Saturday, April 2, 2011

Perils of purchasing used bicycles

In the Netherlands, there are so many used bicycles that it is actually more difficult to select a decent one!  There are too many to choose from and if you are determined to spend as little as possible, you can find a €40 rusty crappy bicycle... This isn't always a good thing because it causes a kind of psychological consumer mind trick where €40 makes €200 seem too expensive to pay at all.
Even if the bicycle is vastly superior.

Some used bicycle stores purchase abandoned and city-appropriated bicycles in huge lots. They will quickly fix up the outwardly decent bicycles to resell them. But many of the bicycles were abandoned for a reason... and a quick tune-up might hide, but not fix, the problem.

An example: My boyfriend's used bicycle number four.

My boyfriend's strategy of buying the cheapest possible bicycle and not caring about it (hey, you can always get another cheap crappy bicycle, why worry?), worked well for several years. He had two "piece of shit" bicycles literally rust away while in his possession. The first was finally abandoned when the wheel became bent beyond repair. He never gets attached to frames so, like many people who use bicycles for transportation and don't care about components, a broken wheel on a €65 bicycle meant it was time to let the whole thing rust to nothingness.

And so it did.

Bicycle number two was even cheaper. It was free. It also made clacking noises and was so full of rust and decay that the resistance for pedaling was as though he were climbing endless mountains. In the flattest country of Europe.

This was the bicycle he had when I moved to the Netherlands.

I bought an expensive used bicycle in good condition and we went on some long rides... He would get exhausted before me, which, of course, is impossible...  So, we switched bicycles and I realized how he was probably in the best shape of his life from riding that rusty beast around.

And that he had to buy a better bicycle.

Bicycle number three was more expensive with my encouragement, €195. It was a really nice used bicycle. We went on lots of longer rides with it, 20-50K each. The sad ending with bicycle number three is that after spending years on crappy bicycles, not worrying about his bicycle became a habit...  With his old bicycles, if he forgot the key in the lock, nothing would happen. No one wanted those bicycles. Not so with bicycle number three! Bye-bye bicycle number three.

And on to number four.  It just broke a few weeks ago. It was cheaper than number three and lower quality. It felt okay to ride... but double suspension is not good in any used bicycles. Apparently.


We have high hopes for bicycle number five. I've been planning lots of rides to, from and around Belgium to visit breweries... we'll see soon enough!


  1. My Dutch friends tell me that theft is a big problem. If I get them a little drunk, they might also tell me that they've stolen a bike or two in their lives. I think I'd probably go your boyfriend's route in such a place. ;-)

  2. Yeah, he thinks it's best :)
    My way is a bit different... I guess there is greater loss for my nicer bicycle if it's stolen, but I also take better care to prevent theft...
    Knocking on wood!

  3. You know the police have auctions of "weesfietsen" (orphaned bikes) every now and then? They usually have them cleaned up and checked before auction, too.