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Naomi  The Biking Life

 by: Naomi Bloom  2/1/2006

Got Stuff?

One of the most annoying things about winter riding is all the paraphernalia I seem to need. Don't forget the toe covers or booties, liner gloves, headband or skullcap or earmuffs. Rain jacket or windbreaker. Arm warmers, leg warmers or tights. Be sure to wear warm socks and a wicking base layer under the jersey.

Persist into the darkness of winter mornings and evenings and you'll need lights, reflectors, and reflective outerwear.

Now that the holidays have come and gone, I have even more stuff. I've decided to do as much grocery shopping as possible by bike, so I was gifted with new wide-mouth Jandd panniers and SPD pedals that are compatible with street shoes. When I realized my rack was so short that my heels whacked them with every crank revolution, I had to get a new rack. Terrific. More stuff.

That's another problem with stuff: The more I get, the more I seem to need. New shoes or new pedals mean new cleats. New saddle, new seatpost. New wheels/hubs, new derailleurs or cluster. Even a new jersey seems to cry out for a new pair of matching socks.

The cycle of seasons just adds to more stuff. Winter may demand more stuff on the body or the bike, but here comes spring into summer. Now I need a lighter weight windbreaker, new sunscreen, the coolest CoolMax, the most ventilated helmet. Then autumn comes around again and where the dickens did I stow that warm jacket and those best-fitting knickers?

Lost or found

Sometimes we accumulate so much stuff we lose track of it. Take Judy: Last winter she purchased a Gore Windstopper jacket that folds into its own little (appropriately) stuff sack. Sometime between early spring and late autumn she stuffed it and stuffed the sack. . . somewhere. Cold weather arrived and the jacket was nowhere to be found. Meanwhile she was getting cold, so she went out and got a new one. Sure as shootin' she then found the tiny stuff sack containing last year's jacket. So now she has two.

Even the most careful organizer, who has a place for everything and keeps everything in its place, can be stuck with extra stuff. All it takes is a minor upgrade. Case in point:

In winter I install a small rear pack on a rack that attaches to my seatpost. A few weeks ago a fellow rider noticed it. "I have the same seatpost rack," she told me. "But I've never used it." She bought it before she upgraded to a high-tech, ultralight titanium seatpost. Oops! The new rack didn't fit the new oval aerodynamic seatpost.

All these extraneous items mount up in the garage, attic or basement. Pretty soon it seems like they're taking over my life. Time to take inventory and decide what should stay and what should go.

Do you want it or need it?

Most cycling stuff will fall into two general categories: 1) Need, and 2) Want. Now, "want" doesn't necessarily mean "frivolous." I wanted those Jandd panniers for a practical reason. No way was I going to jam a liter of water, a bottle of wine, a quart of milk and all the rest of my groceries into camping panniers with their unforgiving zipper closures. So now I own yet another pair of panniers.

A few more examples, to be found at any LBS (local bike shop):

Need: Enough jerseys and shorts to ride in clean garments four to five days a week. Want: The latest fashions of the current season, with matching socks, gloves, saddle cover, etc. Gotta have long sleeves for winter, sleeveless for summer. How about that retro wool design over there?

Need: Warm covers for my knees and legs in chilly weather. Want: A choice of two or three pairs of tights and/or knickers, in addition to a pair of knee warmers and/or leg warmers. Hey, those pants with wind-breaking panels down the front look cool!

Need: Basic cyclometer that tracks miles, speed, maybe altitude. Want: Full-bore GPS system, along with a 10-function computer that tracks everything including heart rate.

Need: A saddle bag to tote basic tools, spare tube, patch kit. Want: A big enough bag to add lunch, a layer or two of clothing, cell phone, road kill, etc.

Need: A new freewheel cluster to replace the one you warped because you forgot to change your chain 1000 miles ago.Want: The ultralight titanium 10-speed cluster to make you look -- if not actually go -- faster. (And you know what happens when your LBS installs new components -- the mechanic hands you a bag filled with the old stuff.)

Need: A new set of cleats to replace the ones that have worn down so far my feet fall out of the pedals. Want: The latest carbon fiber pedals, along with new cleats and shoes (for total compatibility, of course).

The list goes on and on. And maybe that's a good thing. The industry must have more than one way to survive. Bike sales alone won't keep the designers, manufacturers, distributors and shops afloat. It's the aftermarket that subsidizes all the new high-tech stuff -- not to mention all the neat retro stuff -- we both need and want.

Bicycling Recycling

What to do with all the stuff that's sitting around collecting dust? Recycle it -- and maybe even regain some of the cash outlay it represents.

Try hitting the swap meets. Both clubs I belong to have one every year. Snag a table at one of these events and prepare make like a used-car salesman. A few big swap meets come around every year or so. Responsible Organized Mountain Pedalers (ROMP) throws one every April at Cupertino Bike Shop. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition sponsors VeloSwap every October. Ask your LBS about swap meets in your area.

Swap Meet Caveats:

1) Be sure to have a price or price range in mind for each item, unless you want to give stuff away. Actually, I have been willing to give some away.
2) You'll probably want to leave your merchandise to scope the other tables and maybe pick up a need or want for yourself. Team up with ia partner so you can take turns keeping an eye on things.

Of course, there's always ebay.com I'm not going there myself, but I know there are braver souls than I. And many a success story. My significant other sold our old tandem hub for over $100; he tells me he got some cash for some other old components too. Maybe it's time to try your luck.

Often the strategy of last resort, giving old swag to charity may be the noblest way you can get rid of it and still reap a reward. The International Bicycle Fund lists a slew of local bike recycling programs that provide low-income folks with basic transportation.

Along with bicycles, the majority of these programs welcome components, accessories and just about any item that can be used for riding a bike. Even if your stuff doesn't make it onto a recycled bike, it could make some money for the program that accepts your donation. Marin County's Trips for Kids operates the Recyclery shop in San Rafael. Almaden Cycle Touring Club's Bicycle Recycling Program resells donated items at the ROMP swap meet.

In the final analysis, stuff can be beneficial. Not only does it help keep the bicycle industry afloat, it also helps provide transportation to those in true need and introduces them to the cycling lifestyle. It can also provide those of us with too much stuff with a productive rainy-day activity -- sorting out all the stuff we're eager to get rid of.

Naomi can be reached at naomibloom@earthlink.net

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