 5th grade and I just now found out that the front fork ends are plastic and have stood up to my abuse.  


I still remember the day my parents bought the 16 inch Pinnacle bike.  We walked across the street to a garage sale and the guy put it together for us on the spot, and then I rode it home with either mom or dad holding the seat.  We also got a pair of training wheels that never spun very well and one day, one wheel snapped off from the hole being reamed out too big.  Minutes after, the other wheel broke off and that's how I learned to ride with no training wheels (Similarly, fast forward 10 years.  Dad set me loose in a full parking lot to learn how to park and he promptly fell asleep in the passenger's seat.  Best lesson he has ever given me).  I took this out to ride a month ago but when I took it out a second time, the rear tire was flat. So sad.  I hope my parents will hold onto this long enough for me to give it to my own kids someday.  Hmm, I thought I had a picture of the 20 inch bike but I guess I'll get to that later.


The real reason why I took all of the bikes out today was to see if I could steal a few parts for my '58 Raleigh project, namely a rear reflector mount.  I ended up taking that from the 20 inch bike.  I was thinking of taking the rubber block brake pads as well but found out that they've hardened and are not better than the Kool-stops I have. Right before I started working on the Raleigh, I also snatched the quick-release seat post screw from the same bike.  I'm considering just using the saddle from the 20 inch bike for my Raleigh once the Schwinn spring saddle falls apart because it fits and feels okay.  So many usable parts! Shown in the picture above is a sort of "derailleur guard" attached to my mountain bike.  I just took it from my sister's yellow bike since she never rides it and I've just started exploring the miles of mountain bike trails near Hines Drive and downtown Northville.  I'm a little paranoid about snagging the plastic derailleur on something.  Amazingly, the shabby yellow bike has a metal derailleur.


This is what I call my mountain bike, the only big bike at home that has any real mileage.  It's also the only bike that has any rust (just on the bolts) and *gasp* scratches in the paint.  To be clear, my old Raleigh from college isn't being included in this bunch because it technically doesn't, or at least shouldn't live at home.  Anyway, this isn't an actual mountain bike.  Like the Magnas, this was a store-grade bike with the Mongoose name.  I heard bikes of this sort tend to break if actually used as a mountain bike because the shocks and other parts aren't that strong.  Dad originally bought this bike for my mom in 2006 but one or two years later, they gave it to me because mom never touched it and it rode so nicely compared to the yellow bike.  I rode this around often and even did a lot of brake and transmission work years ago, learning a little something about bikes.  The little plastic rings that hold the brake springs to the frame wore down and warranted constant adjustment but somewhere down the road, the brakes became okay again so I must have done something right.  I put 175 miles on this bike one summer solely by riding it home from summer school, not including the numerous times I went out just to ride.  It served as my main form of transportation before I started driving.  I was such a speed demon that I had to replace the rear tire last summer after it wore thin and started peeling.  I have to say that this bike has served me pretty well over the years.

Upon finishing my spring semester at college, I brought the '58 Raleigh home to be restored and no longer had the chance to ride 10+ miles a day between class and the parking lot. After taking the Raleigh apart, I started riding the mountain bike again.  Funny as this sounds, I became spoiled by a bike 50 years older. Because of the trail gearing, this bike now feels too slow for me compared to the Raleigh even though it has 7 times more gear ratios.  As mentioned in a previous post, I usually go as fast as I can on my bikes by habit and I still do it because the low top speed is a bit frustrating.  I average 10-15 miles a day going flat-out on this bike either on Hines Drive, heading downtown, or exploring the off road trails in the forest.  It's funny: I had just finished the Ann Arbor bike trip and told my friends how much I wanted a road bike when it was suggested that I get a mountain bike.  I replied saying that my current one would serve my purposes for now because the most "off-road" I typically go is on the grass.  The following day, on an unrelated note, they introduced me to the forest trails and I was suddenly interested.  Figures, right? I still don't push this too hard on the trails mainly because I've had bad experiences with losing traction on loose surfaces.  I guess that ensures it won't break so soon.  It's still a lot of fun, though.

P.S. The front suspension fork on the Mongoose is sort of loose now.  When I apply the brakes and move the bike back and forth, the suspension joints have a lot more play than those of the Magnas.  Should I be concerned?