Glorious Decrepitude

It is one thing to see old, ravaged bicycles parked or abandoned around the city. But what is more interesting, is to see them in active use and lovingly decorated. The bicycle in the photo above is parked along my daily route to work. Its state of decrepitude is difficult to capture, because of the other bikes parked around it. Suffice to say, that the wheels are rusted, the fenders are barely holding on, and the enormous blue saddle is lumpy and slashed all over. Yet, the handlebars are decorated with flowers and the bicycle is amazingly clean. Somebody rides it and takes care of it.

This mixte is peeling all over and the saddle is bandaged with duct tape. The owner handled the peeling by embellishing the entire frame, as well as the front fender, with yellow tape for a striped effect. This bike certainly stood out in the center of Vienna!

This ancient bicycle along the Danube path seemed abandoned. Looking at least 40 years old and covered with rust, it appeared to have sunken into the ground. But shortly after this photo was taken, a gentleman came along, gave it a loving pat, and rode it into the sunset.

Of course this bicycle (photographed in Boston) takes things to another level. Parts of the frame are bent, parts are rusted, and the entire thing is spray-painted a dull industrial gray -- giving it the appearance of merging with the parking stand. Yet clearly, the bike is in active use: There is a new mesh basket on the rusted handlebars, and what appears to be a deflated tube (?) is used as a bungee cord over the rear rack. Awesome!

Without a doubt, there is a romance in old, ravaged bicycles. Even Tom Waits has a song about this.


  1. Great song. The yellow and black bicycle reminds me of Janosch's Tigerente:

  2. I have a soft spot for old, beat-up bikes.The first one, with the flowers, is really special. I should add some flowers to mine.

  3. I love seeing these old bicycles,and seeing they're still in use...warms my heart :)

  4. Tigerente -- That did not occur to me! I wonder if the owner decorated the bike to resemble it on purpose.

    The white flowers tend to look especially good on an old bike -- they lend a ghostly, magical feel to it.

    I imagine the owners must feel quite attached to these bikes, and there is a great deal of sentimental value there.

  5. Ohhhh, I, too, am getting inspired to add flowers to our Radish.

  6. sara -- what about a bunch of radishes? : ))


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