Dear Loyal Readers,
School’s out this week, which means I must parent more aggressively. In turn, I must short-change you, so welcome to the Bike Snob NYC “Week of Half-Assed Blogging,” or “WOHAB.” The theme for WOHAB will be cheap-assed used bikes, and for the next five days I’ll be featuring my hastily-chosen personal recommendations, one on each day. Thanks very much for reading, ride safe (or at least as safely as you can on a cheap-assed used bike of mysterious provenance), and next week I’ll resume “MUMBOB,” or “My Usual Mediocre Brand Of Blogging.”
Cheap-Ass Used Bike #1: Nineties Nightmare!
The propagandists will tell you this whole gravel thing is making recreational cycling more accessible and inclusive, but we all know that’s a lie. Over 80% of the population of the United States lives urban areas, which means most of us don’t have easy access to miles and miles of untrammeled roads surfaced with very small rocks–nor do we have vintage Toyota Tacomas, lots of high-end camping gear (or anyplace to store it), or days at a time to take off work in order to attend an official $200 LifeTime® gravel event.
Meanwhile, all of us live on or near a road, so all we need in order to ride and enjoy that road is a suitable bicycle–and a willingness to die, of course, but if you’re not ready to sacrifice your own life for a couple hours of personal enjoyment then perhaps riding bikes is not for you. Plus, it’s not like gravel is exactly risk-free:
I realize it may be statistically unreasonable, but if I have to choose between a Hyundai or a bull I’m gonna go with the devil I know.
Anyway, dying aside, this is why road riding is and will always be the most accessible form of cycling, and why I endorse a form of it I refer to as “Dirtbag Road.” Best of all, thanks to dubious “advances” such as dick breaks and electrical shifting, older road bikes are dirtbag cheap. And if you’re really looking for a bargain, the key is to focus on the bikes that are too “new” to be true classics, yet far too old to appeal to anybody working off a checklist of arbitrary “must-haves.” (Integrated shifting, 1 1/8″ threadless steerers, and so forth.) That’s why I’d recommend an aspiring Dirtbag Roadie go with something like this:
Please note that I do not know or endorse the seller; I’m merely using eBay since it’s a convenient place to dredge up used bikes. (This is WOHAB after all.) If you’re seriously in the market for a used bike I’d send you right to Classic Cycle. However, generally speaking, an ugly-ass bike like this is no doubt just as fun to ride as any road bike, it has good parts, it’s easy to work on and cheap to maintain, and the glued-together crabon-and-aluminum frame will satisfy your Fredly need for gimmickry:
Would you be better off with a steel frame? Of course! Unfortunately, older steel bikes that aren’t ugly command a premium, whereas this thing will scare off most buyers–and in the unlikely event it does decide to start coming apart after holding together for over 30 years, you could always pick up another frame and move the parts over wholesale. And hey, this was a pretty high-end bike in its day:
Here’s what you’d pay for the modern equivalent:
And it doesn’t even come with Function Specific Design™!
See, in the old days before Trek invented Function Specific™ Design, parts were designed with no regard whatsoever to how they were meant to be used, which is why you’d often find bicycles equipped with birdhouses instead of seats, and toaster ovens instead of handlebars.
But yeah, for about the price of what a pair of crabon-soled road shoes costs, you could buy a bike like this and ride the hell out of it in sneakers and cut-offs. Get one now before some influencer decides to make them cool. “Roadie elitism” by birdhouse-chafed ass…