When I first moved to Ottawa, I had a policy of only owning bicycles that people gave me free when they didn't want them any more. This saved me money, not just on the bicycles, but on the locks. I never worried about anyone stealing rusty, lime green or pink women's bikes.
Another feature of the free bikes was that it took more work to ride them and thus I got more exercise from using them.
Eventually, I began to see that there were disadvantages to free bikes:
- They're not really free. A tune-up runs between $25 and $40; fitting a bike out with lights, reflective tape and carriers is another $50. (Never mind the additions for a fully-tricked out bike.)
- Sometimes you take a cab because you just don't want that much exercise to get somewhere.
- Having your chain fall off and get jammed in the chain guard every time you go somewhere so that you have to travel with a wrench is another thing that will make you take a taxi.
- Bicycle thieves will eventually steal even the most sissy and wrecked looking bicycle.
So when Susan G offered to sell me her Schwinn CrissCross for $125, I took it. And became a convert to good bikes. The Criss Cross rode like the wind. One year in mid-December, I found myself biking to Vanier on it.
The next fall I was taking it home on the O-train and started talking with another guy with a bike. I told him I'd like to start cycling through the winter, but not on the Schwinn, I needed a bike that I wouldn't mind getting salty. "I've got a mountain bike I'll sell you for a hundred dollars," said the guy. It turned out that Murray fixed bikes in his spare time. I went by his place and wound up taking home a Kuwahara.
The Kuwahara took me through four winters. The first time I had Bert tune it up, he told me it was worth $300 easily. But this winter, the chain broke for the third time and the guys at Pecco's told me after the second time that the gears had become so worn, that if I had to replace the chain again, I'd have to replace the gears too. That's one of those repairs you have to question on a bike you paid $100 for.
So the Schwinn became my late-winter bike. It's not quite the smooth, beautiful ride it used to be. I've been thinking I'll make it the winter bike and get myself a new summer bike maybe after labour day from the bike rental place at the Chateau Laurier.
Of course there are always contests that award bicycles. On Friday at the Bridgehead, they had a ballot box for Oceans Fest with a little quiz about the environment. I filled it out while Jim, Keane and John C mocked the Oceans Fest and me. (They mocked the Fest because Ottawa has no ocean, me for wasting my time and really, I think they just like mocking.)
Does the run-off from Ottawa's storm drains get treated? "No", I ticked.
I was puzzled by the question "Are blue whales endangered in the St. Lawrence River?"
The lads informed me there are no blue whales in the St. Lawrence. John is a professor of marine engineering and used to be a first-mate on oil tankers that ran from the Great Lakes down the St. Lawrence and up around the coast into Hudson Bay. He should know, right? So I ticked off "no", because if there are none and they should be there, they're extirpated, and if there are none because they aren't supposed to be there, they're just endangered somewhere else.
Here is my new bicycle. It turns out that blue whales swim right into the estuary of the St. Lawrence and World Ocean Day was declared in Rio de Janeiro, not Killaloe, but I got all the other questions right, which was "exceptional" and I won the grand prize.
The bike is an Ottawa. Raleigh custom builds it for Kunstadt Sports who donated the prize. I was offered the choice of the Ottawa or the Bank Street, and picked the Ottawa because, as everyone knows, red bikes are faster. My Ottawa is smooth and beautiful and rides like the wind. I told the nice woman who called me last night that I'm going to become a big booster for Oceans Fest.
In other Great Victory news, I scored a 1089 in MuMu yesterday. I believe that is a world record.