"A quality bicycle is remarkable for its longevity."


This is my bike. Even though I have run bicycle stores for over 20 years, my own bike is a nearly 30 year old relic from another era. It obliges me by being always at hand, easy to photograph, and, if I may say so myself, fairly photogenic. But I use its picture here to make another point.

When I was in college, I had a Huffy Santa Fe ten-speed ladies' bike. It looked good, it rolled, the price was right, and I didn't know any better. After all, a bike was a bike. I don't think I had ever even set foot in bike shop. The Santa Fe came from a department store, and my dad assembled it for me. I rode it occasionally between my dorm and campus, using a cheap combination lock to secure it. Someone must have convinced me to buy a U-lock, because for the first time in my life, I went into a REAL BIKE STORE.  Art's Cycle in Hyde Park, as a matter of fact. The salesman did not look down his nose at my cheap bike, but sold me a lock and explained how to use it. I was scandalized that the lock cost $35, more than half the price of the bike.

Some time after graduating from college, I met my future husband Chris, a bike messenger, who eventually got a job at Turin bike shop in Evanston. Though I was not as avid a cyclist as Chris, I let him talk me into buying a Bridgestone MB3 mountain bike. I probably agreed to it largely because I thought the $800 purchase would cement our relationship. It was spring of 1990.

That bike turned me into a cyclist. I rode it everywhere: school, lakefront, store, downtown. Later, when I moved to the north side, I'd ride with Chris to his job downtown, and back to my house for exercise. I rode it to work in River North. I rode from my apartment at Montrose to Hyde Park and back. I rode to my parents' house in Edgebrook. After getting married, Chris and I went on a 4-week trip with our Bridgestones on the roof of a rental car, and I got to ride my bike in Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, California, Arizona and Colorado. I rode it on shorter trips to Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota. And then,  while riding our bikes in Palos Hills one scorching-hot summer day in the early 90's, we decided to open a bike shop.

Today, almost 30 years later, I still have my MB3. It's heavy by today's standards, but it fits me well and performs admirably. It has evolved into an urban vehicle, with beefy urban tires, priest-style handlebars, rack, panniers, and seasonal fenders. The latest modification was a Brooks leather saddle, which I think makes it look particularly handsome.

At the time, the price tag seemed astronomical, but it turned out to be one of the best and most durable purchases I have made. In an era when most of our purchases are either completely disposable, or expected to become obsolete after a season of use, a quality bicycle is remarkable for its longevity. Even with service, upgrades and modifications, my bicycle has cost me no more than about a hundred dollars a year, and, as I fully expect it to last many more years, it offers lifetime value.

I think about getting a new bike. But when you find a good thing, you don't let it go.