Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sharing the Velo Love

"You must really love me, if you're actually letting me ride this bicycle!" 

Ten miles in, this was said with the slyest of grins - letting me know that the undercurrent of nervousness in my earlier "of course you can borrow my Mercian, darling" had been less subtle than I thought.

In my defense, let me explain that any sense of misgiving I had was not due to an unwillingness to share. Rather, the rider in question had never been on a fixed gear before. And, given his penchant for speed and risk-taking, I was just a tiny bit worried.

"As you should be. Be a shame if I ruined that beautiful pearly paint..." 

"I am worried about you breaking your neck, not scratching my paint, you idiot!"

"Riiight!"

Twenty miles and some wink-heavy banter later, with my beloved's limbs and my bicycle's paint both blessedly intact, I was finally feeling more relaxed. Among his other charms, this man was apparently a born fixie rider and I needn't have worried. 

"And isn't it nice to see what your bike looks like in motion?" 

Indeed it was. But seeing my Mercian ridden by someone other than myself made me realise how seldom I've lent my roadbikes to others. Mind you, this is not for lack of trying. It's just that until recently, few cyclists I knew rode the same frame size as me, or set their bikes up in a similar way. More often than not, whenever I'd try to swap roadbikes with friends in the past, hilarity would ensue. Even with riders similar to me in height and build, our preferences in setup and fit were too different to make things work. Funny enough, I now have several friends who, while quite a bit taller than me, ride the same frame size with a similar set up in all ways other than the saddle position. Loaning out a Honey cyclocross bike to a friend for a 300K brevet was a piece of cake. And in the case of the Mercian, all it took was raising the saddle a couple of yards and shoving it back a mile or two, and it was declared "perfect." 

And, perhaps more importantly, so was the fixed gear experience itself. In fact, I daresay the man now wants one of his own! Just goes to show that sharing the velo love can pay off. 

What is your policy when it comes to sharing your bicycles with friends, loved ones, strangers? Are you squeamish about others spinning your pedals? Do you worry about safety issues? Or, are you the neighbourhood bicycle "pusher," hoping a helpful loaner bike will prove habit-forming? 

45 comments:

  1. I've tried loaning my bikes to friends and family, with much hilarity. They all look like they're riding kids bikes! Ah, being really short and having tiny bikes. :)

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  2. I was almost going to write you and ask you about this. My housemates boyfriend who is living with us for a month asked through her if he could fix up my bike and ride it. And my guts did a funny flip. I think it's not so much the riding but the "fixing it up". My bike... is my baby! MAYBE you can ride it if you PROMISE to always lock it up, keep the WD40 away from it, and don't change ANYTHING on it. but sure. that's fine.

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  3. Nope, I've got a Brompton (too possessive of that one to loan it out!) and a perfect-for-me stealth beater-look-alike where everything is bolted in place with security nuts that would require too much effort to undo. Crazy long legs make it unrideable to anyone I know as is. My bikes are very much mine; I wouldn't loan them out! I'd rather loan someone my car.

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  4. I would really hesitate to lend my Boulder All Road to anyone else - the only person I would really trust with it is five inches taller than me and it would be a bad fit. (He could ride my Surly Long Haul Trucker, though, since I bought a frame that was at the limit of what I can ride, just to get the bike then rather than three months later.) My other bikes I'm happy to lend to people who can fit them. I might hesitate a bit on the Bike Friday New World Tourist if it were someone without much experience with low-trail handling. But I've crashed that bike a couple times, so I can't be too picky about how others handle it.

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  5. I allow and sometimes encourage my friends to borrow my derailleur-geared bikes - my personal Ross 10-speed beater and some others that I'm selling anyway. The friends who do borrow from me are ones who don't know/don't care about setup so all I have to do is lower the seat since they're not used to full leg extension either. As for the classic Raleighs with internal gear hubs and my car, they can only be operated by the closest of friends and under supervision at that, haha.

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  6. I loan bikes all the time, even my bestest ones. Although the farther up the totem pole of attachment the fewer people are on the guest list. I didn't use to do this with my favorites but I like it when someone important to me asks if I have a spare and I can offer them something that lets them know I like them more than a little. They usually turn down the Mercian or my old Beloved Trek 970 that was my best bike for 25 years but I have a metric crap-tonne of others to choose from.

    I have 2 out on long term loan right now, a nice steel Nishiki International that was my fixed gear for a few years that my youngest daughters best friends father is riding. I put on an NOS Shimano 8sp 105 group I got somehow(fell off a truck?) and other parts from the LBS take-off box. Some of my friends and I are turning him from a soccer stud into a bike dork. My other daughters current boyfriend is riding a really sweet late '70sPuch with stage race history that I bought last fall because it looked sad and was living rough under the deck of a house. He's started riding with me and my two friends named Ben on Sunday afternoons, his name is Ben as well which is almost too much to put up with. His brother is riding with us now too on the Specialized cross' bike I sold him last fall. I've got 3 new cool people that have started riding with me in the past year and if I have to provide and maintain bikes to keep them riding with me than that seems like a bargain. I'll let almost anyone borrow my mountainbikes, I never really get that attached to them and it's not likely that anyone is going to ride them hard enough to hurt them.

    I loaned a friends sister-in-law a ratty looking but fantastic 56cm steel cross' bike I bought and gave up on as too small. Such a lovely old thing, obviously European and with the highest bottom bracket I've ever seen but undocumented and probably illegal somehow if 3 layers of rattle-can enamel mean anything. Maybe someones team bike they never gave back or something. So this guy I used to work with asked if I had a bike his S.I.L. could ride while recovering from some knee surgery that was going to keep her from running for a few months. I tried to get him to buy it but he couldn't believe any bike that ugly could be worth $150. I was a tiny bit offended but he's a Golpher so what's he know, right? Anyway, I loaned it to her and she started coming to the club rides and since I was the only person she knew even a little she rode in the same little pod in the back that some of my friends and I usually end up in. She later told me that at first she thought I was trying to get into her pants because I kept trying to make her laugh but when she realized I was no more a threat than any of the other middle-aged Married guys she decided to let me into her bubble and we ended up riding together pretty often for the 2 years she lived around here. Being friends with young women is always complicated for old men but if everyone behaves and you don't let your mind wander it can be really nice. I got to learn a lot about Meteorology and what goes on in Govt. Fish Hatcheries and she got to enjoy the same 11 stories over and over again. When she moved away to go to Grad School I told her to just keep the bike and when she came by so I could put a rack on her car it got awkward because this nice young woman who I thought always rode with me because she didn't want to be too far away from a spare tube and a payday bar got teary eyed which made me get all dopey too, and she thanked me for being her friend when she didn't have many. Never would have happened if I wasn't willing to share my toys. I can't imagine how that could have been any better.

    Spindizzy

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    1. I think you got it right, Mr. Spindizzy.

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  7. Sounds like he's sort of special. It's ok then!

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  8. A couple years ago, my wife thought it would be fun to join me on a 60-mile ride in Yellowstone National Park. She didn't have her own road bike at the time, but I lent her my commuter, a Bridgestone MB3 outfitted with road slicks, SKS fenders and Nitto Moustache bars, a real Grant Petersen tribute bike. She hadn't ridden that far before, but she had no trouble with the fitness part of cycling. However, during the last few miles her hands grew extremely numb. After the ride, she could barely take her jacket off. It turns out she suffered damage to the ulnar nerve in her left wrist and required surgery. I felt terrible. Fortunately, she has made a full recovery, and since then she has acquired her own road bike and our local LBS dialed in the fit. She has done a couple of triathlons and we have done some long rides. Turns out, she's an excellent rider. She just needed a bike that fit her a little better. But I still feel guilty about that fateful 60-mile ride.

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  9. I have just one bike which I require for transportation, quite apart from recreation, so were I to loan it out, I would then be without transport - not sensible. Quite aside from this, I take excellent care of my bike and want it to remain at all times in my vicinity, so no, I would not loan it out to anyone.

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  10. I'd loan my car in an instant, but you would have to be a very good friend indeed to borrow my bicycle.

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  11. I have three bikes. They're all nice bikes. I've let a summer intern I liked borrow my brompton for a few months, as I use it mostly for grocery runs and can do that a bit less easily with my winter bike. It was more of a wrench than I expected and I was glad to have it back, but I'd do it again. I'd probably let someone ride my winter bike for a few days in the summer, though at the moment I'm strongly attached to it.

    But my favorite bike, my first nice bike and the one I use all the time when snow and ice aren't around, only gets ridden briefly for test rides and every time I'm itching to get my hands back on it (even as I'm startled by how beautiful it is in motion from a non-rider's perspective). I don't ride it in winter, but I wouldn't loan it even in winter. A certain amount of my progress as a mechanic can be attributed to not wanting to let even a bike shop (briefly) take it from me.

    It seems the more time I spend riding a particular bike during the year, the less I want anyone else to touch it!

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  12. Growing up, we definitely had a resident bike pusher in our 'hood. A guy named Joe and as it happens my best friend's grandfather. The guy had a ton of rescue bikes piled in the garage that we kids could borrow without asking. Funny enough not a single bike ever went missing or damaged as far as I recall!

    I am sad to say the same scenario would be impossible in this day and age, at least not in the US. As much as I would love to introduce my son and daughter's friends to biking, I worry about all kinds of liability issues.

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  13. During my travels I've been surprised and humbled by the generosity of strangers. Many with very little to give. Why would they do that? The answer was usually because they've been given things when in need and knew what it meant to them. It's a way of thinking which has stuck with me….letting go so life can be experienced, not being possessive of the material. Sounds flakey, I know, but it's what I aim for. I've three bikes, one of which is my daily transportation the other two are less ridden but kinda sweet -- '83 Schwinn Paramount and a Surly Cross Check. Both bikes now get loaned/borrowed often, either to friends when visiting or to strangers who happen to be with the friends. The bikes are a little dustier, the paint on the Paramount scratched here and there, but they're being ridden and enjoyed. Funny, my son left his bike here when he went off to college. Bought a different commuter while there and since he remained in the city his old bike remains here and it's a nicely equipment road bike he built from scratch -- sunk a lot of time and money into it -- quite special to him. When a friend was visiting who couldn't fit my bikes I called to ask if maybe I could borrow his and he just laughed. Turns out he thought it was silly to not have it used and said I never need to ask again. He was just glad it could be used while he was not using it. I think bikes are special, they make me happy, but sharing them, not being possessive, makes me feel alive and connected to a bigger economy.

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  14. In our old neighborhood, there was a fellow beloved of memory who kept a stable of bikes of all description running for neighbors and kids. We actually have one of them- a 1949 Indian Princess step-through that will eventually be retro-modded as herself sees fit. The neighbor BOM passed on 30 years ago, and no one has filled his shoes, for just the liability reasons Dan mentioned.

    I would gladly lend a bike to any friend that "gets it" , but so few do, and of those that do, even fewer have similar dimensions.
    The roadster is an easier loan than the road bike; but it is a narrow class of people who fit a 24" rod brake frame with almost no adjustment possible on stem or saddle.

    The exception was the little ROG Pony folder. With everything being collapsible, it would fit anyone, and frequently does.
    Herself has lent out the Raleigh Cameo loop frame 3-speed on occasion, and she gave away her 1960 Hercules after having it out on loan to a friend for 3 years.

    V, does Beloved want himself a fixed gear in general, or a Mercian Vincitore in particular?

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  15. Nice post. I hope your happiness continues.

    Given that most relationships are female/male and that there is gender size dysmorphism, lending bikes to sweethearts is usually confounded by issues of fit.

    We want those we care about to be comfortable. My wife would be very uncomfortable on any of my bikes - but if she could magically fit, I would love it if she would use and ride as she will (sadly, most often won't). But...she will do what makes her happy, and that is enough.

    Anyway, for couples who ride, perhaps the best is shared experiences. A ride to a park or to lunch (or both), a shared athletic endeavor....these things are made better with companionship.

    Enjoy your ride.

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  16. I like to keep a couple bikes around for guests when I have the space. My $100 Raleigh 3-speed-type bikes that come and go suit this purpose. One friend of a friend had more recently moved from India than I realized, and he had a bit of trouble riding on the right side of the road. Another friend messed up a favorite bike of mine. But otherwise people have done fine riding around the city.

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  17. Bicycle 'pusher'? Now there's an interesting idea. 'Pssst! Hey Bub, over here…..wanna try a bike? It'll make you feel good. Come on, first one is free…you'll like it.' Nah, doubt I could do that….Is this an urban thing?

    Growing up, bikes were littered around my west coast neighborhood. We had no problems sharing, even the cool bikes got passed around to those of us yet to get our first set of wheels. It was normal. And I think that's still true for kids, at least it was when my children got their first bikes, now on the east coast, and pedaled around with friends and to and from school.

    Why does it need to be different with adults? I've not an issue sharing what I have. If friends come over who don't have a bike and we decide to go out for dinner, or for a ride to the farmers market, or whatever, they get their choice of bikes. I'm very average, size wise, so if one is taller than I it's no problem to raise the saddle. On the occasion when I'm with someone considerably shorter I've got a small framed step through three speed. It's not perfect, but then what is?

    My kids, now grown up, have asked if they can borrow a bike for one of their friends to use because either their cars were out of order or because the didn't have a car but just got a job out of walking distance. Always they were respectful of the bike and returned it in working order. The bikes are not custom or exceptional but they are quality and all I care about is that a lock goes with them and that they're reasonably adjusted for safety and fit.

    Life is short.

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  18. On occasion I'll do a little wrenching on a friends bike and since I'm a bicycle addict I always have a spare I'll loan to them ( after a quick fitting) until I finish with theirs.

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  19. I am short, so it worked that my step daughters could ride my bikes when they visit and generally are still the same height. My husband sometimes borrows one of my bikes if none of his are functional(flat tires he doesn't want to fix that sort of thing), and he will raise the saddle and be off, but he will complain about how small the bike is. I'd be happy to share my bikes with a friend, but at the same time I might feel overly protective about what someone would do to my precious bikes.

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  20. LOAN a bicycle...???? I simply don't understand what that means...

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  21. I love to share my Brompton; I'd share my other bike too but I've had the Brooks saddle too long, and it only comfortably fits me ...

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    1. I used to think my Brompton would be a bike I could lend to anyone, because the adjustable height makes it so versatile. But I've had mixed feedback from those I've encouraged to ride it so far. Some people just don't take to the handling straight away and don't feel comfortable riding it. Sadly, it has also been declared "uncool" and outright rejected by a young person for whom I thought it would be just perfect.

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    2. "Sadly, it has also been declared "uncool" and outright rejected by a young person for whom I thought it would be just perfect."

      Kids these days.



      Bromptons get a *lot* of love here in the Twin Cities; Not yet seen a really young rider on one yet, though.

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  22. The same rules apply for bikes and skis - always lend your best toys. Keep the next-best though, so you can ride with the loan-ee. You want them to like it, so give them the best experience you can!
    And it gives you a good reason to get out on the old ones, which can be a treat in itself.
    Tim

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    1. I tend to think that way as well when it comes to my own bikes. Funny though, I am usually too nervous to ride other people's nicest bikes.

      As for skis... I doubt anyone would want to borrow my one and only pair of 15 year old XC LL Beans! They'd sure come in handy these days were I still living in Boston though.

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  23. A moment of sentiment and everything you know about bike fit is deemed meaningless. Why does the Mercian even have "yards" of seatpost? As for your six-foot acquaintances who ride 52cm frames there will never be a shortage of fashion victims. There will never be a shortage of bad examples.

    Last time I loaned out a fixed it was an olympic rings Paramount. Special bike. I got the bike back with the fork blades crumpled and torn, top and down tubes crumpled and folded, both wheels (Weltmeisters) crushed, #3 silks shredded, crank bent, handlebars bent, pedal ground back to the bearings, etc. The rider was basically uninjured but left a lot of skin and a lot of blood on the track. Schwinn rebuilt the Paramount pieces into a frame for a trivial service charge but it was not the same bike.

    The loanee was a Category One roadie. He had a fresh Italian pro contract and a not-yet-deposited signing bonus in his pocket. He was a natural. He was always graceful on the bike. He was utterly clueless about fixed wheel. Everyone on the track saw it coming and moved away from him. His crash was in the context of a race but he fell all by himself. A pratfall.

    It is a technical sport. Knowledge is required. Knowledge is not optional. Knowledge is not "personal preference". Remember how you began riding the Mercian with 49x16. You did that in emulation of fixie boys who didn't know a thing. If you had not solicited and accepted good advice the Mercian would be gathering dust.

    When I loan out bikes they are approximately in perfect mechanical condition. Better than what I typically ride myself. They are also in completely "normal" setup. They are not in my personal idiosyncratic setup. A fully traditional road/path like the Velouria Mercian is not normal with yards of post in the air. As clearly as I saw it that night at Northbrook I can see this one coming from three thousand miles away.

    I never ever ride with fixie boys and I don't personally know one. In the past year I've seen three fixie crashes, one of them very bad. Do not learn the hard way. You like this guy. He likes riding bike. Get him a bike. Soon.

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    1. Yards of seatpost, bad. Got it.
      Good to know that miles of setback is okay though.

      I had 49x16 on my Mercian when I first built it up, because I used parts I already had lying around from barter exchanges and those were those parts' specs. I don't know any fixie boys.

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    2. DUDE! From the carnage you describe that must have been a wreck worth investing in! Was there like a giant fireball and the stench of seared flesh and ambulances and stuff? I'd never sacrifice my best bike for that but if that dude want's to try again I've got a couple of bikes I'd let him ride as long as I can borrow enough Go-Pro's to catch it all.

      Just sayin...

      Spindizzy

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    3. Yes, Spin, the damage was surprisingly comprehensive.I omitted the dead Binda strap, the scraped and scarred track nuts, the Cinelli saddle scraped half an inch deep. I can't remember it all. And this was long enough ago that there was not an ambulance parked at Northbrook on track night. We didn't need one. The crashee walked away and bandaged his road rash himself and raced two days later. Never tried track again. All that happened was he took off the gear I gave him and replaced it with a stupidly large one. He tried to control the bike more precisely than is possible on a monster gear. The bike fought back, he fought the bike, all his power went into crashing the bike.

      The truly impressive crashes were when a pedal took out half the spokes in a wheel on the banking above. Even more impressive when the racer on that wheel kept everything under control and got a foot down, replaced his wheel and raced again minutes later. Then there were the incidents of handlebars getting locked to one another. And the guys who could cooperate and get their bars unlocked. None of this happens anymore. Standard gear at the track is now 52x14, guys ride far apart, little aggression, it's a comedy of manners.

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    4. Here's 16 minutes of gorgeous cinematography:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KotsGmYl8A

      That's the 1965 Tour du St. Laurent. A year when fashion called for large frames and low saddles. The guys are attempting to race 1500 miles in 12 days and the course includes hundreds of miles of dirt and gravel. Even I don't ride as low as these guys are riding. Please note how calm it is in that pack of riders. Those guys are glued to the road. They are serene. Contrast their style to the nervous jitters seen in any ride or race today. Why ride 1500 miles on the edge all the time? Why ever ride on the edge?

      I was not there. I was too young. I do know some of those riders. I was close to Rudy, who passed at age 68 of brain cancer. He had half a million miles in his legs and could count his crashes on one hand. No bike injuries worth noting. The others I know are alive and well and still riding and they don't fall off their bikes either.

      A month ago I learned an old cycling pal had been hit by a car and killed. RIP Peter. Since first posting on this thread I got the news a good friend has extensive brain damage from a bike crash. Too early to say how much recovery might happen. It does not look good.He's on;y 53, with family. Constance, I never make flippant remarks about how to ride a bike.

      Simply raising the post increases setback. A stadtfiets will be fine with all rider weight over the rear axle. A road bike won't. The bike will handle badly. I wouldn't encourage a loved one to ride that way.

      I've been at this so long I can pull longitudinal studies out of personal experience. I can't control how anyone else rides. I feel bad for those who simply have no good examples and a surfeit of bad examples. You're accepting input from a guy who drops you in the dirt within ten miles and he's supposed to be the one who knows what he's doing. Take care.

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  24. I am constantly rebuilding old 10 speeds so I would happily loan out a bike to a friend in need of one and as a known bike dork I get asked sometimes for advice about bikes which I am happy to give but I try to avoid forcing the conversation that way, I realize that not everyone wants to wax poetic about the qualities of a steel frame and the subtle beauty of lugged construction.....

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  25. I'd loan my bikes out, but none of them are very friendly to inexperienced cyclist. There's the Raleigh DL-1 roadster, with its rod brakes. There's the Peugeot all-rounder with friction shifting on a 3x6 drivetrain and bar-end shifters on Nitto moustache bars. There's the Dahon Piccolo folder with a Sturmey 3-speed and a grip-shifter that frequently slips into neutral, if you haven't figured out its quirks. There's the Raleigh Superbe with lumpy, dinged-up steel rims. People who haven't been biking for a while seem to be a little put off by vintage bikes. Their loss, I guess.

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    1. "People who haven't been biking for a while seem to be a little put off by vintage bikes... "

      In my experience, it's varied by type of bike. Vintage 10-speeds do put beginners off. As do really decrepit roadsters with malfunctioning parts. But functional vintage 3-speeds - in particular the likes of the Raleigh Sports - seem to appeal to beginners straight away, more than modern city and hybrid bikes.

      Interestingly my DL-1 was the bike I've lent out the most and it surprised me that not one person seemed phased by the rod brakes. On the other hand, once I'd turned it into a coaster brake bike most found it difficult to operate. Happily, the new owner was specifically looking for a coaster-roadster conversion and loves it.

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  26. Never loan your bike, ever. I don't. It may get damaged, it most certainly will not fit anyone as well as it fits you, and they'll never understand your special relationship with that bike, they just won't get it.

    Tell them to buy their own. Give them a list of local bike shops. Tell them how long it took you to find these special things and send them off on their own journey to discovery. Protect what's yours.

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    1. I don't really get this approach. I guess it depends on whether you have more friends or bikes than you need...

      Spindizzy

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    2. Hmmm, I didn't mean for the tone of that comment to be so crabbyass/judgy/self-righteous. I was just trying to say that I have more bikes than I need and fewer friends than I want.

      Spindizzy

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  27. In one or two week from now I will be riding a fifty-year-old René Herse randonneur for several kilometres ;
    In the meantime I will loan my bike to the fellow cyclist who has roughly the same height as me.

    An exchange is aimed at improve our knowledge about bicycle: a feeling with our body is necessary.

    Nevertheless the best way to have a good test is a same height for both riders.

    Dear Miss V., when I see your beautiful single speed, I wouldn't be surprised if your handlebar is a little bit too wide, isn't it?

    L.

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    1. I was just thinking myself that the handlebars look wide in that picture. But they're 42cm, same as on the other bike. Could be an illusion due to the white bar tape and the angle.

      An original Rene Herse - now there's a bike I would love to try.

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    2. I'd like to get on that list as well. 10 minutes or a day, just take any bike I have and we'll switch back whenever you've had enough...

      Spindizzy

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    3. Been there, done that. They're bikes. Some have a lot of nice features. If you need full tourist kit and have the pocketbook it might be nice. If anyone rides a 61cm there's a nice Rene Andre (many years framebuilder for Herse) on ebay.fr for cheap. It's been listed a few times w/o any takers.

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  28. So I just noticed that sentence about how nice it is to see how great your bike looks in motion, THAT IS SO RIGHT!

    I don't know how to express how cool it is to see your bike or Hot-Rod or old Motorbike in motion from a discreet distance. The beauty of the things we're invested in can be so satisfying but we design and imagine them from the perspective of one looking at them from the position of an observer but then never experience them in flight from that ideal vantage point, only from the intimate but constrained position of the operator. It's so much better to see your fancy bike flashing in the sunshine from 10 feet.

    That's why I've almost creamed a thousand pedestrians while looking at my reflection in storefronts I suppose.

    Spindizzy

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  29. I recently borrowed a road bike from a friend's daughter just so that I could see if I liked it. Loved the bike and it's handling (only been used to upright bikes so far); hated the elbow pain. A true bike library would be a great idea for those of us curious folk!

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  30. Love is never about the object, it's about the experience. I assume velo love is the same. Whenever possible, it should be shared unconditionally.

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  31. sometimes it's not the rider you should be concerned about. I once lent my Waterford CX bike to friend to use in a multi-terrain race since I wasn't racing and he didn't have anything at the time to ride. He is a much faster and very skilled rider. However, one day as he was driving home from a training ride, my bike flew off his roof rack on the freeway! When he called to tell me, I sensed something was very wrong because of the unusual hesitancy in his voice. Fortunately he was willing to pay for all repairs and parts replacement, but since then I don't lend out my bikes. Ever.

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