A Love Letter to a Missoula Bike Shop and the Bike Community
Recently, I celebrated my birthday, and as a gift, my husband took me to pick out a new bike. I wanted a cruiser, or something comfortable, a "coffee getter" if you will. I was familiar with the community bike shop Free Cycles, but I hadn't been there to get anything for myself.
We arrived on a sunny Saturday morning and were met by a "green apron" that greeted us with a kind smile and directions on where we could look for bikes, or bike parts if we were going to build something ourselves. I saw rows of children's bikes with a sign that said: "Free for kids under 10." With how fast kids grow, I appreciated that the bikes were free.
We looked around and tried a few things out until I found the quirky bike that felt like it was "mine." When my husband saw it he said, "Oh, it's a mixte!" referring to the double tubes on the top of the frame. On closer inspection, the bike was a Gitane, a brand that was popular in France during the 1960s and was a sponsor for the American cyclist Greg LeMond.
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Essentially, the bike was free. My husband has spent enough time volunteering at Free Cycles that he "earned" a bike. What a great service--that a person could volunteer their way into finding transportation. They even say that no bicycle skills are required.
A quick reminder about Free Cycles' amazing programs:
I wheeled my new bike around the corner to where our car was parked and as we got ready to put it on the bike rack, a cyclist came around the corner, and then I heard, "That's my bike."
For a second I thought maybe she meant we had taken the bike she had wanted, but then I put two and two together. She had donated her bike to Free Cycles and I just happened to pick it out.
She slowed and was still looking back at us and then said, "It's a good bike!" to which I let out a holler.
It felt like a good omen. Like any secondhand thing you might purchase--a car, clothes, a house--you hope that it had a "good life" before you. Hearing the woman say that the bike I picked was "a good bike" immediately made me want to ride it. Whether it was the power of suggestion or not, after a quick tune-up, the ride I took on my new bike was one of the smoothest I've ever had.
I'm not only grateful to Free Cycles for the amazing organization they run, and all the ways they make biking so accessible, but I'm grateful to the woman who donated a bike that was in such good condition to Free Cycles. I'm happy to give it a second life.
Please keep Free Cycles in mind if you have a bike that you no longer need, or if you know someone looking for a bike.
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Gallery Credit: Ashley