June 21, 2009


It has often been said that, when pursuing outdoor pleasure, it is wise to have equipment of high quality. These days, those who have the spare time and the spare cash flow often confuse this proverb with the very foolish idea of spending lots of money on brand new, brand name stuff. Come come, now. How many friends do you have that go on a 2 mile hike around a suburban lake sporting a North Face wind jacket (It wicks away the sweat! The ad told me!) and a pair of REI ¾ pants (Made of 20% recycled soda bottles. Now that’s good for the environment!)? Oh, wait. That’s me. Shoot!

This concept doesn’t just apply to clothing, of course. We who enjoy our bicycle rides are just as susceptible. Case in point: in 2007, I spent $1,600 on a bike of high quality. It was an upgrade from a touring bike I bought the year prior for $700. Not that the 700 dollar bike was a junker – it just wasn’t built to handle the high frequency of riding that it got. Its components weren’t meant to last quite as long. The amount of times I’ve used that $1,600 bike has justified my buying it, of course – that said, my 700 dollar bike still works great. Needs a new set of tires here and there, but it’s become my commuter bike, and amazingly enough, I ride it more than I ride my flashy new bike. This is not an uncommon thing. The temptation to spend big for a good bike that one seldom uses is comparable to buying a 1972 Gran Torino to take kids to soccer practice once or twice a week. I could list off ten people I know who spent big on a bike they ride a few blocks to work. Unbelievable.

Now, when it comes to vintage, I think we are all suckers. Who doesn’t want to own a ’57 Chevy? They’re classy. Don’t run quite as well, and surely they don’t get good mileage – but does that ever stop someone from wanting to own one? Heck no. It’s vintage. Classy. You sacrifice efficiency for vintage. Oftentimes, it still gets the job done.

This is the case with me and my old Schwinn Le Tour road bike. A little background: 3 years ago, I was an intern for the City of Chelan Parks & Recreation Department. After work, I had little to do, as I knew no one in the area, and one can only swim in Lake Chelan enough times before they get tired. I decided to take up bicycling that summer. First, I had an old mountain bike that lasted me about a day before I realized I needed a better bike. Mom and Dad found “an old bike” at a yard sale for 10 bucks that they brought to me – sure enough, it was a 1970’s model Schwinn Le Tour. Needed a lot of cleaning, and the tires were old and cracking, but I began riding it anyway. I used it for about 2 weeks before I bought my first real road bike, and once I did, the Le Tour went into the back of the shed – an afterthought. A week ago, I came across it in the shed, and it dawned on me that I still had it. I took it out and gave it a good look, and I realized “Holy smokes. This is a classic!” It needed a lot of cleaning and a lot of new stuff, but no big deal. I spent about 80 bucks on new tires, tubes, and liner – not to mention the chain and cogs were completely covered in about 30 years of gunk and grease – but it got running simple as that. I took it for a spin around town, and amazingly enough, it rode like a dream. The gear shifters are awkward, the brakes are inefficient, and it weighs a ton (made of steel, why wouldn’t it?). Oddly enough, I find myself endeared to this old bike more and more every time I ride it, despite all its flaws. The reason is because it is just like taking an old 57 Chevy for a ride rather than a Ford Focus – it’s just nice. How else can you explain it?

We live in a day and age when it’s not just fun to get outdoors – it’s fashionable. Sometimes, people get more concerned with the fashion of outdoor fun that they get carried away. The reality is that many of these same people would get along just fine with an old 1970’s Le Tour than spending hundreds or thousands on a new bike.

So go. Bypass REI when preparing for your next outdoor trip. Check out yard sales. Don’t be convinced by the brand name – be convinced with how much you plan on using the equipment – and just as its stylish to have vintage stuff now, so too is it acceptable in the outdoors.

No comments:

Post a Comment