Friday, May 31, 2024

Proof that the bicycle market is DEPRESSED.

Prices on used bikes and accessories have been in freefall since the latter half of the pandemic.

A used bicycle that I rescued, overhauled and accessorized, could sell for over $200 in 2019-2020.

Today I can’t get fifty bucks for the same bike.

Below: this bike, with an Xtracycle attachment installed is currently for sale in Gresham, Oregon.

I used to sell the attachment kits ALONE, new, for over $500, some fifteen years ago.

Kiddie handlebar, running boards and other add-ons could bring the price up by another $100-125.

This attachment kit is installed on a Specialized Hard Rock, a mountain bike from the 1990s that has become somewhat desirable, and which can fetch upwards of $300 in good condition on the used market here. (The flagship Rock Hopper can fetch double that, depending on product year and condition.)

Today, this seller is asking $250 for the whole thing, bike and Xtracycle installed.

If I still rode a cargo bike, this would be a steal. But, like many bicyclists here and across the country, I find long tail cargo bikes too hard to balance as I get older (and wobblier, a residual effect of Long Covid), and I no longer haul heavy cargo by bicycle. 

It’s a new listing, so don’t be surprised if he drops the price after a few weeks. 

An aging demographic, the rise in popularity of e-bikes across age groups (that’s another post for another time, but don’t get me started), and the abandonment of bicycle-friendly infrastructure projects have all combined to make ordinary bicycle riding less popular than it used to be before Covid. The pandemic alone wiped out over a third of bike commuting from pre-lockdown, and it hasn’t really come back. 

This would be a bad time for me to sell either of my remaining two bicycles. (I’m not ready to let them go, but it’s definitely a buyer’s market these days.) I couldn’t sell the larger share of my bicycle tools, and ultimately gave them away. I’m mostly okay with it at this point, and hope they’ll be put to good use.

I’m still riding, a few times a week at most, for short distances. I take my transit pass with me so if I get dizzy I can hop on transit to get home. I know that the day will come when I no longer ride at all, and when it does, I’ll sell off what’s left.

In the meantime, I can still ride a little.

Pedalpalooza, Portland’s summertime celebration of all things bicycle, begins tomorrow with a friendly group ride that starts downtown. If you’re in Portland and you have a bicycle, check it out. There will be rides and bike-adjacent events all summer long:

Happy riding!

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

The new lock fad.

At tonight’s Bike Happy Hour, I noticed quite a few bikes secured against theft with something other than U-locks.

In fact, so was mine.

I stopped using U-locks a few months ago. The locks I had were small, to make it harder to fit a leverage tool inside. But using so small a lock made it hard to lock up either of my bikes, both of which have 26” wheels.

So, like many others, I’ve switched to a folding lock. Made of hardened steel and encased in nylon or rubber, they allow enough room to secure bike frame and wheel to a rack and are strong enough to withstand most efforts at theft.

(Obviously, a Sawz-All would get through; but at that point you’re attracting enough attention to just look stupid.)

Here’s a few examples

Folding locks come in varying lengths, with links in varying individual lengths and thicknesses. The fold up quite compactly and usually come with a holder that bolts to the frame (using the water bottle eyelets).

(They seem especially ideal for the latest generation of e-bikes, many of which come with really fat tires and unusual frame geometry that make using a U-lock all but impossible.)

A folding lock that provides enough security will be heavier than a U-lock of the appropriate size. Mine is heavy enough that I must remove it from its holder to hang the bike on its wall hook. It can easily cost as much as or more than the higher-quality U-locks. It’s definitely an investment, and a good one for a bike you really care  about.

Abus makes the industry standard, and a new one can set you back $60 to $80.

But so far, I’ve been glad I made the switch.

Friday, May 24, 2024

The 1980s are forty years old

Earlier this week, I did two things:

1. I invited a local vintage bike retailer to come by and pick through my large stack of tools and parts and buy what she wanted.

I brought out the stuff I was ready to part with and invited her to sift through it, then make a pile and we’d discuss price. As she sifted through my stuff, she selected a rather large pile of things and then made a lowball offer. I said she’d need to pay considerably more for everything she wanted, especially since a lot of it was in good shape and still very usable — and we both knew she’d flip the most vintage pieces at a premium on her retail web site.

She sighed, and made the pile smaller. I then told her what I wanted, and she said, “you’ve got a lot of low-end stuff here.” 

“Maybe low-end by today’s standards,” I responded, “but most of these components can be disassembled and overhauled, and that makes them worth more.”

We finally agreed on a price where neither of us was ecstatic, but I think I came away happier than she did. I won’t sell to her again. And I fully expect to see some of my bits for sale on her web site and fairly high prices. 

After all, someone out there thinks this saddle is worth four figures. 

It’s a bicycle saddle. A thing you sit on while you ride. I love Daniel Rebour’s art, but I honestly don’t care if his signature shows up on something no one can see while riding. Plus, he’s been dead for over forty years.

2. I sorted through a great deal of what was left, putting it into multiple boxes. I pulled out a few pieces I wasn’t yet ready to part with. I loaded the rest not two trips with a wheelbarrow, walked the lot around the corner and deposited it in a neat pile at a public section of curbside. Then, I went home and advertised it on my Buy Nothing network with a general location. Within the hour, people came over and helped themselves to whatever they wanted. Four hours later, the six boxes had shrunk to three. I expect much of the rest of it to disappear over the holiday weekend.

I’m fine with that. Because I have to be.

The truth is that the used bike market has seriously slumped since COVID. Point of fact, it probably began slumping before then, but the bottom fell out after 2020. 

Thanks to a ferocious return to automotive travel in cities across the country and a priority given to repairing and spending car-centric infrastructure, a lot of transportational bicyclists are simply not riding as much as they used to. 

Add to the mix the demographic shift — lots of people used to ride more regularly have aged and are riding less, and a lot of younger bicyclists with money would rather pay someone else to fix their bicycles. 

Finally, blame the bicycle industry, which has embraced e-bikes and higher-end, purpose-driven performance bikes, and which has discontinued more and more lower-end parts that work across branded and models when used in pure friction mode. The last thing today’s bicycle industry wants are bicycles that can be kept going way home-based repairs and repairable parts. They are trying to sell new stuff. This has been the reality since I was an inventory manager for my shop, and it’s only gotten worse.

So yeah, if you’re looking at that pile through the lens of high-end collectors who want Campy (and those guys will always want vintage Campy), or through the lens of people who’d rather not get their hands dirty, well then yeah, all the parts I’ve saved up over the years are probably “lower end” parts.

But there’s a whole subgroup of bicycle enthusiasts out there who still ride $200 bikes and fix those bikes themselves, these parts will be a goldmine. I won’t make any money off them now, but I can set them free and someone else will find them useful. 

I still have a few things I’ll hang onto until I absolutely cannot make a single repair on my own bikes anymore.

The bicycle industry as the tech bros, carbon-fiber babies and “gravel” riders with five percent body fat have reimagined it in 2024 is not green, not sustainable and not terribly welcoming to lower-income riders. So here’s a nice big middle finger for you. I do not miss working in the industry at all, and I am fiddling while bicycle Rome burns.  If and when things truly go south, I will wonder if you kids can scare up enough carbon-fiber bits and e-bike batteries to keep going. I strongly suspect that there will be folks who will regret once telling me not to help keep the older bikes going when I should’ve sold new stuff.

I’m not sorry.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Taking a breath.

So I went to Bike Happy Hour last night.

Thankfully, the focus remained on bicycles and transportation infrastructure.

And I was able to have lovely conversations with all sorts of folks, and my heightened sense of worry calmed down.

Was I over-worrying? Not for me I wasn't. I'm Jewish. I come programmed with a heightened sense of worry around being Jewish. This heightened worry may be partly a condition of my DNA, and partly a result of the antisemitism I've experienced in my lifetime, and there is probably nothing I can do to change that very much.

But last night I got to ride my bike, and hang with bike people and that helped me take a breath.

I'll ride my bike again today and hopefully tomorrow as well, and perhaps if I keep riding I can keep taking breaths.

I recognize that this will not change anything in the larger world. I cannot fix the larger world. All I can do is do what I can here in my little corner. And if that's not enough, it's still something.

Happy riding.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024


This showed up just now in my Instagram feed.


I am immediately conflicted. 

I love a great group ride. I’ve enjoyed my fair share over the years. A few of them have been purposeful, like this one is. Most have been in celebration of the bicycle and some have had no overarching theme at all.

After my experience last week at Bike Happy Hour — an intensely internal one, admittedly — I wonder now where I can participate in bicycle community activities without feeling weird. I wonder if I am supposed to feel weird at every single community even going forward, until such time as there’s and end to the current round of fighting. (And let’s be clear: any end to the current hostilities would not be, and could never be, permanent or even very long term. There is too much at stake for the power players involved, overseas and here in the US. Sorry, but that’s what happens when you grow up and see things as truly complicated and messy as they are.)

Do I somehow summon the spoons to speak up for complexity and nuance? Will be I be shouted down simply because too many people in this time and place are too impatient for nuance? Or will I be shouted down simply if I identify (or am identified) as a Jew?

Maybe there’s a way out of this, but right now I feel a little stuck. Because right now, in too many places, too many voices are confusing — or conflating, if we’re honest — Zionism and Jewishness. For too many people, those have become one and the same. People who don’t like Jews in general are dictating the terms of my identity for me. And I don’t feel big enough or strong enough to counter their arguments.

If the idea of “doing-every-single-public-thing-for-Palestine” catches on at the current rate, I may end up riding alone all summer. I’ve done that before, and I can certainly do it again. I’d just rather not.

I have three more public bicycle events to check out in the next couple of weeks, during which I hope things will become clearer for me. I will hold off my inner verdicts until then, and I guess I’ll see what happens.

Happy riding.

Highway to Hell, and other Americanisms

I’ve ridden my bicycle for real, practical transportation since I was eight years old. I was eight years old in 1971. It was, as we say, a different time back then. It was far safer to ride a bicycle in most American towns and cities, for lots of reasons that include population, demographics and available consumer choices at the time. (Millennials, you can Google the Middle East Oil Crisis of 1972-3 to get the fuller picture. It was a wacky time.)

I continued to ride my bicycle even as my peers were getting their drivers’ licenses. (I got a learner’s permit too, but wasn’t really interested in driving and actually flunked my first driving test at seventeen. I wouldn’t try again until my mid-twenties. Another story.)

I rode my bicycle all over Gresham and, after I moved out, all over other towns and cities. It wasn’t always ideal but it was entirely doable. And safe enough, in those days, to do so without a helmet. (To be fair, only college kids with money could afford the helmets that were available at the time, so the rest of us went without.)

The freedom and ease that I felt whenever I swung a leg over the top tube and pedaled away was unlike anything else. And in some ways, it still is, even now when I can only ride shorter distance at slower speeds. (I have a helmet now. They got cheaper.)

Dan Sheehan, aka NOT A WOLF, has written an amazing and important essay about the state of travel on America’s roads today, and the state of Americans’ mental health behind the wheel. 

I urge you all to read it, if for no other reason that it will help you understand what’s at stake in the future of not only the environment, but in the health of our collective psyche.

May is National Bike Month

Pedalpalooza, Portland’s annual summer bicycle festival, begins June 1st.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, PLEASE slow down, consider combining car trips if you must drive, and SEE PEOPLE ON BICYCLES.

Travel safely.   

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Coffee Outside in PDX gets a little more special this week.

Portland bikey peeps — Coffee Outside will meet up at Lords Luggage this Saturday, not a typical park locale but in support of a local artisan who makes bags for bikers, walkers and other Portlanders and is throwing a party to celebrate Portland maker culture.

Starts at 9am. Bring your own coffee fixings, pastries and fun. And stay for the party.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Bike Happy Hour, and then some

I enjoyed a nice ride to Bike Happy Hour this evening. Saw some friends, met some nice new people, did the bikey love thing, and everything was great.

Then came the Open Mic, where folks in attendance can get up and make announcements about upcoming events (mostly bike related but not absolutely required). One of the speakers was a fellow who decided to use his turn at the mic to speak out against “the genocide in Gaza,” and then urging everyone present to do the same. He also informed us that he has lobbied local transportation-oriented nonprofits like Street Trust and Bike Loud to issue statements condemning “the genocide in Gaza,” as if these decidedly local transportation-oriented nonprofits could effect any meaningful difference either way — or should.

I felt slightly uncomfortable. Then, the Bike Happy Hour host gave this man a big hug and the assembled crowd applauded, and I felt a little more uncomfortable.

Here’s why.

At bicycle-centric gatherings such as this, I’ve never heard anyone come out this boldly against genocide against any other group of people — in Somalia, Sierra Leone, or Anywhere else. In fact, the current climate seems to be quite open to statements about this particular conflict — which, lest we forget, began with an attack on October 7 of last year that was apparently months or even years on the making. The level of outrage about the attack against Israel never seemed to achieve the same volume, the same fevered pitch, or the sustain, from the general public as the Israeli government’s decision to retaliate against Hamas. Then, there was a lot of cry and hue against Israel, and against Jews (whether Zionist or not) from multiple sides.

While I am well aware that there is a lot more support for Palestinians than for Jews in a lefty town like Portland, finding this vibe at a bicycle-oriented event was really disappointing for me. Was I surprised? I guess not entirely. But yeah, I was disappointed. Was I nervous? I don’t know. I felt kind of alone. And of course, I suppose I would feel that way in this particular context. 

Jews are not a huge subgroup here. And over half of Portland’s Jews are not affiliated with any Jewish institution. For some, the cost of admission is too high (though synagogues have come a long way since the 1970s, and nearly all of them are willing to work with someone on a tight budget). For others, they don’t feel a big pull towards organized religion. And for the rest, they see their Jewish identity at best as a thing that doesn’t matter much, and at worst a thing to be played down in favor of assimilating. Jews as a group are hardly monolithic. 

As someone who did not grow up in a Zionist home and whose connection to Jewish communal life was almost nonexistent until adulthood, I struggle with how I feel about Israel for lots of reasons. But at this present time, with college campuses up in arms and too many refusing to make a distinction between Israelis, Zionists and Jews because nuance is too hard, yeah. I felt alone and a little nervous. I’m not sure I can feel any other way at this time or in this place.

And mostly I felt so alone because I didn’t expect global politics to enter a chilled-out, bicycle-oriented space so selectively. 

I stayed for a few minutes after the Open Mic period was over, then said my goodbyes and left. 

I felt sad and annoyed and nervous all at the same time. The ride home helped a little. But only a little.

I don’t know if, with all my health issues and everything else going on, I feel like expending much more energy on this. But I felt like it was important enough to warrant a mention here. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Bike Summer 2024: Coming soon to a Portland near you

Bike Summer begins in June, with a kickoff ride on June 1 at the North Park Blocks. Check out the Pedalpalooza calendar here:

Bike Summer merch is available for pre-order here:

Portland is a great place to ride a bicycle. There are events being added all the time. And join me and a bunch of bike-loving folks at the opening ride.

Monday, May 6, 2024

Clean getaway: Why I'm glad I left the bicycle industry

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I currently own three bicycles.
(My health has made it harder for me to ride often, but I still love bicycles and probably will forever.)
-- 1999 Rivendell All-Rounder. The bike I ride most often. It has the greatest grocery capacity with a big saddlebag and front basket, and it shows its 25 years of honest wear beautifully.
-- 1988 Peugeot Orient Express. I got this a couple years ago because I'd been looking (for almost a decade) for an Orient Express in my size and this was what the universe offered.
-- 1960s Cape Cod converted into a singlespeed city bike. I love singlespeeds and have enjoyed building up and riding this one. Sadly, my knees are letting me know that singlespeeds may no longer work so well for me, and I am preparing to sell it soon.

I share this here because I've just come across an article that beautifully explains what I think of the direction bicycle design and the bike industry have taken. 
I was planning on leaving anyway in 2012 because my hands were taking a beating and my body could no longer handle ten-hour days at a repair stand. (Non-mechanical events at the shop forced me to leave sooner than I had planned, but it was coming before the next busy season regardless.)
As this article confirms, I think I left just in time, before things got silly and worse.
See for yourself. And understand why none of my bicycles use newer designs and materials.