Yes, I did. I rode down to the local thrift shop the other day to take advantage of their 50% off sale. Half off on second hand stuff that's already so cheap , it doesn't need to be on sale. But, hey, I love a bargain as much as the next person.
So there I was, rummaging through the overstuffed racks, when it occurred to me that over the years, I've used a lot of stuff from thrift shops as my cycling gear.
I don't mean the specialty gear stuff. Those things never get donated. It's so pricey, that, if it doesn't work, you return it to the place of purchase right away, so you can get your money back. And if it does work, boy, you hold on to it, cherish it, and get every last red cent of use out of it, and when it starts to fall apart, you see if you can get one more season out of it, and then build it a funeral pyre.
I certainly have some stuff that will be going on the funeral pyre at some, hopefully very distant, point in the future:
- Thin tights, made, oh, probably ten years ago by Hind. They are synthetic, but feel a little like wool. They are fantastic by themselves on mild days, but also work great as an underlayer when it's really cold.
- Any pair of Smartwool socks I have ever owned.
- Smartwool winter gloves. Amazing.
- Smartwool next-to-skin women's v-neck. Ditto.
- Powerstretch windfront tights made by Traverse Bay back in the days when they sold to bike shops (now they deal with the likes of Cabela and LLBean). The best tights for winter cycling. I'm pretty sure there is nothing like it on the market.
- Thin nylon over pants made by DeSoto, a triathalon company. They go over tights or ordinary pants to keep away the cold.
- Microfleece headband (fits under helmet).
- Swrve Milwaukee Hoodie. I just got it, but I think it will be on my funeral pile list for many years to come.
- Ecco Gore-Tex boots. Forget cycling shoes. I loosen the toe straps all the way, push my panniers back on the rack as far as they will go, and I wear those boots.
I hope you will forgive the digression. I realize the point of this post was to talk about all the great things for cycling you can find at a thrift store, not to brag about all the fantastic stuff I have. I just wanted to emphasize that some great stuff is worth the money, and you're wasting your time trying to find it used.
So, back to the racks. Can I find equivalents, or at least adequate substitutes for any of the items above? Let's give it a try:
- No luck on the thin tights. The only ones I found were cotton. Stay away from those.
- I'm funny about socks at thrift stores. But there were a bunch of Wigwam wool blend socks (50 cents on half-off day!) They were actually in decent shape, so I guess I would just wash them and give it a go.
- Gloves? Nothing here that even remotely compares to mine. But, there were a couple of pairs of very warm looking ski mittens (for two bucks, they are certainly worth the risk), and in the past, I have found a terrific pair of fully winterized leather motorcycle gloves. But you gotta look.
- Surprisingly, thrift stores have oodles of fine-gauge merino wool crewnecks and turtlenecks, both in the women's and men's department. They are great, low bulk, warm cycling layers. Check the label. The best ones are pure merino wool, but sometimes a blend is OK. Go for the thin ones. And for layering, head over to the vest department, and see if you can find a boiled wool or another tightly knit wool vest to layer over your torso. Keeping your torso warm helps to warm the extremities.
- Nothing like the windfront tights here. Any tights they have are pretty worn and gross. But there are some good, stretchy fleece pants. Go for them, if they're not too bulky, and you can turn them into a windfront garment by pairing them with the next item.
- A veritable treasure trove of thin nylon over pants. Take your pick. None seem to be more than $3, although there are some pretty arresting colors. That might be a good thing when you're on a bike. For the best emergency garment, choose ones that are super-light-weight and unlined.
- Headbands. Eh... Not too great. Most of them are too bulky for helmets. Buy one at the bike shop. They're not too expensive, anyway.
- Technical jackets? Forget it. You may find a light-weight windproof top similar to the pants for under five bucks. But if you want a warm, water resistant layer, go for the real thing.
- Yes, you can get decent boots here. It's just a matter of finding ones in your size. And you may need to shop before real cold weather hits.
And one other thing that I found: a backpack to schlep some of my stuff home in. I spent less than $40, and completely overstuffed my two grocery panniers, so I needed extra capacity. You can get a very decent urban backpack here. I got one with a mesh section and two temperature-controlled compartments for like a buck fifty. It will be perfect for my grocery hikes.
Anyway, that's what I found on my recent thrift shopping expedition. I'm curious if anyone has found anything in second hand stores that works really great for winter cycling. Let us know.
That's it for my bargain tips. Tomorrow, I may tell you how to spend money at Rapid Transit.