Friday, March 08, 2013

Justifying One More Bike

Yesterday Christine and I were chatting with Connie Kleitz about the hoarding tendencies of some bicycle collectors and Connie recalled a bit of writing modified from an essay on gun collecting by Patrick McManus. It took me a bit of digging through the archives of the i-BOB list, but this morning I found the bike essay. It's timeless advice that some of you (I'm not going to name any names or make any judgments here!) may find handy.


Date: Wed, 3 Nov 1999 15:38:49 -0600 (CST)
From: Bob Hufford
Subject: RE: [BOB] Bike Limit (long)

I can't remember where I read this (seems like the BOB list a couple of years ago), but it seems like an appropriate time to repost it. Originally by Knapp Hudson of Portland, Maine:


First of all, let us consider the psychology of a person as their partner brings a bike home. It is important to note that the first bike is greeted with considerable enthusiasm by the partner, and they may even brag about it to their friends. The new bike will be great for riding to work and getting exercise. It is important to let your partner know that this is a road bike and to fully be able to exercise, ride on the poor roads in your area, and to ride on the great woods trails a mountain bike is going to also be necessary.

"Why can't you ride in the woods with the same bike?" they say. "I really think you could if you wanted to."

You will then need to explain the difference between a road bike and an off-road bike and your partner will finally agree that you probably do need another bike.

Now that's the typical sitution the new collector faces. He or she will start with a base of two bikes, their partner granting them the benefit of the doubt that two bikes are actually needed. After the second bike, the argument that you need a new bike will be dismissed by your partner with an upward roll of the eyeballs and a big sigh. We are talking only third bike here, remember, nothing more. If you are newly together, upward-rolling eyeballs and big sighs may seem formidable obstacles, but they're really not that serious. Go buy the bike and bring it home. The eye-roll and big sighs will let up after a few days. Now comes the biggie - the Fourth Bike.

With the mere mention of your need for a fourth bike, the partner skips right over the eyeball-rolling and big sighs and goes directly to a recital of your deficiencies of character, weird quirks, and all sins
committed to date. They will bring up such matters as saving for retirement, the fact they are still wearing the clothes their parents bought them in high school, the threatening note from the electric company, etc. "And you want another bike!" they will finish, the sarcasm flickering about the room like sheet lightning.

The fourth bike is the tough one, and in the face of this assault, there is always the temptation to sneak the fourth bike. That's a mistake. Your partners knowing you purchased a fourth bike is essential to further development of your bike collection. Here's why. After you bring the bike home and show it to your partner, they will shake their head and say, "I don't know why you need all those bikes." Note that they don't say four bikes but rather the vague and general all those bikes. Henceforth, they will think of your bike collection not in terms of specific numbers but as a single collective entity - all!

To thoroughly grasp this important concept, suppose your partner is looking at the bikes. You and all your bikes, they might say, possibly with a very tiny tolerant smile. What they fail to notice is that there are now five bikes! Once the psychological barrier of the fourth bike is crossed, the bike collection can be expanded indefinitely with the partners not noticing, provided you use some common sense and don't add too many bikes at once. Two to three a year is about right, spaced at decent intervals.

There is one pitfall in this strategy - the area the bikes are stored in. Although your partner will never bother to count the bikes, they will notice three empty spaces. Therefore, you must make sure that there are always three empty slots, even as your collection expands from four to forty bikes. If you plan on enlarging your collection, select a storage area that can be expanded by adding on new sections, so that there are always three or more empty slots. It works.

But how do you get all those bikes into the house without your partners knowing, you ask. Actually, it is all right if every few years you simply walk right into the house and say, "Look, dear, I bought a new bike." "Neato," they will say. "I'm ecstatic. Now tell me, what did you want to buy another bike for when you already have all those bikes? Ill bet you haven't ridden most of them in the past five years."

Ride them? Yes, a partner will actually say that. They will not be able to comprehend that you needed the bike because you needed it. They will not understand that you need the bikes just to be there, to be your bikes, to be looked at and fondled from time to time. They will not be able to fathom that you need the bikes even though you don't need to ride them. Tell them a bike collection is like wilderness. Even though we don't use all of it all the time, we need to know its there. Probably it won't do any good to tell them that, but's it's worth a try.

Stating the simple truth often works in explaining an occasional bike purchase. But why take unnecessary risks? Go with your best lie and get the bike stashed in your expandable storage area as quickly as possible. Oddly enough, there are a few really good lies for explaining the purchase of a new bike. There's the classic "A Fantastic Bargain," of course, in which you will tell your partner that the bike you just paid $600 for was on sale for $27.50. If their eyebrows shoot up in disbelief, you mention that three men in white coats showed up at the bike shop and led the manager away before he could slash the prices on the rest of the bikes. Indeed, you say, you could have picked up five more brand-new bikes for a total of eighty-five dollars, but you didn't want to take excessive advantage of a crazy person.

The "Play on Their Sympathy Ploy" works well on young, inexperienced partners. It goes something like this: Rush into the house wiping tears of joy from your cheeks. Then cry out, "Look, look! A person at work sold me this bike. Its identical to the one my grandfather gave me on his death bed. Gramps said to me, Im givin' you ol' Betsy here, because every time you ride it, you will remember all the good times you and I had together." Oh, how I hated to sell that bike to pay for mothers operation! But now I got one just like it! Or maybe its even the same bike! Do you think it might actually be the same bike?

Warning! Don't try the "Sympathy Ploy" on your partner if you have been together for longer than five years, unless you want to see a person laugh themselves sick. Its a disgusting spectacle, I can tell you.

The "Fantastic Investment" lie will work on occasion provided you lay the ground work carefully in advance. "That ol' Harvey Schmartz is a shrewd one," you say. "He bought this classic Lightening Whizzer for six hundred dollars as an investment. Three weeks later he sold it for eighty-seven thousand dollars! Boy I wish I could lay my hands on a Lightening Whizzer. Wed sell it when we retire and buy us a condo in Aspen and tour Europe with the change."

After you've used up all your best lies, you are left with only one option. You must finally screw up your courage, square your jaw, and make up your mind that you are going to do what you probably should have done all along - sneak the new bikes into the house.

Here are some proven techniques for bike-sneaking:

The Surprise Party - You arrive home and tell your partner that you have to go to a surprise birthday party for one of your riding partners and picked up a special cake on your way home. "Oh, how clever!" they will exclaim. "A birthday cake shaped like a bicycle!" This is also known as "The Bike-in-Cake Trick."

The Lamp - You buy a lampshade and attach it to the seat of a new bike. "Look, sweetheart," you say to your partner. "I bought a new lamp for the living room."  They gag. Not for this living room, they growl. "Take it to your bike shop and don't ever let me see that monstrosity again!" A variation on this ploy is to tie picture wire to the new bike and call it a wall hanging (this works especially well with antique bikes).

The Loan - A riding friend shows up at your door and hands you your new bike. "Thanks for loaning me one of your bikes," they say. "I'll do the same for you sometime."  Make sure your accomplice can be trusted, though. I tried "The Loan" with a friend one time and he didn't show up at my door with the bike for a month, on the day after first snowfall, as I recall.

Spare Parts - Disassemble the bike and carry it home in shopping bags. Mention casually to your partner that you picked up some odds and ends from the junk bin down at Joe's Bike shop. If there is a question about the frame, you can explain that you found it at the dump when you were taking the trash. Works like a charm! (By the way, does anyone know how to get all those tiny bearings back into a freewheel?)

Hope the above ideas are helpful in building your collection.

Knapp Hudson
Portland, Maine


Date: Wed, 03 Nov 1999 15:42:46 -0800
From: Kenneth Stagg
Subject: Re: [BOB] Bike Limit (long)

Bob Hufford wrote:
> I can't remember where I read this (seems like the BOB list a couple
> of years ago), but it seems like an appropriate time to repost it.
> Originally by Knapp Hudson of Portland, Maine:

Just in the interest of completeness I'll mention that this is lifted, almost word for word, from a piece by Patrick McManus on gun collecting.  Substitute things like "gun" for "bike", "shoot" for "ride" and "end of hunting season" for "first snowfall."  (For all I know McManus copped it from somewhere else.)

I've seen the same piece munched around to fit antique tools.




Anonymous said...

I highly recommend McManus - awonderful writer. As my bike collection has grown I have thought of this story. Thanks Kent.

Iva said...

Hilarious post. My husband sent this blog post to me without any warning. For a few minutes I thought he wrote the blog post, as I've witnessed all of the tactics, except for the 'cake bike'. Just last week he came with a new frame 'it was only $20' and I knew more parts and bike jewelry was coming in the following days in boxes from amazon. Sure enough, we have yet another bike in our living room. I guess there could be worse things to be addicted to than getting new bike jewelry, right?

Jack Whitehead said...

An interesting post all about bikes. Yup, your ideas are very helpful for bikers who want to improve their bicycle collection.