Monday, October 15, 2012

New Bike

I Blame Hugh
A little while back my friend Hugh over at Hugh's Bicycle Blog conducted a bold experiment in cycling: he (on purpose) purchased a bicycle from WalMart and took it home.

No, he really did. This seasoned veteran of Old Steel rehabilitation took real dollars out of his pocket and plunked them down for one of those bicycle-shaped objects that they sell at that Hell Hole of Crap and took it home for a little New Steel rehabilitation. Now, trust me when I tell you that I am a loathsome hypocrite. Almost everything I own comes from this  Son of Sam. The keyboard I am typing on came from there, and I cuss a little cussing as I have to inexplicably go back every few sentences and re-type the capitol “I's” because this verdammdt piece of crap not only makes me go back and fix something but because it also reminds me that I use a capitol “I” way too much.

Morning Radio
But so what? It's my Booger, ain't it? Yeah, man it's all about me! Whee-hoo!

Calm down. I'm in it too, you know. said the Voice.

“And me too!” said the Blonde.

“And me!” barks Toby the Trouble Puppy.

“Daisy, do you want to chime in on this gruesome Greek chorus?”

“Of course not,” she says. “I am far too dignified to demand attention. I rely on my innate Yellow Labrador nobility and statuesque beauty to get my way. Besides, dogs can't talk.”

That's what I was gonna say, said the Voice.

“She's not a full-blood Lab, ya know.” said Toby.

This is what happens when I try to type while listening to morning radio with a hangover.

Wait, There's More
O.K. So let me stop libeling my friend Hugh and gossiping about his descent into Wally World. Instead, let me wallow in my own recent transgressions: I did it also.


 WalMart is the single source of bicycle inner tubes in my village. (Except for the pseudo LBS by the Interstate that charges eight dollars for a Sunlite tube and meanwhile I am being pestered by salesmen to look at fake Harley Davidsons and four-wheel-drive bush whackers.) So while out there picking up some tubes, some much-needed underwear and this season's six pairs of socks, I ventured to glance at the over-stuffed two-story racks of new so-called bicycles that I would never consider and can't afford anyway even if I did consider.

And yet, there she was.

Shiny, black, new...and huge. The biggest bicycle I ever saw. This beautiful creature was so large and disproportionate to the other bicycles that she looked somehow royal. This was a two-wheeled Clydesdale, a fitting steed for Cycling Royalty such as myself and I really did need a new Beach Cruiser, didn't i?

Well, it is true that you gave away the old Mongoose, and the recently refurbished Little Miss Dangerous has no business on the sand...but this is a WalMart bicycle! If you buy this bike I'll have to stop talking to you. And if you are cycling royalty, you must mean the Court Jester.

Seals the Deal
That was all I needed to hear. Armed with the knowledge that such a vile transaction would not only get me a cheap-ass beach bunny but might also forever rid me of that nagging Voice, I started planning my evil plans. I did what I always do when planning a Big Ticket purchase: i start figuring out how to get someone else to pay for it and then I dive into the deep end of the Internet. The reviews there were much as I expected: all over the place. It is, after all, the cycling forums. But one note was struck throughout: this cheap piece of crap could indeed be ridden, after proper tuning, some serious remedial application of lithium grease and selective replacement of key components.

That is just exactly what Hugh did with his wally-bike experiment, and he was pleased with the results, and said so. And Hugh is the kind of guy I listen to. He ain't sellin' nothin' or running for office.

One Man's Diet Is Another Man's Bicycle
Having refrained from beer for three weeks in a failed effort to lose fifty pounds, (I lost fifteen then bought a keg) I had a little extra cash. Well, a LOT (for me) of extra cash. Enough to make the purchase. So I did. I bought the second new bicycle I have ever owned.

Memory Lane (Can't Be Helped)
The first (and only, until now) new bicycle I ever owned was a Schwinn five-speed Stingray. One day Ricky Roberts and I were out riding figure-eights in front of my house. We were doing these slow figure-eights and spitting at the junction of the loops in a contest of accuracy and saliva having and flirting with infinity. We both were riding our beat up old sting-rays cobbled together from the huge parts pile behind Ricky's house. My Mom came to the door.

“Tim Joe!”

“It wasn't me Mom! Ricky was spitting and I was trying to dry it out by riding my bike over it!”

“Come in here for a minute.” It was only fifty feet to the front door but it was a metric century (lol) of concern and tribulation as I racked my brain for what recent crime I had committed. There were plenty of crimes to consider, but I was primarily thinking about which ones she may have caught wind of. I figured I was relatively clean but judging by her stern tone it was something serious. By the time I reached the front door I was fairly confident that whatever it was I could somehow pass the blame off onto one of my little brothers. I stepped into the living room.

“Tim Joe.” The same threatening tone.

“Yeah, Mom?” My step Dad was there, too. Weird. He had a funny look on his face.

“We saw your report card.” Uh oh.

“I can explain...”

“You got straight 'A's. But you also got a bunch of 'unsatisfactory behavior' marks.”

“Mom, I...”

“So I went down there and met with your teacher and the principal. What a couple of assholes. Go into the kitchen.” This was seriously weirding me out. My step Dad had a really odd look on his face and I was certain that whatever was in the kitchen would be bad. But ever was i brave and thus, into the kitchen I went.

Yeah, Baby!
There she was. A brilliant, purple, glistening Schwinn five speed Stingray. The one with the big wheels and the stick shift. The very bike that we boys had almost daily made a pilgrimage to the local bike shop (Old Man Gillis's place) to venerate. All the tags and stickers were still on her. I started yelling.

“IS THIS MINE?! FOR ME? YAHOO! WOW! I CAN”T BELIEVE IT! CAN I TAKE IT OUTSIDE?” The odd look on my Dad's face was him trying to suppress a giant smile of pride. In those days that bicycle represented a big chunk of his take-home pay.

“You take that bicycle anywhere you want, honey. And listen to me, sweetheart. As long as you keep getting those straight 'A's' you don't have to take any shit from anybody. But you are always going to have some asshole trying to tell you what to do. Always. The hard job I want from you is learning to tell them to go to hell in a way that makes them think they won.”

Wise words, Mom. Wise words indeed and a lot of miles and a lot of hardship have passed since you told me that. I have not always got the best marks but I have tried. Sometimes the assholes got the better of me, but not always. Not always.

But Things Don't Always Work Out
I remember riding the bike out the front door and into the street. Ricky Roberts was a block away, drawing or writing something in the dirt. When I pulled up on my new stallion, he didn't even notice.

“I heard you yelling in there,” he said. He looked pretty bad. “Were they hitting you?” Everyone on the street knew that Ricky and his big brother Randy's drunk-ass Dad hit them. It was 1967. Three years later Randy got wasted in cross-fire outside of Khe San. One night ten years on down the road a friend told me that he had been there and had heard about it, and while the story never came out, it was two Long Range Patrols that shot the shit out of each other in the dark and the rain.

And Yet...
I put the kickstand down on my new bike. I have to remove a flip-flop and put it under the kickstand so it doesn't sink into the sand. We don't get spectacular sunsets on the East coast of Florida, but the Sun goes down all the same. This new bike looks pretty damn fine in the waning light of a pretty good day. I turn and look at the Atlantic Ocean. It is big, and Life Its Ownself is big and small, and listen: it is hard to grasp it all. I resolve not to try. As for me, I'll settle for momentary glimpses of life outside of myself; and the realization that i am not alone. We are all interwoven and while a new bicycle can bring much joy there is beauty and grace and a certain splendor in everything. There is beauty and grace and tragedy and hope and all we have to do is look. It is right here in front of us.

Next: WalMart ain't evil, just stoopid.

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Filosopy Phactory


  1. I had a Schwinn 5-spd stick-shift Stingray myself! Mine was metallic red, I think a 1970...weighed a goodly amount too, and I also recall that stickshift (on the top-tube) was in a rather dangerous place for a young boy, considering we were dirt riding a lot (pre bmx bike days). That was one sweet bike. Butterfly bars, banana seat (red) which I folded in half on one particulary hard dirt landing. ahh...those were the days. (riding in flip flops as you mentioned...t-shirt/tank-top, NO helmet EVER! It's amazing we lived!)

    Cool you got a new steed...Walllyworld or not...hey, it's a beach-cruiser! Big tires, singlespeed, coaster brake, HUGE wide bars...back to the basics! THAT is a ride that shouts-out for drinking beer AND riding at the same time! And 'the voice' won't be around to critisize you when you do! It's a win-win!

    1. Har! You got everything right, Matt! I just spent a great weekend riding on the beach and swilling beer!


  2. Don't feel too ashamed...I bought one of those myself last year,LOL! Wasn't too bad after truing the wheels,disassembling and rebuilding it correctly,actually fun to ride. That is an ONYX 29 ain't it?

    1. Yeah! I peeled the stickers, did a little artistic editing with a pair of scissors and re-applied the results to the chain-guard. So now she is an OX29. I love this bike! Later I will be writing about the sad and unnecessary state of affairs that is WalMart bicycles.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. Suh-Wheet cruiser TPC. You live in Florida near the beach so why the hell not!? Funny I have had to BSO encounters in the last week a not half bad looking fixie at Target for $109 and a real life 29er mt bike at Costco for 3 times that but still cheap for a disc brake 29er. I walked away from both temptations as I got a queue to clear before I even THINK about another bike let alone a new one.

    I am thinking a nice Wald made in the 'ol USA wire basket in the front for um "consumables" that one might like to sip at the beach ;-).

    Looking forward to your next installment - WalMart bikes, not for the faint of heart.

  4. Dang, Roadie, that Target bike looks pretty tempting! I have my eye on an identical Super le Tour to my own that needs a full wang-dang-doodle and if I can somehow get the owner to come to his senses on price I would like to re-do it into a flat-bar coaster brake pseudo fixie. I took apart and re-lubed the coaster hub on the OX29...ridiculously easy after being warned that it was a task fit only for brain surgeons and rocket scientists.

    I stare at the Wald site everyday and I want the Woody rack and the chrome mid-rise handlebars and the smallest front basket.

    I'll be talking about all this really soon.


  5. Tim Joe,

    It was VelociPete who a few years back regarding another wheeled acquisition stated: "The number of bikes you need, is the number of bikes you have, plus one." These are words to live I tap this out, I am weighing the possibility a quick trip half way across the Hoosier Land tomorrow morning to bring home another venerable Schwinn.

    My first new Schwinn (courtesy of understanding parents) was also a 1967 model with five speeds. It too was purple. Of course it included a non-gonad-friendly top tube shifter - not so bad really, when I think of the truly frightening hinged fuel filler cap on the tank of the used 1972 H-2 Kawasaki that I bought less than a decade later. Oh, yes, my then Schwinn was the Collegiate.

    All hail the Wald baskets! The small ones are my favorites. My 1974 Schwinn Suburban five speed has a Wald #124 compact basket, black hanging from the bars. My 1964 Typhoon class Schwinn (I call her "Krasny Oktyabr" due to the nearly silent propulsion system - don't worry, no missile tubes) has a Wald #151 drop top style, silver basket, installed specifically for the easy transport of potables.

    I am neither a brain scientist (but I know one) nor a rocket surgeon however I have opened, cleaned, and lubricated coaster brake hubs and lived to reassemble them and tell the tale. My method is: don't lose too many parts, and put parts back sort of where they were before I started messy with them.

    Thanks for a read as good as a ride. Enjoy the OX29!

    Bill Hopp, The Anonymous Hoosier

    1. That's too bad about the missile tubes, Sir Bill. Oh well, save your money...

      Have you noticed that the Wald catalogue on their site is incomplete? the #124 isn't there, nor the woody rack. That woody rack, by the way, seems to be a regular wald rack with a piece of wood on it and $40 added to the price. Guess which old carpenter will be supplying his own piece of wood?

      The Collegiate was probably the most "bicycle" bicycle ever built. I always wanted one, but they just seemed so damn...sensible. My college bike (IU) was a raleigh 3 speed, gold, mint...I bought it from a grad student for $30.

      Thanks for coming by, Bill!

    2. As a further addendum to the coaster brake overhaul, here is the video that gave me the courage to proceed. Note that the whole process, complete with narrative, is under ten minutes.

    3. Good video -I think that bloke might have been "Bicycle Repairman"

    4. It's all in a day's work for Bicycle Repairman.

  6. Tim Joe,

    Thanks for the double reply. Now I am better rested, and sadly, more wordy than last night...

    Yes, the online Wald catalogue is now a baffling and disappointing site to visit. When I first started stopping by there they had what was more of a distributor catalogue on view. It seemed to list all of their products, no ordering links or prices, but good information. Then one day, I went back and so few items were listed that I was afraid they were going out of business. Later I realized it must just have been the work of someone on their end who had taken a marketing class and convinced the right people that an "updated" "consumer" catalogue was was somehow smart. Yes, that woody rack commands a stiff premium. Do it yourself. I examined a Wald woody basket at my LBS. It also carried about a $40 mark up from its plain Jane equivalent. I decided the the asking price was out of line for the "added value" feature. It was all about appearance and not nearly as sturdy as the basket wearing it.

    Your assessment of the Collegiate is on the money. My hankering for one was inspired by the one acquired by my buddy, Rob. I was still riding a 24" wheeled coaster brake model of long forgotten provenance. Next to his green Collegiate, my bike was small, and slow. It was later, when I turned my lawn mowing earnings into a 1971 Schwinn Super Sport that I experienced that wondrous sense of flight of which you speak.

    I came late in life to IU and to my appreciation of planetary gear hubs and Raleigh quality. You got a bargain at $30, even 1970s dollars.

    Thank you also for the link to the coaster brake video. It is much fun to watch and gives the skinny on the entire operation. The non-Hoosier accent of the star mechanic, and his use of "spanners" really make it.

    Well, I am not traveling cross state this morning. The owner of the Super Le Tour I lust after asked a reasonable price, but seems not to answer telephone messages. Instead, my friend Timothy is stopping by. We plan to put his two-man crosscut saw to good use.


    Bill Hopp, The Anonymous Hoosier

  7. I hope everybody here understands the commitment to new bike sacrifice that you have achieved here. Reduction on beer consumption is a man who really wanted that new bike.
    And anybody who would come up with the put down due to the place of purchase or type or brand of bike......well....they probably won't be riding with you anyway.
    I have a bit of a bike saving fund going on because of some new bike lust I have. This is while I am doing the Univega rebuild. I just found a great tip on Freewheel removal on Hugh's blog. Thanks to Hugh as I go back through his postings for bike mechanic tips for us newbie mechanics!
    Maybe, I'll have a new bike to ride come spring, AND, a new/old bike to ride. I really like Bill's comment "The number of bike's you need is, the number of bikes you have, plus one"

    Your new ride makes you happy and is fun to ride....nuff said!!

  8. Hugh is pretty amazing. That Raleigh he just finished is a thing of wonder. As far as the OX29 goes...well, it's a mess, which is fine with me. Half the fun is fixin' her up.I already have well over a hundred very slow and satisfying miles on her and something falls off with every ride. Sunday it was the seat. But it was the only 29" beach cruiser in Creation (or this corner of Creation)and I'll be buying a Wally FatBike if they ever make one. The replacement parts will come as they come and meanwhile, I'm cruisin', baby!

    I hope you will share your Univega results with us, Jim.


  9. Tim Joe, Congrats on your new steed. It does feel kinda nice to every once in a while have a bike that nobody has beat to death before you.
    I can't get my arms around the everything at Wally World is junk idea. If you look at the frame some where it will say made in china, tiwan, or east jesus. If you look at all the bikes in the LBS same thing. So basically they are all made by the same people with maybe lessor quality bolt on parts. It makes sense to ride the hell out of the wally World bike and if something breaks or falls off rplace it with a better part. As long as you can fix it yourself you will be money ahead.
    Maybe I will go get one of those 29ers from Wally World and ride it around town just to po the elitest jerks that ride thier $6000 dollar carbon bike like things.

    1. Doug, your thinking is pretty accurate. The welds on the OX puzzle me. Assuming they are done by machine, I can't understand their messiness and incosistency. The fasteners are ALL loose, and re-tightening doesn't help much. Plus the nuts and bolts seem to be made of something other than steel. Some new kind of cheapo-steel. So, yeah, the trouble is more the parts than the sum of the parts, and I will get a lot of fun replacing all that.

      But listen: I only rode about five miles yesterday and my thighs are burning. Riding that bike is going to make me stronger, without a doubt. It is like having a stationary exercise bike that looks cool and ain't...stationary.

      I reccommend it.


  10. TJ
    As always, a great read. One of my closest friends growing up had that same stick shift Schwinn. Proceeded to nut himself on our first ride going down McKinley hill, one of the baddest descents in Arlington County, about a week after getting it. He was pissed at me for goading him into riding so fast down it. Thanks for the memory!

    Love your beach cruiser! If I lived near the beach, I'd be similarly inclined. But having to give up beer to buy it made it an act of love so rich......

    Keep the rubber down, amigo. I guess that's all you can do when riding a fatty.

    B in VA

  11. TJ,

    Good for you for getting a new bike. And good for you for having realistic expectations of what you're getting from Wally World.

    I too have wondered about the sloppy welds, non-precision fasteners, and faux-steel parts. At least you have the knowledge to get some better parts on there.

    The one big box bike we had was basically a hopeless case. Makes me feel bad for the folks who sink their hard earned cash into one and expect it to be a quality ride.

    Wonder how far along the beach you could ride on THAT thing? Maybe put some wire baskets on the back...

    Steve Z

    1. Steve, Last Sunday I did about 24 miles on sand. Down by the Canaveral Seashore the consistency turns to what we around here call red sand; it must be what quicksand is made of because when you are in it traction disappears. So I was a little disappointed that I got stuck. But I had noticed earlier that my tire track was surprisingly narrow; I had the tires inflated to the max (40 psi) and by letting some air out I may have done a little better by gaining some float. But I didn't have a pump with me and somehow letting air out of my tires while on federal land several miles from ANYTHING didn't seem like a wise move, even for me.

      I plan a Blog Post on the subject of the WalMart Bicyle, even though I have covered almost everything in these comments. But as Christmas Season comes along thousands of those bicycles will go out the door to happy kids who will get a couple rides before the wheel taco's or the seat falls off or whatever. It ain't right.


  12. TJ,
    Back from a week with hardly a lick of web connection. Some travel has fine benefits! So in a week that Lance's world blew to bits you were reminded of what it means to just go ride. Is anything better than rolling out on any bike that is your bike? What about the joy of spinning along on something you just fixed and cleaned. What is it about that rolling, spinning, thinking, dreaming, liberating freedom that puts our mind in a better place.
    Roll on, my friend. Roll on.

    1. Hey Karl! Yesterday I got on the Schwinn for the first time since I brought home the OX29. Man! Like getting off the back of a water buffalo and into the saddle of a fine thoroughbred. At first it seemed weird and shaky but with a few strokes of the pedals I was off and flying. Thanks for coming by, brother. I hope your journey was fruitful.


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