Thursday, March 12, 2009

What would Yehuda Moon do?

Last week I sold my old bike, the one that I bought about four years ago to accompany my daughter around the neighborhood. It had been taking up space in our garage for over a year, and my husband wanted it out before lawn mower season arrives.

My first thought was to donate the bike to Neighborhood Bike Works, a non-profit organization that teaches kids to work on bikes and eventually earn one after putting in enough hours. But their website says they are not interested in low-end department store bikes. So after offering it to family and friends with no success, I decided to try selling it on craigslist and put the proceeds toward a secondhand bike for our daughter.

Choosing an asking price, however, was a bit uncomfortable for me. The bike was in perfect working condition and looked nearly new, but it was just an inexpensive mountain-bike-wannabe from a big sporting goods store. Although decals on the frame boasted that it was “Shimano equipped” and made by Mongoose, a name that most people would recognize, I felt like I was trying to sell inferior goods. Just one year ago I had experienced firsthand the difference between a department store bike and a bike shop bike, yet now I was trying to convince another person to buy a lower quality bike. Or was I just being a bike snob? How bad can Shimano parts be? How low-end does Mongoose go? Was I promoting cycling or leading someone toward a money pit bike?

Eventually I realized that it could simply be another person’s first step to discovering (or rediscovering) the joy of biking, as it was for me. I priced it low enough to keep my guilt at bay and their investment minimal in the event that they too decided to upgrade to a better quality bike. There was a lot of interest in the bike for a few days, and when the eventual buyer came to pick it up, I knocked $10 off the price without even being asked. Maybe not what Yehuda Moon would do (he’d most likely put it out on his bike-sharing racks, I think), but at least it made both the buyer and seller feel better. What would you do?

[Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery is an online comic strip by Rick Smith. Read the first one here.]


  1. I would do the same. Sounds like both parties got what they wanted. Better for someone to buy an inexpensive bike than no bike at all. Anyway, if it was good enough for you for a while, it's good enough for the new buyer.

  2. I sold a very nice Specialized mountain bike at our garage sale this summer, after realizing I just won't be doing mountain trails anymore (too spooked from a bad spill). I sold it for around $100, far less than I paid for it but the older man who purchased it wanted it for transporation and for his grandkids to use when they visited. My husband purchased a Schwinn at Target last spring for commuting to work. It's been fine. If we were riding technical mountain trails I would definitely want him to be riding a more high-end bike but we are doing commuting lanes and bike paths so it really isn't experiencing a lot of wear and tear.

  3. I have been thinning out my 'stable' of bikes by giving them away to bikeless friends. I'm a pushover and suck at selling stuff so maybe I'm not one to talk, but, I think there shouldn't be any guilt if you're honest about the merchandise and allow people to see it before buying it. They'll pay what they'll pay.

  4. Sound like you did the right thing. "A Bike" is generally better than, "no bike."

    If you made sure the bike was in decent working order when you sold it, it was probably worth more than it was when you bought it.

    My experience with dept store bikes is that a good portion of their dysfunction is the result of poor assembly and adjustment. That said, the lack of quality and refinement in the parts makes it that much harder to keep them well-adjusted.

  5. If the new owner could just get the brakes to stop squealing, I'd feel like they got a bargain. But I think as David points out, the lack of quality makes it difficult. I tried to get them toed-in correctly, sanded the pads with an emery board, checked all possible contact angles, and nothing worked. I didn't bother replacing the pads because there was so little wear, and at the time I used that bike, I didn't even know how (I learned maintenance after I got the new bike). At least the brakes stopped the bike. I did tell the new owner that they squealed and needed to be adjusted, and her boyfriend said he could do that. I hope so.
    Thanks for all the input!