I ride a 30-year-old bicycle, a Trek 8000, which I’ve described before as; “It is a classic, hard-tail, 1992-ish Trek 8000 mountain bike. No springs. No shock absorbers. No disk brakes. It is old, purple, and slightly rusted. It is also the bicycle that I rode from an island north of Seattle to an island south of Miami, from Roche Harbor on San Juan Island to Key West in Florida. Want details? I wrote a book about the ride.” (My Bike Gets New Brakes) That makes it old enough to drink and vote and complain about these young kids with their fancy gadgets like navigation systems and 27 gears and electric motors. Electric motors! Kids these days. Five years after that post it was time to replace it (the simplest solution) or upgrade it (the frugal solution). Welcome to lots of new components on an old frame, and a story about supply chains, bicycle chains, and chains of events.
My bike is venerable. As I’ve gotten busier my weight increased which encouraged more use of that venerable bike for exercise instead of errands. When I worked from a coworks the bicycle was the right vehicle and I was the thinnest I’ve been in over a decade.
Now that I am a realtor and adjusting to pandemic and post-pandemic life most of my work is at home or requires driving to visit properties. Bicycling to one property can work, but if a client wants to visit another one they’d have to give me lots of time to catch up. My red Jeep works better for that.
But my bicycle should still work for exercise, right? Well, yes and no. I live in a slightly hilly area. To downshift enough to climb the hills the bike started requiring me to do a U-turn, roll downhill far enough to downshift, then do a U-turn to head back up the hill. Lots of points for exercise. Lots of points taken away because of safety concerns. Frustration became an added feature.
This must be fixed!
Unfortunately the pandemic crowds bought up the inventory of new bicycles. Prices went up. Delivery times lengthened to months. I can be patient. … Two years later, so much for patience, how much for a new bicycle? Roughly $2,000 after taxes and accessories are added. Grump. It may be the time to exercise, but not the time to spend that much money.
But surely the bicycle can be repaired. Surely? One bike shop said they considered it unsafe to work on equipment that was so old. Another tried three times, but the issue didn’t go away. Grump.
Ah, but if I can’t replace the entire bicycle, and if repairing the same component three times didn’t work, how about replacing all of the other components but using as much of the old bicycle as possible? $400. $400! Deal!
That was February, a fine time to let a shop work on it while the weather blew through the area. I felt comfortable enough to tell the mechanic that I wasn’t in a hurry.
A month goes by, no news. Another, and another, and I exercise patience by only calling once a month.
Spring goes by. Bicycling in spring. Missed it.
Summer shows up. I show up at the bike shop because I was in the neighborhood (which is about 45 miles from my house.) The work still is not done. Why? Because the supply chain had run out of shift levers. Shift levers. My venerable bicycle was propped up on their work-in-progress rack which was visible from the sidewalk. It looked fine except for two shift cables hanging loose because there as nothing to attach them to.
Finally, the call. Come and get it! Finally.
By chance I had a gap in my schedule, my errands had me halfway there, all I had to do was drive the rest of the way, dismantle it enough to fit inside my little Jeep, and make sure I didn’t get dirt or grease on my professional clothes, my clean jeans.
Drive away, finish the work day, get home and go for a ride.
Whew. The freedom to sweat in tights, again. Hmm. That sounds odd, but I’ll leave it there.
Then find out that, whether the bicycle was in good shape, I no longer was. It was time to retune the engine; e.g. me.
Then also remember that the mechanic mentioned a problem replacing one component that they left in place. The component that was the presumed culprit. Sigh. Fated to be with me? The bicycle does shift, but it still requires convincing the chain to downshift. At least I don’t have to do U-turns on the hills.
Life is tradeoffs.
Option 1) Give up bicycling, except on flat roads. That doesn’t do as much for errands or exercise; but it is cheaper initially. It can ultimately be more expensive because being unhealthy is uneconomical.
Option 2) Buy a new bicycle. That should solve the mechanical problems, as well as the exercise problems; but new bicycles that fit my over six-foot tall body have supply issues, too. It would also mean buying by using debt, which exacerbates the financial impact.
Option 3) Do what I did, repair. The bicycle is repaired, mostly. I should be able to get back into shape, eventually. My finances are impacted but by only a fraction of the price of a new bicycle; but venerable does not mean invulnerable and a new machine may be needed eventually.
I hadn’t thought of this until I wrote that paragraph but another option is to give up any job that can’t be done at a slower pace in more casual clothes. Hmm. Nah. My job as a real estate broker at Dalton Realty, Inc. is worth hanging onto for a while. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/ (Note: I’ll be giving a free and public presentation on my perspective on Whidbey Island’s real estate and affordability trends on September 8th at 2PM at the Freeland Library. Drop in or hope we can upload it to YouTube.)
Frugality has many quirks. Much of the advice is about life hacks, little things to save here and there. The broader issues are like I describe in my book, Dream. Invest. Live.; “Spend less than you make and invest the rest.”; with my current corollary of “As Long As You Can Pay Your Bills #ALAYCPYB”. The idea of buying things that last isn’t fashionable, but while I’ve been working through my financial turmoil it has been comforting to know that I can benefit from things I bought for function over form, for reliability over performance, and for the pesky and boring notion of taking the cost of a thing and dividing it by the number of years I’ve been able to use it.
My bicycle is venerable. It isn’t perfect. Neither am I. Some day I’ll probably buy a new bicycle, but I’ll probably recognize it as a way of updated every component at once. In the meantime, when I ride my venerable and imperfect bicycle I will also be riding a reminder of years of rides, including my ride across America. Just Keep Pedaling That has a value, too.