Saturday, January 29, 2011

Barter Economy

Some of my most interesting bicycle-related acquisitions have been through trades with others, and I find these barter exchanges to be great. Whether bicycle related or not, trades can work out nicely - with each party feeling as if they are getting something new and useful.

For instance, I received this vintage Ideale saddle in exchange for some vintage Brooks.

I received these beautiful dressguards in exchange for a spare saddlebag.

I even had some custom metalwork done in exchange for a basket. Other trades have included embroidery in exchange for a rear rack, collectible fountain pens in exchange for artwork, and products in exchange for photography.

A good place to start looking for bartering opportunities as far as bicycles go, is bikeforums. They've set up "For Trade" threads for different geographical regions, where you can list the items you have available and the items you are looking for. Here is the one for the Northeastern USA. I have been considering setting up something similar - but cannot think of a way to do it without it eating up too much of my time.

And while trades can be pre-determined and formal ("I'll give you my Item X in exchange for your Item Y"), they can also be a sort of reciprocal, whimsical gift-giving - like pen pals exchanging objects instead of letters: You send the person something you think they might like, and at some later point they do the same. There are no explicit arrangements or expectations, and that is the neat thing about it. I've had these types of exchanges with several bike people, and it's been really nice - my latest gift being the delightfully named "bike burrito."

These things have fascinated me for some time, so I was pretty happy to get one. It's called a "bike burrito" because - well, it folds up like a burrito.

...And unfolds to reveal compartments for your tools. (We all have different concepts of "tools!")

The "burrito" is held together by a toe-clip strap, which can be easily threaded through the rails under your saddle. With the "epic" winter we are having, it's safe to say that I won't be using it any time soon - but it deserves to be seen!

Connecting with other bicycle-loving people from around the world can be fun, and can lead to all sorts of exchanges you would not otherwise have. What are your thoughts on developing a system to facilitate this? Would you find it helpful? What features would be useful? Would simply using the comments section of a post be enough, or do you think it won't work without a message board? Ideas welcome!

24 comments:

  1. Veloria said..
    "Connecting with other bicycle-loving people from around the world can be fun, and can lead to all sorts of exchanges you would not otherwise have. What are your thoughts on developing a system to facilitate this? Would you find it helpful? What features would be useful? Would simply using the comments section of a post be enough, or do you think it won't work without a message board? Ideas welcome!"

    As you know "barter" is mans earliest form of exchange and still works well today as your story indicates. I ,too, have swapped,traded or bartered for many thing/services in my long life with great success.

    I think you are asking if you should develop a proper message board to grow into from your blog. In all honestly you're doing so well that it should be considered "IF" you are ready to solicit volunteers to help you with the inevitable moderation task that go with a full size message board. Only you can decide if you're truely ready for THAT task !!

    My.02 comes down on the side of the blog since I find it to be a nice place to visit with minimum hassles and little to no hate so common on message boards. :(

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  2. Walt - No, I would not be prepared to moderate a full message board, or to delegate moderation tasks to others. It would have to be a small DIY messageboard-type page, that would be kept very basic and simple. And it would not in any way replace the blog, bit would be a link to a separate page. Still, even as I write about it, the amount of work seems unrealistic : )

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  3. Velouria said...
    " And it would not in any way replace the blog, bit would be a link to a separate page. "

    Hmmmmm......If I were you I would think long and hard before I linked my blog to........anything.

    Velouria, You've got a good thing in this blog and I've seen it mentioned elsewhere so it will grow as is your ad revenue.

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  4. The best kind of trade is when you get something you really wanted, but didn't know you wanted until you got it.

    Something occurs to me now: Exchange is one of the most human things we do. When we don't trade stuff, we exchange ideas and what we learn from our experiences. Sometimes the latter comes with the former, and makes things all the more interesting.

    It seems that cyclists are more in tune with that way of thinking than most other people.

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  5. Why not make a permanent page on your blog which looks like the "for sale" page you set up in the past. Instead of putting your own stuff on it, have a separate email account where people send you pictures and descriptions, and simply pick out a few of the best submissions to feature.

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  6. lyen - The previous For Sale pages actually included things from others as well. The problem is that even on that small scale it was too much to coordinate the submissions. Often, by the time I'd list the item, the person would already have sold it. Plus it takes time to edit the pictures, update the pages with each seller's information... just too much, and not exactly an interesting way to spend my time. The system would have to be hands-off for me in order for it to be viable, with readers responsible for posting their own listings.

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  7. I like the idea of a bike-related barter system, but I feel that the concept is already well-implemented in the bikeforums.com community. For example, you're already aware of the "ISO/For trade" thread within the Vintage and Classic section, but there's also a specific thread for frameset swapping-- the idea being that you might have a frame that doesn't quite fit right, but someone else on the forum may fit it perfectly and have a frameset that, reciprocally, may fit you perfectly. I happened to participate in a reciprocal frameswap, wherein I traded my too-small Shogun frame for a Schwinn Voyageur frame in my size. The trade worked out wonderfully.

    What makes the frameswap concept work so well is a google docs spreadsheet (open to the public) that lists all the frames available for trade, along with their geomoetries, features, etc, and what the frames' owners are looking for in a frame.

    A database similar to that may prove useful if you wanted to start something similar.

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  8. 1. I love that fabric, but I am a sucker for anything with an apple or pear print. Which reminds me I need to get my sewing machine fixed up so I can finish that skirt....

    2. Anyone want to trade a Dutch bike for my 1985 Miyata two-ten? No?

    Okay, that second one might end up happening, but not as a direct trade: a gentleman I recently met is selling his RIH bike (bought in the Netherlands!) for the same price I was hoping to get for my Miyata.

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  9. somervillain - I agree that the bikeforums system is well implemented, so this would be in supplement of it and not in competition. I estimate that over 50% of my readers are not bikeforums members, and for a variety reasons do not feel comfortable posting there. So this would be mostly for them.

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  10. april - I don't think a Dutch bike trade is that far fetched; I got my 15 year old Gazelle for next to nothing!

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  11. "You send the person something you think they might like, and at some later point they do the same. There are no explicit arrangements or expectations, and that is the neat thing about it."

    Yes indeed! This is what I enjoy. This, of course, is more of a thing between friends rather than just selling/buying.

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  12. I also love trade/barter for services. I've gotten sewing repairs done in exchange for illustration work. And now I'll be getting custom panniers for illustration as well! It doesn't always have to be an item for item swap.

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  13. re. the bike burrito...I think they're cool too! I'm curious to know if it would it be safe to, say, carry one's phone in one?
    -jen

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  14. ^ jen: I think it makes more sense to get a small under-the-saddle bag to carry keys + cell phone + emergency money.

    The bike burrito is too cool for school and all, but I think it could (theoretically) slip out of its toe clip strap. If it's tools inside, well, you could really tighten it.

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  15. MDI - Because the burrito is made of fabric, it is possible to tighten the strap in such a way, that it can't slip in either direction.

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  16. Jen: I haven't had my Burrito slip out of its strap. The trick is to roll it so that it sits flat on the outside of your saddle rails or tucks between them. Then pull the strap as tight as you can. Of course, you don't want to carry palmier cookies inside your Burrito!

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  17. I've gotten to the point that I'm trying to get rid of a lot of the bike treasure I've accumulated, if you started some sort of fun swap page I'd probably enjoy it for a while, then find that I was accumulating more stuff again and stressing about getting as much as something was worth in every trade.

    If you do it I hope it works out, but I'm going to try to just keep sticking things in envelopes, boxes and peoples hands before I can change my mind. My MOUNTAIN of stuff is slowly becoming a mere hoard and maybe one day it will just be a shelf of spare parts...

    I yanked a 62cm Diamond Back touring bike from a dumpster last week, late 80s, early 90s, butted chrome moly, with decent lugwork and a bunch of low miles mid-range parts. I was so excited to get it home and fix the rear wheel, clean it up and try to sell it for "ahunnertbux"(it's waayy too tall for me). But after I cleaned the fungus off the wretched thing and hung it up I realized it was going to be there for a generation before I got around to fixing it (and I knew I wasn't going to resist the urge to paint it and polish the alloy parts etc), so when a guy came by to have me weld a tallbike together and remarked that it would fit a grad student friend of his who's roadbike got stolen last November, I made him go stuff it in his Subaru before I could change my mind. What a relief to not have that thing hanging from the rafters like some carcass needing to be butchered before it spoiled anymore. And now there will be some guy with a Masters degree in Indigenous Architecture that owes me a favor, so if I ever need help building an Igloo or mudhut I'm all set!

    Spindizzy

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  18. will build igloo for bike parts...

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  19. Another new and interesting "brand" for bike bags and others; she is a friend of my and recycle inner tubes into diferents bike-gadgets: http://www.elibolsa.comuv.com/

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  20. I can't really add much beyond what you've already said about trades and bartering. For me, personally, it's been a mostly wonderful experience. I've swapped just about everything, from my recent trade of a touring frame and fork (brought to early fruition on the bikeforums.net "This frame doesn't fit..." thread) to much smaller items, to (somewhat) unrelated goods, services, and artwork. For instance, I began making fine art prints of C&V bicycles last summer, purely as a different (and very personal) avenue of visual expression; surprisingly, I've had several like-minded people contact me for gear trades - a development that was entirely unplanned and unanticipated! Bartering has added a whole new spin to my "game" of bicycle building - which for me is a zero sum game: doing it for fun, not to make money (but try not to lose money either!)

    - azorch

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  21. Justine Valinotti said...
    "When we don't trade stuff, we exchange ideas and what we learn from our experiences. Sometimes the latter comes with the former, and makes things all the more interesting."


    I agree! That is probably one reason why, at least for me, the "thrill of the exchange" is usually greater than the "thrill of the shopping bargain." I have been finding shopping very tedious lately.

    Mark - the same has happened with my artwork, as well photography and knitting. I enjoy it very much!

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  22. HAVE: ONE leather end cap for Brooks Leather Handlebar Grips in Antique Brown.

    When riding last summer, a cap fell off and disappeared forever. Bummer, because the grips were expensive. Anyway, I now have an extra cap.

    Did the same thing happen to you? Could you use one authentic Brooks cap?

    WANT: A small token of your appreciation.

    Contact: gkorsman at yahoo.com

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  23. lovely idea, and certainly the kind of economy all for supporting. I live in the country, people trade and barter for trades and services, there's freecycle and there's a free bin at work with endless goodies. With the economy the way it is and may continue to be, trade is super awesome and keeps money out of the equation when many of us are hard up. While there are great finds at the bike coops, one usually doesn't find leather saddles or beautiful fenders etc.. I'm not fond of shopping but recently got some great finds at a vintage clothing store that was having a moving sale. Most of my clothes these days come from the second hand store and then tailored and fitted to suit my needs. I am currently trying to figure out how to turn all the low rise pants I've accumulated into high rise pants to keep my back warm cycling!
    But as for bicycle goodies....I don't really have bike parts to trade, but no shortage of things on my wish and need list for my bikes.
    Heather

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  24. Would LOVE to have one of your berets! Don't really have anything to trade (no spare bike parts) except an old Kodak brownie camera. :)

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