I’ve had this photo folder sitting on my desktop since February but I’ve been afraid to post it. You see, I am not immune to dangerous bicycle temptation. I see rare, I see utilitarian, I see quirky and charming and I think, I must have that. But, just because a bicycle possesses all of the qualities one appreciates, does not mean that it’s necessarily the right bike for you.
Case in point. This lovely teeny framed Japanese mamachari. A mechanic at Working Bikes nabbed it when it came into the sales room last summer and emailed me to see if I wanted it put on hold. I had just ordered my Joe Bike and had yet to sell the Madsen so we were broke as a joke and there was no way I could justify the purchase. I shopped it around to some of my childed acquaintances and it was not more than an hour before I found someone willing to snap it up. I told the mechanic to put her name on it, bid farewell and hoped that I’d soon see someone tooling around Chicago on an authentic mamachari with two kids in tow.
Flash forward to February when I received a phone call from my friend Doug over at ChiCargo Bike blog who said he was at Working Bikes the previous day and saw a mamachari sitting on the sales floor with my name pinned to it. Not figuratively, like literally it had my name on it. Huh? Being February in Chicago I didn’t have much on my plate that day aside from drinking whiskey and pining for spring so I packed up the family and headed down there.
Upon arrival I came to find out that the mama I put the bike on hold for in August 2011 had never come to pick it up. At some point it was moved back to the shop area and forgotten about and then moved to the sales room floor where it sat for who knows how long with my name taped to it.
In person, the bike ticked off every box on my dream wish list. It had bottle generated lights front and rear, roller brakes, cafe wheel lock, darling Totoro rear lift center kick stand, two integrated child seats and the icing on the cake, it was a near impossible to find 42cm frame. I was in love. Head over heels with no hope of turning back.
One test ride couldn’t hurt, right?
Except, it could and it did. Because I ended up buying the bike there on the spot and bringing it home with me that day. I had already spent more than the zero dollars and I had intended to spend on a bike that day and my old man was threatening a long stay in the dog house if I even bought the derned thing so there was no way now that I could spend any more to restore it. It was just a single speed you see, which normally would be sufficient for flat Chicago but for some inexplicable reason this particular bike was geared uber high. The rear cog was something like 12 teeth. I didn’t even know that was possible.
The gearing was okay for when I was riding alone but a complete bear when I added 40lbs of preschooler on the rear. I had to walk the bike up even the tiniest of hills and had to do my best attempt at track stands at every intersection to avoid losing forward momentum and starting from a complete stop.
I rode it like this for a week before giving up. I thought, this is an easy fix, I’ll spend $5 on a larger cog for the rear wheel and call it a day. Except, after spending an hour removing the full chain case and wheel I learned that the cog was integrated to the wheel. There was no way to replace it. It was fixed into place and there as nothing to be done. I checked out the crank set and found a similar issue. That chainring was stamped onto a one-piece crank like on a child’s bike so there would be no way to change the gearing on that end without replacing the entire crankset and potentially finding out that the threading was a proprietary Asian style that couldn’t be worked around.
The only option left would be to buy a rim, spokes, a Sturmey Archer 3-speed hub, shifter and cables and rebuild the rear wheel entirely. I was devastated but I’d exhausted all the avenues available to me and was simply not willing to spend another $200 to make this bike work for me, no matter how impeccably appointed it was. I was able to sell it to a friend for exactly what I had paid for it so in the end the loss was only an emotional one but the guilt still wells up inside me every time I open my lap top and look at the ‘mamachari’ folder staring back at me.