Thursday, December 31, 2009

Out with the old, in with the older

I spent several days in the greater NYC metro area of my youth catching up with friends and family. I drove down since Megabus has eliminated their super convenient Hartford service. While I wasn't particularly in any mood to drive, this ended up being a good thing for a couple of reasons. As it worked out, driving the car enabled me to deliver some bulky items I've been meaning to get rid of, and ultimately bring home just as many bulky items. Oh well.

One of the first things I realized upon arrival at my Mom's house was that I had forgotten my own backpack when I loaded the carfull of stuff I carted down. Not willing to milk that many days out of the clothes on my back, I made a Christmas Eve trip to a couple of thrift stores to assemble a few days' worth of wardrobe on the cheap. I scored some more wool clothes to expand my wintertime outdoor clothing options, which was a bonus.

At the second store, a longtime thrift institution of sorts in Paterson, I found a rack full of rickety bikes between the men's clothing and housewares. Most of them were battered department store quality bikes that were not very good to begin with and were far worse for wear and neglect, but two of them caught my eye. One was a Tyler children's bike, only the second example of this Polish marque I have seen in person.

The other thrift store standout was a vintage Firestone single speed cruiser frame with an assortment of newer used parts affixed to it.

The front fender was mashed up from the store's ham-fisted display method of hanging the bikes over an angle iron frame. The frame had a pretty head tube badge, but was otherwise slathered in many chipped layers of poorly applied paint. I was sort of tempted to adopt it and save it from such an undignified fate, but then I saw the asking price of $79! I examined the tag carefully, but found no decimal point or other factor that would point to a more reasonable price. The moment a thrift store thinks something is "collectible" is akin to a precocious child realizing or thinking they are cute. The magic is lost.

It was good that the ratty cruiser bike was overpriced, as it wouldn't have left enough room in the car for the two bikes that two of my friends gave me during the remainder of my visit. The first is a hard-luck case, a sorely neglected urban beater of a mountain bike that a friend's roommate abandoned when she moved overseas. It was homely enough that it was able to sit unlocked and undisturbed outside of their Jersey City apartment building, which is saying something. I was hopelessly charmed by the combination of a lugged Bridgestone frame with a Biopace crankset, so I dragged the seatless bike flat tires and all on the Path train and the subway to my Brooklyn crash space.

My friend in Flatbush has an amazing knack for finding really cool stuff for cheap or free. Limited storage space means he regularly passes his unwanted finds along to friends on equal terms, so it's only a matter of time before he re-homes something really cool that he can no longer justify keeping around. The other morning, he offered me an old folding bike he had sitting in a relative's garage out in Queens. We met up there and dug it out as I was heading homeward. I have been on a folding bike kick for a while now, so any old folding bike would have made me happy. That said, I was pretty well blown away to discover that this was a 1940's BSA paratrooper bike! It had been "civilianized" with black paint and chrome rims and fenders at some point in the past, but a few minutes of fingernail-scratching revealed the remnants of the original olive-drab paint and a WWII-era serial number. It's in rough shape now and missing most of its original parts (including the sweet "BSA" chainwheel), but I'm really looking forward to restoring this bike when time and money allow it. I found a couple of websites with pictures and info, so I can gather some information (and parts, if I'm lucky) in the meantime.

Happy New Year, by the way!


El Presidente de China said...

Oh man, that folder is the hotness. I'm in Brooknam too and have seen a couple nice bikes I wanted, but you know, money, space, etc. Still, I can't wait to see that bike of yours in fighting form.

Web said...

That BSA paratrooper folding bike is quite a find. Hope you're able to restore it.

Downtown Gifts & Crafts said...

Sorry to post this here, but I tried to email and it bounced back. Looking for Joel's new blog for bicycling in Maine.

Mark said...

Nice Bridgestone! Do you know what model?

Interstatement said...

The Bridgestone is an MB-3 if memory serves, of Japanese manufacture as opposed to the ones made in Iaiwan. I haven't measured the frame yet, but it is quite small. I can't believe nobody stole it in J.C. (though someone did swipe the seat)

willyh said...

I'll give you $50 for the Bridgestone. I live east of you in Connecticut.

Heather said...

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Second Hand Bikes