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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

If this really is Spring, you’re going to need a bike. A C-Notes shopping guide

Posted By on Wed, Apr 9, 2008 at 10:30 AM

chinese_bicyclist_03.jpg
The author is trying to trick you into taking your bike out too early in the season so he can see you take a spill like this gentleman. The author is kind of a dick.
I don’t want to jinx anything, but I think this may really be Spring. Your car is no longer doing its best imitation of Ted Williams’ head every morning, forcing you to hack at its windshield like O.J. with a white woman every day before work. The dirty mountains of snow accumulated in parking lots and on street corners have finally melted. The bold among us are wearing flip-flops, cargo shorts, and tanktops — a little early maybe, but God bless ‘em. Bums have made the seasonal shift from Jim Beam to Colt .45. I think I heard a bird chirp yesterday. To any Clevelander, these signs make it clear—we have five months to enjoy life before misery returns. ... There’s no better way to enjoy it than with a bike. Cleveland’s not the greenest city, but it’s hard to find fault with the hundreds of miles of trail provided in the Metroparks system. And, believe it or not, you can use a bicycle as an everyday mode of transportation. You might get some “who’s-this-wierdo” looks from people in passing Hummers, hoopties handpainted orange-and-brown, or the Chrystie’s Cabaret van, but just remember: people thought Ted Kacsynski was crazy, too. First you’re going to need a bike. And brand-new bikes are for Lance Armstrong and 12-year olds on Christmas morning. Am I just saying that because I can only afford bicycles built back when Osama was our ally? Yes, but there’s also something very satisfying about finding the perfect used bike on the cheap—like picking out a mutt at the pound as opposed to shopping from a Puggle breeder’s catalog. There’s not a ton of used-bike stores in town, but there are a few quality ones. Topping my list is Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op (1823 Columbus Road, (216)830-2667), a little garage on the West shore of the Cuyahoga. Call before you go, because they keep weird hours. OCBC says its primary goal is “bike education,” and that selling them is of secondary concern, but we’re splitting hairs here; they have a good selection of reasonably-priced bikes, especially road bikes (the lightweight types that you have to crouch in to grip the brakes, popular with hipsters and/or Europeans). The guys showing you around seem honest and not too pushy—they honestly don’t seem to care if you buy from them or not, and even encourage you to shop elsewhere for accessories like helmets and locks, because they don’t want to be known as a bike shop. A bike purchase gets you into one free “repair class.” The Tuesday classes reset every month, and cover such subjects as “Wheels and Bearings” and “Brakes and Cables;” the idea is that after four months you know how to do basic repairs on your bike. You can also earn entry — or money toward a bike — by volunteering at the place. Complete with an ex-con with teardrop tattoos fixing bikes, and a cat with a deformed leg patrolling the premises, it’s almost like a weird bohemian utopia. You’ll think you’re in Buffalo or something. If you can’t find the perfect bike at OCBC — or just want to shop around — go to Tremont’s Shaker Cycle (2389 W. Fifth St., 216-685-2453)). There’s a lot of conjecture as to which is the better bike shop, as evidenced by this one blogger’s conjecture as to which is the better bike shop. But just take your time to find the bike that’s right for you. After all, you’re going to be using it for at least the next three months. – Gus Garcia-Roberts
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