Seattle Bike Swap 2/15/2004

Photos by Mark Vande Kamp

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From: "Kent Peterson"

Date: Mon, 16 Feb 2004 07:34:03 -0800

Subject: [BOB] Seattle Bike Swap: A report

The Seattle Bike Swap: A Report from Captitalism's Frontline

OK BOBs, if you were there yesterday you are probably happy today and if you weren't you may want to stop reading now. Because guys and gals, this is where you still find 531, where Klein Frames go for $125, where grown men weep openly one second and squeal with delight the next. This, my friends, is the glory that is the Seattle Bike Swap.

Every year my friend Joe "Road Warrior" Kochanowski rents a seller's table and every year a bunch of us share the space at his table. Joe never actually sells anything, his reason in being a seller is to get into the swap several hours before it opens to the general public so he can skim the best deals from the other dealers. The rest of us legitimize Joe by actually having things to sell. My goal this year was simple: I wanted to leave the swap with more money and less stuff than I had when I walked in the door. This is my goal every year and every year I fail but I had a feeling this could be my year.

Since Christine and I had recently moved to a smaller place and since we both are philosopically inclined toward a simple life, I'd pared my supply of bike stuff way down. I'd also filled several boxes with various bike items to sell at the swap and I had my son's lovely old Raleigh to sell. My son Peter is off at college now and a Specialized Allez Pro from last year's swap has replaced the Raleigh as the bike of his affection.

Unlike Joe who insists on getting to the swap at some insane hour like 4:00 AM (the doors open for sellers around 6:30 AM), my pal Mark Vande Kamp and I had a more rational plan for getting to the swap at 7:30 AM. Like Joe, Mark was a pseudo-seller but my boxes of fine, previously loved goods would lend him an air of legitimacy. In exchange, I got a ride from Issaquah to the Seattle Center in Mark's TDI.

At 7:00 AM Mark was at my doorstep and we loaded the various boxes and the bike into his car. On the trip into Seattle I told Mark of my goal and resolve to leave with more money and less stuff. I repeated it over and over like an east-west synthesized mantra of aesthetic capitalism. I told him that I was firm in this resolution and unless I ran into Jenna Elfman selling a titanium fixed gear frame, I would probably be alright. Since neither of us had ever seen Jenna Elfman selling ti fixie frames at the Swap in the past, the odds of this happening would seem to be safely low.

Alex Wetmore happened by as we were unloading the car and he helped us lug the stuff to Joe's table Alex was also sharing space at Joe's table along with my Port Townsend pal Jon Muellner and my buddy Tony. Between all of us we had a very repectable pile of stuff.

As always, deals went down way before 9:00 AM and the opening of the doors to the general public. I started the day with $96 and but I was quickly ahead of the game after the following transactions: Jon bought one of my old SIR poly jerseys for $10 and Mark bought my rain cape for another $10. I bought a front rack from Alex for $5 and he also goave me a very cool medieval looking stem and a Conti Sport 1000 tire. So I was $15 to the good.

One big advantage to having a bunch of people pooling their goods is that you get more traffic to your table. Another advantage is that we could take turns orbiting the three big rooms of the swap and taking shifs at the table selling stuff. Some prices were marked, some totally fluid but everything was up for grabs. Prices for pals would be a bit less and as the day wore on prices, dropped.

I sold a Banana bag to my friend Dustin for $20. A pair of Campy pedals went to somebody for $15. The Raleigh went for $150 and all of us at the table spent way more effort than I thought would be necessary to sell a Burley Rapid Rider jacket for $15, Bit by bit, my stuff went away and I was doing really well on the acquistion side, limiting myself to a second front rack for $4 and a pair of Power Grips for $5. Alex managed to sell his Rans Rocket recumbent for $500.

The one slight problem was my pal Tony. Tony had some cool bikes for sale but fortunately they we things I've grown immune to like a 70's era Moulton and nifty cruiser with a 7 speed internal hub. Jon Muellner did ultimately fall victim to the lure of the Cruiser, buying it as a gift for his wife.

While I could resist all the bikes Tony had brought to the swap, he told me there was one bike he had not brought to the swap. He hadn't brought it, he said because this was a bike not to be sold, it had to be adopted.

Oh no.

Oh yes.

You see, back in the day I'd loaned Tony my Pinerello and he'd learned the ways of the fixed. And in that way that the universe sometimes chooses to bless those deemed worthy, he'd found a bike that someone had abandoned years before in the back of some obscure shop. That bike was a Schwinn Madison fixed gear. Simple, pure and as I'd pointed out to him just slightly, ever so slightly too big for him. But he loved the Madison even though it was never quite right. Always just slightly too big.

So this year he'd built up his dream bike. A custom Seven. All titanium. A fixed gear, of course, with fender mounts since this is Seattle after all. The kind of bike Jenna Elfman would be selling at the swap if we lived in a world where donuts rained from the sky.

So the Madison would have to find a home. Some place where it would be loved. Where it would be ridden. Where it would be perfect.

Now Tony and I are about the same size. We wear basically the same size clothes but I ride a bike that would be slightly, just slightly too big for Tony. So of couse we started talking, in a purely hypothetical sense, about how this is a swap. And Tony needed some jerseys and perhaps some jackets. And by coincidence, I have these lovely jerseys and jackets that I don't need and gosh, he has a bike that just isn't getting ridden. And that's a real shame.

And so my friends, I have a Madison. I keep saying I don't like white bikes and yes it's white. I've got to do a bit of tweaking to it but it rides like a dream. Tony looks better in my old clothes than I ever did. And the Madison fits right in the spot vacated by Peter's old Raleigh. The Madison is smaller than the Raliegh so in one sense I am living in a less cluttered world.

I went to the swap with a bike, a wind trainer, two boxes of stuff, a bag of clothes and $96. I left with two front racks, a pair of Power Grips and $402. Tony delivered the Madison to my doorstep last night.

Sure, the Swap is about stuff. But it's also all about people. People who ride and people who tinker. It's a sweet world folks.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent Peterson
Issaquah WA USA