Friday, August 10, 2012

I turned a bike away yesterday...

I'm not a big fan of this time of the year.  Burning Man is coming up and bikes that are used only one time per year are brought out of their dungeon, caked with playa dust from the previous year(s) Burning Man(s).  If you have been to more than one Burning Man do you say "I've been to three Burning Men" or "I've been to three Burning Mans?"  Rhetorical question.  

I'll admit that I'm not that into Burning Man even beyond the trashing the bikes get.  When I get away, I don't want to do it with 65,000 other people.  What I get from Burning Man (without going to the website to find out "about us") is that it's about art and free thinking and sustainability and not leaving a trace. yet the bikes are left or brought back to rot.  Not very sustainable.  The rest of the year before and after the event, the shit-bike owners put the bikes away and drive to and from where ever they need to go.  At least that's what I see in this little corner.  I know who goes to Burning Man and I see them driving everywhere, yet they need bikes NOW for Burning Man.

I turned a bike away yesterday.  The owner brought it in and said he was given the bike to take to Burning Man.  However, that "free" bike had flat tires, brake and shift cables that were corroded to the inside of the housings, rusted chain, was way too small ...  That "free" bike that sold new at your local blue-vested, happy-people store for $80 was going to cost upwards of $140 to get it in operating condition.  As Burning Man gets closer people get more desperate to get bikes for cruising the playa and he was really considering dumping that cash into the bike.  I'm happy to do it.  Work for me.  However, I told him that he would probably be able to find a working used bike for $50 at a garage sale or any number of places.  He left with the "free" bike.  I imagine that that "free" bike that was given to him for use at an event of left-leaning, vegan, environmentalist, say no to big oil, art-loving folks is now deposited curbside or abandoned with a sign that says "free." 

Just because it's free doesn't mean it's free.

(What's playing:  Bill Withers Still Bill DVD)

6 comments:

Guitar Ted said...

Welcome to my daily reality. Your story plays out a million times over at the shop I work at. The thing is, many times these bikes are actually someone's only form of transpo, so I guess it isn't "exactly" the same.

We end up working on a fair share of these for those that must rely on them. One thing that I can take away- The work I do on these "shit-bikes" makes them semi-reliable, safe(er) bikes for those that have to travel by two wheels and are too poor or mentally incapable to step up to something better.

gypsybytrade said...

The shop I worked at in Anchorage did many repairs to these kinds of bikes and we were probably the only shop in town to do so. However, there are times where you simply say "no", or the cost of repair says the same. Anchorage is mostly a seasonal biking city for average folks, but for a large population of people in need, bikes take them places. It's not uncommon to see a $100 bike with $200 worth of Nokian studded tires; the tires may last as many as 5 seasons though. The unfortunate fact of many repairs to cheap bikes, as you've also seen, is that most problems could have been avoided by proper assembly. For instance, we replaced damaged left cranks almost daily from these kind of bikes. The blue-vest store was just down the street.

I loved the Free Spirit repair you did; we always repaired old bikes, especially the old Schwinns that were sold as far back as the 60's at the same shop.

nicholas

Reno Rambler said...

I'm with you on Burning Man...

Regarding the bikes, the best option I know of is the Reno Bike Project who pull together BM bikes that you can nab for $55 or so, use on the playa for the week, and then retrieve and refurbish for the following year. That's what most people want/need for that week: A bike with a single gear and working brake. That fundraiser helps support the great work RBP does the rest of year getting people on better bikes for transportation purposes.

Just an fyi...

X said...

"The rest of the year before and after the event, the shit-bike owners put the bikes away and drive to and from where ever they need to go. At least that's what I see in this little corner. I know who goes to Burning Man and I see them driving everywhere, yet they need bikes NOW for Burning Man."

Please don't paint us all with the same brush. I have my shit bike for Burning Man, but I also get around solely on bikes and don't drive anywhere, and I take care of my bikes.

Also, most Burning Man fans don't pretend that it is an environmentally friendly event; it is most certainly not.

JCW said...

One of the best posts about Burning Man I've ever read. I literally just asked my wife yesterday to think of all the people in the neighborhood who have a bike, or multiple bikes, in their garage. Then follow that up with the image of how many times she's seen people around the area out on those bikes. Makes for sad contrast.
I'm in a midsize Bay Area suburb and try do commute 44 miles round trip to work 1-2x/week, but other than large, but other than in SF or large cities I really don't see to many regulars on bikes.

Anonymous said...

I know this is responding to a super old post but I have to. When I was volunteering at my college's bike co-op, the month before Burning Man was the absolute worst.