Monday, October 6, 2014

A Guide to Understanding a Bike Shed

Understanding Bike Shed Terms and Why there's no such thing as a free bike

Many bicycle enthusiasts own more than one bike. In fact many people who are dedicated bike riders have a whole shed full of bikes, with each bike serving a distinct purpose for a specific cycling activity. Some people have "beater bikes", grocery bikes, loaner bikes, tweed ride bikes and the list goes on and on. Understanding all of these bike terms can be a little confusing for the fellow spouse of a bike nerd or someone who doesn't get the point of having so many bikes. In this article I'll try to "shed" some light on the subject, no pun intended.

"Beater Bikes":  A beater bike is referred to as the bike that gets no maintenance or money thrown at it whatsoever. Also called a rainy day bike, It is used to get around when the weather is bad or when all other bikes have been cleaned up and polished. It is usually an inexpensive department store bicycle like a Huffy or a Murray. It's a bicycle that the owner can keep locked outside without fear or care of it getting rained on, lost or stolen.

For a dedicated bicycle commuter, a beater bike is the only option of transportation and can double as a grocery bike at times. It can also be used by college kids for scooting around campus. You will not see many bicycle enthusiasts or recreational cyclists on beater bikes. This is because these kinds of bikes offer no value in terms of speed and enjoyability. Also, most enthusiasts take pride in their bicycles, even in the cheapest ones that they own. That being said, even the beater bikes will be repaired and tuned up, no longer qualifying them as such. Beater bikes are mostly owned by joggers, city dwellers, students and some triathletes that like to run and swim more than they like to ride a bike.

"Grocery Bike": Some beater bikes are grocery bikes, but not all grocery bikes are beater bikes. A "grocery bike" is a bike that has been equipped with the means to haul groceries. Candidates for grocery bikes usually include vintage touring bikes and mountain bikes. The steel frames and mounting holes are very useful for carrying heavy loads and adding accessories for carrying items such racks, baskets and fenders. My grocery bike is an old rigid mountain bike that I added a rear rack to. Whenever I do groceries, I hang my panniers on my rear bicycle rack and take off. I can usually get a couple of days worth of groceries in one trip. 

The dedicated grocery bike is more of a suburban phenomenon, with companies even making cargo bikes specifically desgined for hauling kids, groceries and stay at home soccer moms. That being said, a grocery bike can be nicer than a typical beater bike and since it lives in the suburbs it isn't exposed to the same risk environment as a bike in the big city.

"Loaner Bike": A loaner bike is an extra bicycle you have lying around for whenever a friend comes over for a visit. It could be either a road bike or a mountain bike, depending on which activity they enjoy the most. In the past I have been able to successfully employ the idea of a loaner bike. Whenever my friend from Germany came over, for example, I had a bicycle that he could use to go mountain biking with. I have also loaned bikes to other friends from out of town and friends who didn't own bicycles. 

I haven't loaned anyone a bicycle in a few years. Hopefully there will come a time where I run into someone with a like minded enthusiasm for cycling that needs to borrow a bicycle for a ride.

"The Wife's Bike": The wife's bike is actually like a second loaner bike. It could actually be the wife's bike...some people actually have spouses that will go riding with them. Most bicycle fanatics enjoy the idea of having their spouses share in their passion. Many bend over backwards finding the right bike and making it as comfortable to ride on for their spouses as possible. Unfortunately, the ultimate fate of these bikes is to gather dust, or be ridden once every three months. The wife's bike could be a smaller bicycle with a longer seatpost that is ridable by both sexes, or it can also be a women's specific bicycle. A non-specific bicycle can be a good loaner bike for a shorter guy friend as well. 

The "Tweed Bike": This term usually refers to one of the prettiest , most vintage and also most useless bicycle that somebody can own. It's the bike that gets ridden maybe once a year at a retro-ride event or tweed ride. A tweed ride usually mixes up different bicycles from the Victorian era to the 1980's. Its like a comic con for bike nerds, mixing period correct attire to bicycles with a "Steampunk" vibe thrown in. 

Tweed bikes often include Dutch style roadsters, High Wheeler or Penny Farthing bicycles and even "Dandyhorses". I own a tweed bike, and I can't wait to sell it or get rid of it somehow.

"Projects": Incomplete bicycles and parts in the shed. I try not to have too many project bikes, and honestly one project bike is one too many. A shed full of project bikes is like having a driveway full of non-running vehicles. It could become one of those "You might be a redneck if..." scenarios. However, having an abundance of extra parts means less trips to the bike shop when something breaks down and can be an inexpensive or free way of doing maintenance on bicycles.

Other Terms: A "Roadie" is usually a term describing  a new and modern carbon fiber road bike. A "vintage" bicycle is the widely accepted term for any bicycle made before 1990. "Old school" can be used to describe 80's and 90's mountain bikes, "mid-school" can be used for some bikes made in the early 2000's. If someone is more of a mountain bike guy, their bicycle for road riding will be a mountain bike with "slicks" or city tires without tread. "Knobbies" refer to treaded tires for off road use. Mountain bike enthusiasts will usually have rigid, hard-tail and "full squish" versions of their mountain bikes. A "rigid" mountain bike is a bike with no shocks or suspension. A "hard-tail" is a mountain bike with a front shock only and a "full squish" is a full suspension mountain bike with front and rear shocks. Mountain biking includes various disciplines such as trials riding, cross country, Enduro, down-hill and free-riding. It's possible (although highly unlikely, unless they're a professional) that a mountain bike fanatic owns one bike for each of these events.

Road cyclists also participate in a variety of disciplines. These include road racing, criteriums, centuries, track racing, cyclocross and gravel grinder events. It's possible that a road cyclist can own at least three different types of road bikes; the cyclocross bike can be used in both cyclocross and gravel grinder events and the "Roadie" can be used in road racing, criteriums and centuries. In addition to these bikes, there will also be loaner bikes, wife's bikes and obscure bikes such as "fat bikes" and recumbents that have no specific designation. Such is the order of the Pantheon in the bike shed. 

The Free Bike Myth Debunked: Some people say that they get their bikes for free. They find it sitting next to a dumpster or answer an ad for free stuff on the classifieds. However, in my experience there is no such thing. Once a bicycle gets to a point where it has to be given away, it has been ridden to the ground or has something fundamentally wrong with it. Only a few people will throw a bike on a curb because it has a flat tire. Even if the bike is picked up for free, there will still be things that will need to be addressed. New tubes, new tires and even overhauling the whole bicycle can be required at times. So to me there are no free bikes, however there are $5.00 bikes, $20.00 bikes or expensive bikes depending on whatever it costs to fix it up.

Hopefully this helps explain that crazy bike-obsessed friend a little better or describe the current condition of one's shed. The best way to deal with a bike person like this is to go on a ride with them. Whether you're the friend or the spouse of a bike nerd, your significant other needs your friendship and association. They will be more than happy to provide you with a bicycle, all you have to do is turn the pedals and try to keep up. Stay tuned for more articles from A Bicycle's Point of View.

1 comment:

  1. Great article! Sometimes the lines are blurry - My father in law was looking to get ride of an old bike recently. I took it off his hands and is now my beater/coffee shop/grocery getter - suppose it could also be a "loaner". I do have a previous history with this bike - It is actually an old mountain bike that used to belong to a former room mate of mine. Borrowed it and discovered riding around White Rock on it - so happy to have it in the shed/stable - along with my roadie, MTB with Slicks (for night rides and rides with the kids); trailer bike, & sometimes used "spouse bike".