It’s your ugliest bike. It’s your heaviest bike. It might be your only bike. It sits in the rain and the snow and the sun, leaning against the side of the garage when not in use. You don’t even bother locking it up as the chipped paint and rusted exterior act as a built-in theft deterrent. It’s your worst bike.

It’s also your favorite bike.

It may be unattractive with the aerodynamic prowess of a VW Thing, but this is the bike that will always get you there, no matter where “there” is.

It’s the bike that gets you to work on time, still smiling after weaving beautiful lines around stagnant rows of cars during the morning’s rush hour traffic. It’s on this high-tensile steel medium where the stresses of work are shed at the end of the day. With each pedal stroke, you forget about the irony of that conference call where the CEO implored everyone to think outside of the box as you listened from the comfort of your fluorescent-lit cubicle.

Each pedal stroke means something, something real, something tangible. Each turn of the pedals gets you somewhere, both physically and mentally. You spend the entire day clicking and clacking into a computer screen, the results of which happen somewhere else, or at least, that’s what the spreadsheet tells you. But here, on your dutiful steed, the results are immediate. Pedal, go forward. Pedal harder, go faster. Look around, breathe in, experience everything.

beater-bike-imgYou’re not waiting for life to start happening once you finally get to where you’re going. The truth is, it doesn’t matter where you’re going, not when you’re on a bike like this. The grocery store run isn’t an errand you cram between coffee and kids. Now, it’s an escape coupled with a little game you like to call, “How much food can I carry this time?” With a backpack and a pair of ratty panniers you’ve had for ages, you play produce Tetris until your packs are hemorrhaging bananas, lettuce and the watermelon you got just to see if you could. With the last bungee cord strapped into place, you smile. Everything holds. You won the game. You always win the game.

Going to the doctor. Going for a drink after work. Going just for the sake of going. It’s all more fun on this bike—a bike most folks wouldn’t even bother retrieving from the dump. The frame may be old, but the parts are solid and sometimes even quiet. The big bell reminds you to have more fun and take more detours than you do on that fancy road bike, if you are fortunate enough to have one. The basket on the front reminds you to take more with you than you do on that mountain bike, maybe some lunch and a good book. The beautiful sound of the chain whirring against the cog reminds you why you love this bike so much.

It’s a rainy Wednesday. The type of day when everyone would rather be inside. And here you are, stuck at a light behind another rider. You can’t help but ogle their clapped-out bicyclebeater-biker and the makeshift fenders made from plastic water bottle halves zip-tied to the frame.

You might just have to do some upgrading of your own when you get home.

Kristin Butcher is a freelance writer based out of Boulder, Colorado, she spends her time writing about people, the outdoors and, of course, bikes. You can read her column, Butcher Paper, in BIKE Magazine.


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7 thoughts on “An Ode to the Beater Bike

  1. Every bicyclist should have at least one beater. I have a few. These are old rescued bikes that someone else has discarded or sold cheap at a ýard sale. The kids bikes, I service and repair then give away. The children dont care that the bikes arent new. The adult bikes are fixed then added to my collection. Thieves occasionally help thin them out. I wonder if its worth it to go to jail over a bike I would have given them. Your story is great thanks for writing! Don

  2. I wish I kept my beater bike that I thought I was trading in on a new bike. It turns out that the bike store didn’t want to give me a discount. I left the bike there since I had no room to take home 2 bikes. Big mistake, someone could have enjoyed riding the bike. It only needed air in the tires or possibly tubes.

  3. I choked up man. My old heavy Schinn World from the 70’s is my babe. She fits me like a tight leather glove only secret agents wear. Only 10 speeds but whenever I think about getting something newer… I can’t even fathom the thought. Instead I have brought her some other not so old friends a Hard Tail GT mountain bike from the 90’s, a Gian Farrago DS Farrago from that decade too. A big young mama Tandem soon to become a cargo bike since I don’t have anybody to ride it with any more. And the youngest of the bunch a beautiful Cherry red Caraci fixie bike. Yet I go back to therapy when I ride my Road old friend and life is right again.

  4. I have 3 beater bikes that I keep chained up in different parts of downtown san antonio. When the unexpected happen I gotta keep moving. I also use my beaters for when I go to events and there no bike racks or safe places to lock up my good bikes. Beaters are perfect for rainy and ugly weather.

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