post A new spin

March 14th, 2008

Filed under: Cycling,San Francisco,Scotland — mat @ 5:36 pm

I often find the similarities between my two cities as charming as the differences. Last weekend, in the process of buying Orla a bike, we encountered a bit of both.

The Bike Station is a business/community organization so innately San Franciscan in character, it’s a little bit shocking to find it hidden among the ancient streets of Edinburgh. Every bicycle merchant may be presumed to want to put more butts on bikes, but these lads actually do something about it.

The shop, hidden discretely behind an unassuming building in a nondescript part of town, is a capacious eclectery of used bicycle parts: frames, wheels, chains, rims and other assorted gear. There are absolutely no new bikes, and precious few new things of any other description. The Station accepts donations of old cycles, from which they refurbish what they can (and part out what they can’t), resulting in a weekly secondhand sale of 20 – 30 bikes. We showed up, test drove, and purchased Orla a used roadster.

And here’s where it gets interesting.

Orla’s bike was roadworthy, but incomplete. It lacked a kickstand, which she wanted, and mudguards, which given the local elements, she absolutely needed. The Station doesn’t just sell you a bike – it trains you to look after it. Thus it was that a couple hours later, we returned to find that the secondhand bikes had all been sold or cleared out, and the space converted into a DIY center. For £3 per hour we were rented a bike stand, a complete toolkit, and the part-time attention of a bike mechanic. He showed us what to do, then left us to get on with it, returning every so often to answer questions and check our work. If the spare part he’d supplied wasn’t quite right, he’d throw it back into the pile and produce another one. (Picture a comedic sci-fi movie with a mad scientist throwing odd bits of discarded technologia over his shoulder and you pretty much get the idea.)

A great benefit to all this choreographed chaos is the inevitable DIY crisis: there’s always some missing nut or washer requiring an extra journey to the shop for a fifty cent part. No problem on that score. Not only does the Station have all these little parts (used, of course) but they’re all thrown in, gratis.

So after some few hours, and a modest expenditure of British cash, Orla has a bike. Not a glittering, Greg Lemond special, but a serviceable city bike made entirely of recycled and refurbished parts, a bike into which we’ve invested more than money.

Now if we can only find the Edinburgh Wiggle!


  1. Thanks Mark,

    I didn’t know about the Wiggle but I do know there was (almost) always a way around a hill.

    - It is good to know of the many ways not to miss you SF you are finding.


    Comment by Corona — March 20, 2008 @ 12:13 pm

  2. [...] crime by night with her Shaolin superpowers) while she and I were purchasing our rides at the Bike Station. We have since gone hiking in the Pentland Hills, but had yet to meet up for any actual cycling. [...]

    Pingback by fog & whisky » OK, who are you and what have you done with Scotland? — April 27, 2008 @ 1:32 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

© fog & whisky , Design adapted from Stealth Settings
Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS)