Original 1960’s Peugeot racing bike.

With some holiday down time I decided to take a trip out to my friends farm where I have some of my bike collection stored. When I moved to Amsterdam a few months back, I had some time and space constraints so some of my bikes remained here in Minneapolis.

Among the bikes that remain here are some really nice examples of road bikes, cruisers, mountain bikes and a couple BMX bikes thrown in for good measure. If you were to ask my partner Beth or any of our kids about my bike collecting habit they would likely just shrug their shoulders and whisper “hoarder” under their breath…

The way I see things the difference between hoarding and collecting is connoisseurship. I think that thoughtful collectors of almost any type of item can generally articulate why they collect, and describe in detail what distinguishes the items in the collection from similar items they are not interested in.

So, what appears to my partner, kids and most of my friends as a random hoard of bikes and parts is to me the result of both considered and opportunistic acquisitions that I hope are greater than the sum of their proverbial parts…and more importantly they are done with a sense of purpose. I collect bikes so I can restore them and sell them on to new owners who will love them again and ride them all the time.

“Hi Tech” Mt. Hood model mountain bike built in the USA circa 1987 by Ross.

Take for example this Ross all chrome late 80’s mountain bike. It fits into a unique position in history when the mountain bike boom created a resurgence across the bike industry and companies like Ross that made mostly cheap and cheerful family bikes decided to create some more serious offerings. Component manufacturers were now making MTB specific parts and consumers were enthusiastically buying up the “ride anywhere” mountain bikes even though like SUV’s, most of them rarely if ever left the pavement.

Of course many people would simply say “who cares” when it comes to the history of bike industry or the place this particular bike fits within it. However for me bikes like this Ross represent my calling to a higher purpose. A purpose I have discovered somewhat late in life but one that I have a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for and one that I think is very worthwhile.

Our consumer driven society has for the most part accepted if not quite embraced the ideas of disposability and planned obsolescence and the bike industry is no different. Whether they are high end racing machines or grocery getting cruisers most bikes are made to live a short life and be replaced with something newer, shinier or faster in a few years. As a society we can’t afford to continue with this mindset and I think that it is essential that we start to look at the world around us differently.

Where we used to see waste we need to see repurposable raw materials and wherever we find ourselves throwing something away we need to ask why and if we could do something else with this thing. Equally as important we need to consider how we ended up with this thing that we now think belongs in a landfill in the first place. Quite often the answer is that we were too lazy or cheap or in a hurry to buy something more durable or something with permanence.

Lovely purple 1960’s Schwinn 5 speed

I think it”s time we started thinking about our purchases as “forever” things and ask ourselves what will happen to them when we no longer want or need them. Will they still have value? Can I sell or give them to someone else? Or will they just be useless and disposable crap that no one wants?

Which brings me back to the Ross bike above and the rest of my bikes awaiting restoration and repurposing. This Ross bike is all chrome, very well built and can easily be repurposed into a commuting or touring bike with replacement and refurbishing of just a few key parts. When I am done restoring it I am confident it will have not only my signature Rakish cool aesthetic but also an entire second lifetime as someones ride every day and everywhere bike.

Yes it is just one less bike in a landfill but it is also one less person in a car, many more trips made in the healthiest and happiest mode of transport ever invented, and a shining example of why the bike is our “most noble invention”.

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