Ed. Note: Mountain Bike Trailer Park is a regular column written by Uncle Dan that appears monthly on the Dirt Rag Interwebs. If you missed his previous columns, check them out here.
Well, I sold my bar bike, affectionately named the Shitbike. The Shitbike had gone through many changes over time, ultimately shedding parts as they wore out or broke, until is was a rattle-can singlespeed, held together by stickers and hope. But, I had lost interest in it and it had been hanging in the garage collecting dust for a while, so it was time to go.
Still, it was always there for me when I needed it. My only bike with flat pedals, it was the one I’d hop on whenever I wanted a quick run to the convenience store, a spin to the bike shop, or a night of locking it outside of bars.
Everyone needs a bar bike, right?
But there’s more to it than just having a bar bike. Here’s the thing; I have a few fancy bikes. And they mostly annoy me.
Indeed, I was a little sick this weekend when I noticed that, after only a couple rides, my new carbon fiber mountain bike was showing cable rub that had already worked through the top of the finish.
It reminded me of the brief period when I owned a Mercedes. It was shortly after graduating law school. I would drive to various county courts in my crappy minivan, and I always felt (stupidly) self-conscious, steeping out of the crappy van in my pinstriped suit and shiny shoes to go to court.
So, I bought a Mercedes. And I hated it.
Don’t get me wrong. It was a fun car. Supercharged, six-speed manual, quiet as a coffin inside. Man, that thing was fast.
But every time I drove it somewhere, I would park far away in the lot, so it wouldn’t get dinged by careless parkers. I wouldn’t put a bike rack on it. And I would never drive it up a gravel driveway.
And the repairs—forget about it! $50 for an oil filter? Really?
Ultimately, the car was more hassle that it was worth. And perhaps I got a little more mature, but I realized it didn’t make me a better lawyer or a cooler person. Nope. Still the same old dick, just in a shinier wrapper.
So, I got rid of it after maybe a year. My next car? An 18-year old Jeep Cherokee. The AC doesn’t work, half the windows don’t go down, it rattles like a tractor, and smells vaguely of dog (I don’t own a dog).
I’ve had the Jeep for five or six years now. It probably has new scratches and rust. I don’t know. Don’t care.
That’s kind of how it is with my bikes. I love how fast and smooth my race bike is. It’s light, sexy, and has all the bells and whistles. Full squish, blingy drivetrain, carbon fiber frame and bits, hydraulic brakes that stop you NOW, and internal cable routing. It’s a Mercedes.
And I kind of hate it. I hate that servicing the bike is complicated. I hate that a new derailleur will run me $200. I hate worrying about chips and scratches when I crash. I hate that it will become obsolete in roughly six weeks.
Does it make me faster? Maybe. Maybe it’s the placebo effect. Maybe it just makes me feel like I fit in when I roll up to a race. Maybe I’m unconsciously hoping that I can solve my lack of technical skills with money. Maybe I have succumbed to the marketing hype and the crush of media around new bike stuff. I don’t know. I don’t really want to open that can of worms.
What I do know is that the lack of a beater bike left a hole in my heart.
So, I filled that hole with a new bike, which I have dubbed “The Albatross.” The reference is to Coleridge’s epic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, wherein the lead character and his crewmates must pay for his arbitrary killing of an albatross.
Like killing an albatross, this bike is a crime against nature.
It started life as an 80’s-something Peugeot mountain bike. It has a crazy long wheelbase, a foot-long headtube, and a raked-out fork.
Somewhere along the way, somebody made it a singlespeed. It found its way to me through my friend Keith, who loves fixing up old bikes to a Rivendell-esque state of rideability. He does it on the cheap and sells the bikes cheap. He just digs bike transportation and likes keeping these bikes in rotation. Every community needs a Keith.
Anyway, this one had been set up with drop bars, good cantilever brakes and levers, and road tires. And Keith sold it to me for the paltry sum of $125. Score!
I love the paint scheme on Peugeots of this vintage. I had been on the lookout for a while, so I was thrilled when he posted it for sale. I was a little cash-strapped at the time, so I sold off the bits in my spare parts bin to raise the funds.
After a couple months, I put a front rack and basket on it. A $10 army surplus sleeping bag sack fit perfectly in the basket and strapped around the bars like it was made to be there.
I slapped on some flat pedals (gasp!), some stickers, and the build was complete, out the door for less than $200. (Again, the cost of the rear derailleur on my race bike).
I am way happier with this build than I should be. Or maybe I should be? This bike takes me to fun places. I go bar hopping or out to eat with my family on it. I make early morning milk-and-bread runs in it. It can carry an entire sunny-day picnic or my work clothes and lunch.
It’s super comfy. And there’s no need to get all fussy for a ride. I don’t have to change shoes. I don’t wear a chamois or Lycra (I usually don’t even wear a helmet). I just hop on and go.
And I don’t worry about it when I lock it up outside. It’s so chipped and beat up already. Plus, I only have $200 in it.
People love the bike—I get way more compliments on this bike than my race bike.
So, maybe I should love it. Doesn’t matter, I do anyway.
Be brave and commit a crime against nature.