The Great Maine Bike Swap was…pretty great!

   

   The Bike Swap was this morning at the USM Sullivan Center. The line began around 8, and by 10 when it officially began the line had filled out very nicely. There were over 1,000 bikes inside and more kid’s bikes and bargain bikes for less than $50 outside. There was a coffee truck from The Gorham Grind. Eventually there was pizza for the volunteers. So really everything you need to survive in this crazy, mixed up world.    


   Just before ten they made their announcements and then got the line moving. Within five minutes there were people coming out the doors with bikes, giving them the once over with the on-site mechanics, then taking them out for a test ride and, one hopes, falling instantly in love with the new bicycle in their lives. 


   As a volunteer I can tell you that the flow of people didn’t stop for the full three hours of the event. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, both volunteers and attendees. Lots of smiles and giddy excitement as folks queued up for their test rides. Several people commented on how nice it was to be able to grab a bike inside, then grab a helmet and a lock at one of the booths outside. It’s a regular one stop shop. 


   I really enjoy the bike swap as an event!  The folks who work it are always very bikey people in the best possible way. They’re all big fans of bikes and cycling, and they all get so animated when they get to talk about bikes with someone else who is at least almost equally interested. As a bicycle-type person myself I understand this emotional response. Pretty much all of the people in my life with whom I’m the closest have minimal to no interest in bikes, and many of them seem to find it strange how high the percentage of bicycle related books and movies I ingest on a regular basis. They also find it difficult to imagine that so many such books and movies exist. 

“Didn’t you already read that book?”

“No. That was a different book about cycling infrastructure.”  

“So <pregnant pause> does this one cover a lot of new ground?”

“Ummmm…”

  And so many people who show up there really want to get people on bikes. It’s the best part of the whole event for me. I only sell bikes that are as fresh and as road ready as possible there, and I always include a new bottle of lube and a small multi tool for adjustments because I don’t want to leave any room for excuses not to get out and ride one of the bikes I’ve worked on. Any time I see one of my former bikes locked up around town (or being ridden, though that happens less often) I get a swelling of pride.  Egoitis, some might call it. But it fills me with joy to know that I took a useful object that had been lacking for use, fixed it up and made it as desireable as possible, and that someone else is doing the exact thing that I had hoped for; making good use of that really useful object.  It makes all my efforts feel worthwhile. It makes me feel appreciated, even if I only see it locked up outside the library one random afternoon. And it is that kind of sentiment that everyone at the bike swap seems to share. I love attending and volunteering because I find myself surrounded by kindred spirits. 

   If you would like to feel that way you should do any number of the following:

-Continue to read this blog.  

-Check out http://www.Bikemaine.org (or your local equivalent) and see what they’re working on. While you’re there maybe make a donation or consider joining. 

-Keep an eye out for upcoming bike events in your area. The swap is great fun, but I also love our local alley cat races. And the Gold Sprints was a blast-and-a-half. 

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Gold Sprints stationary bike race at Oxbow Brewing

   

   This past Saturday the new bike club in town, the WHARF Cats, put on its first planned event at Oxbow Brewing on Washington Ave. They had two stationary bikes with identical gearing set up on rollers, which were hooked up to a computer. People could then race head-to-head in a virtual 250 meter race. The results were displayed on a large screen behind them, so the audience had to participate, shouting out the countdowns and wildly flailing their arms to tell the racers when they could stop pedaling. And that was necessary because there was no resistance on the rollers, so racers were really focusing on spinning their legs and not much else. 


   After each race the board would show your time and your top speed, which usually landed between 65 and 75mph. 

   Racers showed up and signed in between 7:00 and 8:00, brackets were filled in, and then the races began. I won my first race (as well as a preliminary test race…ahem) but lost my second bout. Although I lost to the eventual winner, so I can’t feel too bad. But then again, first prize was a brand new, unpainted track frame in whatever size you required, so I can feel a tiny bit bad.  


   There were buttons for the WHARF Cats and buttons for the Gold Sprints event itself. And some really cool wood cut printed posters. There are several talented artists and creative types in this new bike club, and it shows. 

   The group was in great spirits since the beer was amazing, as always.  And the space was really perfect for the event. I really enjoy Oxbow on a lot of levels, and I’m definitely not a big beer guy. But they do great things and I love the staff in general. Plus it feels like a speakeasy that I’m cool enough to know about. Just explaining its location to people makes them think I must be “in the know”. 

   Overall this was a wonderful, fun, successful event that helped benefit the Portland Gear Hub’s move from St John St to Washington Ave. They will be relocating to the old Casale’s Garage sometime next month. To see what other events theWHARF Cats have in the works you can keep an eye on this site or look around at all the bulletin boards in town on a regular basis. For now, at least.