Thursday, June 22, 2006

Introducing Frankenbike

I really needed a bike. Not just for transport and getting from A to B, but for my sanity. I've been a bit down of late, so getting a bike would be a good way of cheering myself up. I initially came to Germany for three reasons: 1) Meet friends in Munich who are visiting for the world cup; 2) Escape Finland; and 3) To buy a bike, which I had been told could be done cheaply in Germany. I had always intended on buying something secondhand, but I flirted with the idea of getting something shiny an new. I checked out a few of the new bike stores and found that springing around 800 to 1100 Euro for a new bike was not going to cut it in the parameters of a budget holiday. So the hunt for a used bike was on. I asked several bike shop employees, and they all suggested something different, with the occasional comment of "a cheap decent bike in Munich? no way". As the negative responses piled up, I began to realise that in a town populated mostly by students, who all use bikes as their primary means of transport, my chances of getting a good deal was small.

If you've ever visited a place where there is a strong bicycle culture (Japan, Scandinavia, Munich), people seem to leave there unwanted bikes to rust in the bike racks around train stations and parks. I was walking with Emrah, the Turkish guy I've stayed with here with, and I made a throw away comment about how you could probably build a bike out of all the bits of left over bikes. we continued on our walk and I thought nothing more of it.

The friendly man at the disabled mobility store (who owned the BMW Z8 sitting out the front), gave me directions to a place that would be closed, but he assured me that someone there who could help me out. His directions were simple: "up the street, over the square, around the corner and over the road from Circus Krone. Look for the big yellow shed with a workshop next to it". I thanked him, and walked in the heat, got lost 3 times, bought an ice cream and eventually found my way to the place. I really must go back and take some pictures, but I'll try and describe it. Circus Krone looks like what would happen if the Adelaide Fringe Festival permanently set up shop somewhere. A huge gaudy building with a big old fashion light bulb sign saying "Circus Krone" and thousands of posters plastered over older posters battling it out for your attention. And over the road was the promised big yellow shed, looking as closed as a closed business could be. A large sign swung in the breeze and mockingly proclaiming the opening hours, which didn't include my arrival time.

My heart sank, but I entered the empty car park in the hope to find anyone who could help. Sure enough there was a workshop next to the shed, but the "Circus Krone" painted on one of the slightly open doors didn't give me confidence about getting a bike. I poked my head inside and found a workshop that could only be described as Stomp meets the Christmas Pageant. Metal, tools, welding gear interspersed with stage decorations and clown heads, with a big wall of tools hanging in one corner. The place was pretty quite so I said "hello" and a guy popped his head out from behind a piles of tubes. A burly blond headed guy with overalls and grease on his hands came over and greeted me with a smile. I introduced myself, apologising for my lack of German was countered by his friendly but strong handshake. "No worries mate. My name's Jason and I grew up in Newcastle". So everything was cool. I told him about my trouble in finding a bike, and that I had come here in the hope that the flea market was open. Jason told me not to worry, stood up and asked me to follow him to the door at the back of the workshop. It led to a rear entrance of the complex where the big skip bins are kept. He pointed to the skip behind the flea market and said "Help yourself". Inside I found around 16 bike frames in varying conditions, with a couple of shabby but almost complete bikes amongst it all.

I pulled out the frame with the most stuff still attached, and hunted for a few more spares. I found a suitable replacement for the rear wheel, which was bent and missing a cog from the gear cluster. I found new break handles, as the one on the frame were bent. The breaks themselves are the older V style and require planning to stop the bike. The running gear on the frame worked well, and is an older style Deore LX, which I'm told is pretty good, regardless of it's age. Using my Leatherman and an alan key and spanner I borrowed from Jason, I was able to dismantle the good bits from the bikes and combine them all on the one frame. I thanked Jason for his help and wheeled my creation to a bike shop about 1km away. I bought the new tube, walked to a petrol station and changed it over. Even though I was covered in grease from finger tip to elbow, for the first time in a while I was enjoying life. I got on to the bike and rode off. I can't really remember where I rode, but I just rode.

And yesterday, while riding around, I found lying in the middle of the bike lane a combination bike chain that was undone. I now have security.

I am going to give riding this bike around Europe a serious go. I owe it to me as much as I do to it. I need to fix the forks, breaks and get pannier bags (or a trailer), to carry my stuff in. I have a place here in Munich I can store my backpack, so things are looking up.

6 comments:

ElmoreGirl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
dan murphy said...

who left a post and then deleted it?

Hmmmm.. Is that you Sergey?

ElmoreGirl said...

Such ingenuity in the resurrection of this bike can be traced back to 1987....

hot in helsinki said...

well, it wasn't me.

ElmoreGirl said...

T'was me.... [Cold in Adelaide]...
I had posted a garbled comment, due to late night and fatigue, then thought better of it....

Anonymous said...

I can't believe you did not mention the Netherland's as a bicycle culture. It is one of the best.