You've seen cheap bikes. One look and you know why they're cheap. Plastic rims. Plastic grips. Bright colors. Mass produced Big Box sellers.
I'm sad to say that my nephews and nieces have fallen victim to the Cheap Bike Syndrome, or CBS. When considering economics, it's easy to see why cheap bikes are appealing in an economic downturn; they're affordable. But do not be fooled. With CBS, happiness lasts only a very short while and then a deluge of sadness and frustration pours forth from a broken rim, slippery grips, sun baked dull color schemes, and no recourse for remedy from the Big Box Store.
Luckily for the little peeps, I grew up fixing and riding bikes. "When I was young..." you had to be resourceful with your pedal bikes because the bike shop was over 55 miles away and money was hard to come -by (and we walked in snow three feet deep with no shoes all the five miles to school every day, two times; coming and going). We would break down older bikes and swap parts. The most prized part was the ball bearing. Need a bearing? Check the cheap bike heap. Not there? Go through your neighborhood and check other cheap bike heaps. By doing so, you'll also find the seat nut you needed, a spare rim, of handle bar. Just writing this brings back great memories and improbable bike fixes (duct tape can, in fact, fix flat tires).
This past weekend was no exception. 30 years later I was rummaging through the bike heap in my father's back yard that miraculously survived the trash dump, the yard sale, or other 'hood bike scavengers. I was pulling nuts and seat posts, seats, and brake pads in an attempt to fix the little peep's bicycles. First up, my niece's green no-name BMX: tires patched, chain tightened, seat adjusted, crappy front brake removed, rear brake adjusted. Done. Second order, my nephew's "Hot Wheels" kiddy BMX: tires patched, seat straightened out, some weird plate on the handle bars with what looked like Transformers battling it out removed - because according to the little man, "It looks like my sister's." Translation: it looks girly. A morning of repairing bikes turned into an afternoon of one broken pedal, one cracked seat, a pretty good wipe out from slippery grips, and my nephew and niece down on their luck mopping around the yard.
Cheap bikes break down. Luckily for the three of us we had a sizable cheap bike heap to pull extra parts for a quick fix. Now, word is out that I fix bikes and kids from the 'hood are coming around asking my aging parents when I'll be back in town.
Matter of fact, my mother just called and asked when I'll be home, "Marcus and Tyrone came by this morning with their bicycles and they need them fixed. And yesterday evening Adriano stopped by with his bike and said something is wrong with it." I asked my mom to check their bikes out the next time the little people come around. This way I can visualize what parts I have in stock in the cheap bike heap and what part's I'll need to pick up at the bike shop.
I have a good idea that this coming weekend I'll be fixing bikes again.