I want to ride my (used) bicycle (Day 183)…


After selling my car and going on this cycling trip, I’ve officially rekindled my love of bikes and decided it was time to get a second one. Quentin is great for running errands around the city, especially now that he’s got a basket, and his mosaic of stickers help spread the green love. But I wanted a proper road bike for when I go on longer trips.

Over the weekend, I happened to be at a bike store in Toronto called Sweet Pete’s — the owner, Pete, did the Friends for Life Bike Rally (Toronto to Montreal) with Meghan and me a few years ago. He wasn’t there, but this other guy was, so I asked if he could suggest any places in the city where I might find a decent used bike — better to take the eco-friendly route and buy used sports equipment rather than brand new stuff, I figured.

“Well, actually,” he said, “I’d highly recommend NOT getting a used bike.” He then began to list off various reasons why this was a bad idea, from financial issues to potential safety problems, and added that there were plenty of new bikes for around $800 that would be way better.

“Uh huh,” I replied patiently. “OK … Mm hmm, I see what you’re saying. Right, I definitely won’t get a used bike.” So I paid for my patch kit and spare tubes and rode back home, whereupon I immediately logged onto Craigslist, found a listing for a vintage yellow Peugeot and arranged to meet Alex at the top of a parking garage in Kensington Market.

Well, Alex turned out to be a girl — albeit a girl with a mustache, greasy bike hands and a rose tattoo on her left earlobe (so, basically, she rocked). She pointed out the bike’s strengths (new tires, tubes, great frame, good seat and handlebars) as well as its weaknesses (a bashed-up derailer, sticky back brake, some rust spots), and then offered it to me for $80.


Because it’s French, and I’m Canadian, I decided a French-Canadian name was only appropriate and so christened it Deni (that’s pronounced de-NEE for all you Americans), introduced it to Quentin and brought it home. And now Pete, who’s back from Denmark, has agreed to take a look and see what he fix. So with that, as of today, I’ll only be buying used sports equipment.

17 Responses to I want to ride my (used) bicycle (Day 183)…

  1. Michael says:

    Alex sold me a Raleigh cruiser for $140. What a sucker I am. Maybe I’m just scared of the fact that a woman with a mustache can sucker-punch me. Do eco-friendly bike-repair shops exist?

  2. Andrea says:

    Hey, I’ve been reading your blog for a while now. It’s very inspiring. Anyway Congratulations…183 days, by my calculations that is over half way through the year! Maybe by day 365 I will be ready to get rid of my car too.

  3. Vanessa says:

    Haha — that’s very funny, Michael! You’re a Torontonian too, I take it? Didn’t know Alex was so well known around these parts… but yeah, she originally listed it for $120 but dropped the price. Maybe it’s because I was extra nice to her or something 🙂

    You’re right, indeed, Andrea! I was going to write a little “Yay for half way!” post, but I think I’ll save that for the monthly recap on Friday. And seriously, giving up the car has been one of the best moves I’ve made. I don’t miss it AT ALL and have way more money in the bank because of it.

  4. pat farquharson says:

    be careful on the bike!! just a friendly reminder. (remembering the death of young Charles Princep this summer)

  5. sandy says:

    I was reading in our local magazine “Portland Monthly” yesterday and it said that Portland, Oregon is number 1 in big cities with bike riders on the road. I have been confused for some time about why riding bikes to work and errands and leisure is such a big deal on so many blogs and posts…and then I realized my way of thinking is skewed! Bikes are EVERYWHERE around here, and I’m not saying that accidents don’t happen — because they do — and when it’s bike against car, car wins every time. You need to be careful. But we are used to seeing bikes everywhere and look for them. They have to abide by the same rules that you do when you drive a car, but we have bike lanes everywhere.

    When people come to visit from out of town I’ve had to answer questions like — no, these people are not all poor. Most of them probably don’t ride a bike for economic reasons. Mostly environmental reasons and because it’s fun and saves money!! New concept for lots of them. How did bike riding get equated with poverty?

    I would ride my bike to work if I could figure out how to get there without being a sweaty mess — and in the winter just being plain ol’ soggy with all the rain we have! Of course, I’m still blown away by you giving up your blow dryer so I’m not sure I’ll make this hurdle! (a car? fine. blow dryer? i wouldn’t recover!)

    Glad to hear you found a bike that was used and reasonably priced. I’m sure it will do fine by you.

  6. Rhett says:


    How did bike riding get equated with poverty?

    Come visit the Greentime studio (my home) in Ft. Lauderdale and I can show you pretty easily. Essentially, it comes down to the fact that everyone drives except those without cars. The bus system is inadequate, so the stopgap vehicle of choice becomes a bike. It’s often ridden irresponsibly and without regard for traffic laws, then creating the idea that all bike riders are a nuisance.

  7. Brittany says:

    Not to be a total cycnic, but I think you missed mentioning one of the potential dangers of buying a used bike (especially when it’s from an individual on the top of a parking garage in Kensington Market who is known to others in Toronto for selling bikes ((yes, I know, she could be legit and purchasing all those bikes, fixing them up, and then turning them around for a small profit)): you might have bought a stolen bike. Torontoist.com had a good post on this subject a couple of years ago (http://torontoist.com/2005/09/suspect_everyon.php). I think their list of tips for buying a used bike is on the money:
    • Make sure the seller knows a lot about the bike so ask lots of questions like when was it purchased, what model is it, what year, etc.
    • Never buy bikes from random street sellers, chances are it’s a “hot” bike
    • Check the serial number on the frame
    • Call your local police precinct to see if they have information on how to check for a stolen bike
    • Feeling daring, then ask the seller if the bike is stolen – his/her reaction will give you a good indication of whether or not the bike is stolen
    • Does the seller look shady? Does he have any gold teeth, a hook for an arm, a gun shot wound, is he wearing a mask, or an orange jumpsuit with numbers on it?

    I hope Deni is yours legitimately, and isn’t missing his owner!

  8. E to the M says:

    We have a shop here called The Old Spokes Home where they refrub old bikes for resale and also service bikes. I’m sure there are great resources like that in other areas too.

  9. Vanessa says:

    Hey Brittany,

    Yes, I definitely thought about that prior to buying Deni… but Alex seemed totally normal and had clearly done some work herself on the bike. Plus we were talking about the two shops in Toronto that are known for taking in stolen bikes and she definitely did not seem into that scene. But you’re right; maybe I’ll look around for a serial number or some sort of identification and call up the local police station to see if there’s a claim that matches it. The other thing, though, is that it’s basically not functional at all right now because of the bashed-in derailer and numerous other problems, so I highly doubt anyone was riding it before me, at least not for a while…

  10. Karine says:

    The shop SOS Velo (www.sosvelo.ca) in Montreal recycles bikes. It is a social and professional reinsertion non-profit organism for young adults. They receive around 3000 bikes per year, reuse about 80% of the parts and then resell them under the label ECOVELO.

  11. Hannita says:

    deni is a beaut. i got my vintage raleigh off craigslist for $120. thanks to ladybird (my bike), i love road bikes. they are such smooth rides compared to clunky mountain bikes. if only my city was more bike friendly. ::sighs::

  12. I have a policy of buying only used bikes, for the simple reason that one pays less for a good quality used bike than a cheapo-model new bike. I bought a used Norco Bush Pilot from Bikes on Wheels (on Augusta Avenue in Kensington Market) in the spring. For me it’s the perfect bike for city commuting — solid, dependable, fast, and cost-effective.

  13. patty t says:

    Ah, you’ve joined the ranks of the 2 X 2-wheelers. As you may recall for the story you did about the Giro Toronto, I bought Peaches (my first bike as a downtowner) from a guy in Kensington – Mike the Bike – also for 80 bucks. I bet soon you’ll be organizing Post-themed, route-shaped-like-Canwest-HQ charity rides!

    BTW check my new home, the Walrus online, for a green-themed discussion about Alan’s Weisman’s The World Without Us – http://walrusmagazine.com/articles/2007.08.27-the-world-without-canadians-discussion-contest/ – with a Canadian spin. Your Canuck readers may find it interesting.

    Cheers V hope all is well

  14. LG Adam says:

    Just wanted to applaud you on buying a used (and hopefully legit) bike. I’ve just got back into cycling (I walk to work anyway) and really enjoy it. One thing that nobody’s mentioned about the photo is the bookcase. I wish I had space for that many books!

  15. Focal says:

    Just wanted to follow up and see if you did go and ckech with the police that the Deni is not stolen …

    Last time I wanted to check mine, but it seems the police didn’t help … were you able to check?

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