Lemons in Namibia

Yesterday I gave my newest bicycle to Bicycles For Humanity (www.bicyclesforhumanity.com). They plan to ship it with a container-load of others to some needy folks in Namibia.

The bike in question is an Avanti Blade, with a lightweight alloy frame and a whole lot of bells and whistles. Other than the bell, the contraption had been a continuous source of disappointment since I purchased it five years ago. It cost me $550.  Then it spent its first two months in and out of the shop having things righted that never should have been wrong in the first place, free of charge. Even the shop got tired of that, and after sixty days they started charging me to fix such things. So I changed shops. A few months later I had spent another $300 on repairs.

For the next five years, every third month or so, the Avanti would spend a couple days in the shop. In the meantime, I would drag out my old trusty Nishiki Meridian, a solid steel relic from 1992. I actually had another bicycle between the Nishiki and the Avanti — a Jamis — but that one died an honourable death, while the Nishiki continued providing yeoman service.

The Avanti had numerous issues, the most troublesome a tendency to break a spoke, invariably miles from civilisation or any repair shop. I’ve cycled close to 100,000 kilometres in my life, near as I can figure, and until I met my Avanti, I had never broken a spoke. Five years later, I’ve broken over a dozen.

I cannot explain this. I have grown no heavier (lighter if anything), I do not carry heavier loads (lighter if anything), nor have suddenly decided to ride roughshod over curbs and potholes in my old age. I’ve attended a half-dozen bike shops, who offer no reasonable explanation for the phenomenon, nor any reasonable prospect of solution other than to throw more money at it. I’ve had both the rims rebuilt with super-strength spokes and suspension add-ons, and nothing helped.

After two thousand dollars in repairs, I have had enough. This lemon Avanti cost me ten cents per kilometre for 25,000 kilometres. Enough is enough.

So yesterday, I sent my Avanti to Namibia. I also dragged out my twenty-three year-old Nishiki Meridian, and brought it to the shop for its first tune-up in a dozen years or so. Steel is real.

Which makes me feel sorry for some poor soul in Namibia.