Catching the Downtown Local

I am sincerely and deeply embarrassed, even ashamed, reading back though recent posts on this blog, to see an appeal for support of local bikes shops directly adjacent to a post interrupted to take a FedEx delivery of a work stand purchased online, and another referencing wheels ordered on eBay. Granted, some of this is simply a matter of timing. Things change, often after something else is already set in motion, but before its effects have played out. Nevertheless, I’m sorry. Seriously. I apologize to readers and to local bike retailers alike (both those in my area and those elsewhere).

In my defense, since taking up cycling (again) this summer, 55% of what I’ve spent has gone to local bike shops. (One purchase was made locally, but at a chain bike store, which may or may not be an independently-owned franchise; I don’t know.) Another 10% has gone toward purchases off of craigslist. But the rest has been spent either at big box stores or online at eBay and mail-order companies. All things considered, we aren’t talking about a great deal of money here, at least not yet, and at least not as far as the category of “bicycling” is concerned. But it’s the principle of the matter. And while I strive to shop faithfully at the local farmers market, and to buy more baked goods at the weekly community market downtown, and to eat at independently-owned restaurants and coffee shops, I still buy books at Amazon.com like I own stock in the company, and hit Walmart, Lowe’s, Target, and all the rest whenever the list of “needed” items gets too long or the checking account balance has too few digits (or is written in red ink). Holy run-on sentence, Batman!

Here’s the rub: the right course of action always, at some point, in some way, demands something of us. The rightness of bicycling (e.g., as an alternative mode of transportation) should not be disconnected from the “rightness” of shopping locally. Inconsistency really aggravates me, and I think that’s due in large part to how consistently it characterizes my life. So, seeing these posts running one after the other like this is a sharp reminder to try harder. I read them not as a sign of failure but as an indication of growth and positive change. And not a moment too soon. Here’s why:

local-bike-shop-001-cropped1A few days ago, I learned that the wheels I had ordered on eBay for the old Schwinn weren’t available. Around the same time, I was thinking it was time to buy a chain whip and a freewheel removal tool so I could switch over the cassette once I found replacement wheels. Out of habit, and (more importantly) because I didn’t really know what I wanted or what I was doing, the first thing I did was run searches on Google and eBay. But then I stopped, and I grabbed the phone numbers of my three local bike shops. Phone calls followed, and I had three of the nicest, most informative conversations I’ve had in some time. My daughter and I visited one of those shops first thing yesterday morning to pick up the chain whip and two new wheels, and the mechanic transferred the cassette for me for free, saving me the trouble of buying a hard-to-come-by specialty tool that I may well never use again. We had a wonderful time. Oh! And as if learning something and knowing I was directly in touch with someone who will stand behind the product and service they’re selling me were not enough, dealing with my local shop actually saved me money on this occasion. Rock on.

OK, I never intended this blog to feature so much in the way of first-person narrative in a serious and confessional vein. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last few months, and for which I’m deeply grateful, it’s that riding a bike clears your head and gives you lots of time to think. So, with respect to that, I figure we’re still more or less on point.

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