Thursday, January 3, 2013

Old Bicycles and the Men Who Love Them

or How To Keep Your Bicycles Happy and Your Family Well-Tuned
by Bob Hovey who shamelessly plagiarized and edited the original text of Roger Welsch, (writing about his tractor collection).

Over the past couple of years, I have collected advice along with my Masis, and I think it is only neighborly that I pass along to you what I have learned. If you're married and are thinking about getting into the vintage steel business, forget trivial things like chain breakers and crank pullers and lay the groundwork for your new hobby by carefully studying the following rules ... THE BASIC RULES OF BICYCLE COLLECTING!

RULE #1. Collect only one model and make of bicycle - nothing but Bianchis or Hetchins, for example. When all your bicycles have the same decals (and better yet, color), it's harder, if not impossible, for anyone (if you catch my drift) to figure out how many bicycles you actually have.

RULE #2. Similarly, never line up your bicycles, ever. Nothing distresses a difficult spouse more than seeing twelve old bicycles lined up, looking for all the world like a burning pile of hundred dollar bills. Scatter the bicycles around - a couple behind the shed, one or two in the shed, another beside the garage - so that it is not possible for anyone, if you know who I mean, to see more than two or three from any one perspective. Your hobby will be less "irritating" that way, if you know what I mean.

RULE #3. For much the same reason, don't number your bicycles #1, #2, #3. Give them names. You'd be surprised how much less trouble you will have, if you talk about "Sweet Wheels" or "The Celeste Queen" rather than "Carlsbad #014"

RULE #4. Somewhere fairly early in your collecting, buy a bicycle you don't want. Sell it again as quickly as you can; don't worry about making money on the transaction. The main thing is to get a bicycle and get rid of it. Then, for years, you can say, "Yes, Angel-face, I do have six Cinelli B's, and they are in the shed while our car is out in the weather, but that doesn't mean that I will always have six Cinelli B's. Remember the one I got rid of a few years ago? I'm thinking of selling another one any day now so we can put the car in the garage." If you are lucky enough to have a friend who collects bicycles, make an arrangement for him to drop off a bicycle now and again. That way you can say - if anyone asks - that you bought it. Then have it hauled off again, and say you sold it. With this system, you can re-establish your reputation for moderation every couple of years or so.

WARNING: About the time I accumulated my sixth or seventh Masi I thought I'd be smart, so I bought a lovely and extremely rare little Masi mixte. Beth and our eleven-year-old daughter Silca were standing in the yard as I unloaded this lovely little item that needed only some wheel truing and a new chain. "I see you bought yourself another bicycle that doesn't work" said Beth.

"Guess what, dear?" I beamed. "I didn't buy myself another Masi. I bought you a Masi! She's yours, and ain't she cute?"

I could tell by the look on her face that she was about as excited as she was the Christmas I gave her a new drain cleaner attachment for her vacuum cleaner, but I wasn't at all prepared for what she said next: "How much can I get for it?"

"Er, uh, I didn't get it for you to sell, honey-cakes. I was thinking...if you don't want to ride it all the time, I can take it into town now and then just to be sure the brakes are adjusted and the shift cables are tight. It won't be any trouble at all."

"Well, thanks, Bob, you're really too sweet, I don't deserve a darling like you. How much can I get for it?"

I almost broke into tears at the thought of someone loading that great bicycle onto their trunk and driving off with it. I was thinking that I should have gone with my first impulse and said that it had followed me home and could I maybe keep it, but thank goodness, about that time my mind kicked up to the big chainring. "Actually, I thought that if you wouldn't mind sharing, it could also be Silca's bicycle. Right. That's it! Eventually it'll be Silca's bicycle."

Silca leaped into the Masi's saddle with a squeal and started turning the handlebars and trying to reach the pedals. Beth snorted something about me fixing my own supper that night - that is, if I was intending to stay over - and headed back toward the house while I helped Silca bond with her bicycle. That was a close call, and my advice to you is not to buy your wife a bicycle. Better stick with a drain cleaner attachment for the vacuum sweeper.

RULE #5. Pay for bicycles with a cashier's check, postal money order, or cash, which leave far less evidence than checks drawn on a family account. Once you have gotten possession of a bicycle and paid for it, eat the stubs, carbon copies, or receipts immediately. Such things have a way of becoming an embarrassment later, take it from me.

Some collectors like to point out to skeptical marriage partners that what with interest rates so low these days, buying old bicycles is actually an investment, a way of being sure the spouse will be "taken care of and comfortable should something .... something terrible happen." Doesn't work with my dear Beth. She thinks Masis are the "something terrible".

RULE #6. Now and then buy a junker "for parts," even if you don't need the parts, even if there are no salvageable parts. In fact, you might want to consider hauling home a Murray or two whenever you haul home a good machine - if possible, on the same trailer or roof rack. This is called "liability averaging." If your spouse says something about it being strange that you have money for yet another bicycle but not enough for a new refrigerator, point indignantly to the bicycles on the trailer - the beautiful restored one for which you paid $1,600 and the two rusted hulks you got for $30 each - and you huff (or whine, depending on what has worked in the past), "Snookums, I got those for a little more than $500 each and the one in the back is easily worth $2,000 just as it stands, a tidy profit of $400, more than five times what I paid for the other two." See? Doesn't that make you sound like an investment wizard? Some collectors find it effective to add something like, "it's pretty hard to find a good refrigerator for $500!" but it has been my experience that a smart-aleck attitude can fairly directly lead to the purchase of a $500 refrigerator.

RULE #7. When things get critical in the household, you might consider dragging home a bicycle without handlebars and saddle or minus the wheels. If there is a complaint, you say something like, "bicycle? What bicycle? That's not a bicycle! That's only a frame and a few parts. Not even close to a bicycle." Then a couple weeks later bring home a wheelset or whatever. "What bicycle?" you say. "That's no bicycle! That's only a couple of wheels. Not even close to a bicycle." Don't try this, however, more than once every couple of years.

RULE #8. Have Steven Maasland or some other collector/dealer friend call you now and then when you're not at home and tell your spouse, "Bob told me to keep an eye on the WB Hurlow going at the auction up at Centerville Saturday, but it sold for $1,200 and I know there's no way a financially cautious and responsible guy like Bob would pay that much so I didn't even make a bid on it for him."

Not only will this make you look real good, the next time you do buy a bicycle, say something like, "Lovie-bear, this beauty only cost me $300, which means we're $900 ahead of where we'd have been if I'd gotten the one at Centerville. If I keep saving money like this, we'll be able to go on a Caribbean cruise next winter." If you say it fast enough, it might work.

RULE #9. If your mate insults your bicycle work by referring to it as "rustoration" or "tinkering", laugh a light-hearted laugh that makes it clear that bicycles are not to you what shoes were to Imelda Marcos.

RULE #10. In the event that your situation deteriorates to the point where your mate asks, "Who do you love more, me or your blasted bicycles?" whatever you do, don't ask for time to think it over.

The above suggestions are not dishonest or deceptive, exactly. They are ways to make life easier for your spouse. In fact, now that I think about it, these little acts of diplomacy are actually a kindness, a way to smooth the road for someone you love. Following these rules are a way of being a better person. People who follow THE BASIC RULES OF BICYCLE COLLECTING are good people. In fact, I feel so good about myself, I think I'll go out and buy myself another bicycle! It'll be a good investment. I'll haul it in at night. That way I won't bother Beth.


reverend dick said...

That is some fine advices.(I especially like that, in his experience, a smart aleck attitude will lead to the purchase of a $500 refrigerator.)

I have followed this advices without even knowing it was so systematized by having lots of black bicycles. Bike collectors' minds are wired similarly, I suppose.

Gunnar Berg said...

Bob's cool, could of written the same damneed thing about cameras too. He must really be good.

Silk Hope said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Silk Hope said...

Musicians have the same problem. They call it G.A.S. gear acquisition syndrome.


Love this guy's little or no conscience conniving. I've been way behind in posting/writing/reading, and cruising your posts is inspiring me to get the lead out. Hey, thanks a lot!

Gunnar Berg said...

Ms Toft, All seriuos collectors seem to have that quality, or maybe it's just husbands,

Mathieu van Rijswick said...

I believe you could contribute interesting thoughts on bike craft and passion to a wonderful initiative of a fellow Minnesotian