Stinkin’ privilege

If you’ve been riding for a while, chances are you’ve accumulated a motley collection of what, for the purposes of this discussion, we’ll euphemistically label ‘spare parts’. You know what I’m talking about. 

Bolts. Washers. Cable end caps. Spare cables. Spare chain links for 9, 10, 11 speed. A well-worn 8 speed XTR derailleur that works perfectly well, so you can’t quite bring yourself to chuck it in the metal recycling bin. An 8 speed hub that needs new bearings. An ultra lightweight 27.2mm seatpost from sometime in the 90s, when that sort of thing seemed important. Aluminium bottle boss bolts. Chainring bolts. 

A couple of years ago I had a massive clearout. I found all these things – and much, much more – stacked neatly away in toolboxes, crates and sitting on dusty shelves. An accumlated 20-odd years of keeping anything that wasn’t beyond repair. Just In Case.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. It’s a good way to think about things, but if the reuse bit just ends with a shed full of unused clutter, what’s the point? It’s just re. Not used. 

So I did something about it. The shinier and more attractive bits were sold, riding the wave of retro enthusiasm. That netted enough cash to pay for a week’s holiday in the mountains, but it also left a very large pile of unloved, unwanted but perfectly serviceable parts.

So it went in the back of the car, and straight round to the bicycle rebuilding cooperative. They rescue old, unwanted bikes and sell them at discounted rates to local people who are on benefits, or homeless. Public transport around here is costly; a bike soon repays the initial outlay. 

Being able to escape the pressures of everyday life for a few hours on a mountain bike is an enormous privilege. Donating unwanted spares is a reminder that bicycles are, in fact, inherently democratising: transport for everyone. The shred, the escapism, the endorphins… that’s just a massive bonus. For some, a bicycle is a genuine life-changer.

This article first published in Cranked #16

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