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Monday , October 23 2017

Bikeless in Madagascar

For the primary time in additional than two decades I should not have a bicycle.

Right here’s what took place: The bike that I’ve been the use of considering that I arrived in Madagascar belonged to the Executive of america of The united states (USA). Just a few days in the past, I wrapped up my contractual responsibilities to that specific group, and I needed to supply them again the bike.

Madagascar Commuter BIke

Attainable alternative. Who needs to speak me out of this?
Photograph: Ted Johnson

It was once a mid-degree Trek mountain bike. I favored it.

“No,” the US mentioned, “we will be able to no longer promote you the bike. Laws require that surplus bicycles should be offered to the absolute best bidder at a public public sale.”

“However you simply had an public sale whereas I used to be out of city. What if I had been to compare the perfect worth you fetched for a similar version?”

“No,” the US stated.

As comfort, a consultant of USA gave me a safety light promoting Recreation.gov.

Recreation.gov Safety Light

An accessory for a bike I don’t have reminding me of places I can’t get to from here.
Photo: Ted Johnson

I am staying in Madagascar; same job, same commute, different paymaster. So now I have to find a bicycle to use for commuting.

Plan A: Project Bike

I have an idea what I might do to become un-bikeless. But I can probably be talked out if it.

I’m thinking I want to get one of the many, many, old French bikes that I see around Antananarivo. It would probably be a single speed. It would probably be a Peugeot or a Renault. It will definitely be old.

The rainy season is coming, so I would want some fenders, which I can get here if I can’t find them pre-installed on my future bike.

I did some scouting this weekend. I went to the market in the capitol where sellers of used bikes are concentrated. It was a glorious selection of used bike and parts. There were even some new bikes; counterfeit Raleighs in particular that looked really chintzy.

But everything that caught my eye was a fixer-upper; a project bike.

I have a bad history with project bikes. I never complete them. What makes me think this will be different?

The difference this time (I think) is that I need transportation to get to work; I will be motivated to get this bike into working order. The other difference is that I have hundreds of low-cost bike mechanics available to me who (I assume) know these bikes and all their quirks.

So, commuter bike nerds, weigh in. Is it a good idea? How can I make it gooder?

Is it a bad idea? Talk me out of it.

Plan B: Another Boring Mid-Level Mountain Bike

There are good-quality, multi-gear mountain bikes available. A bike tour company such as MBIKE can set me up very well with something that’s brand new, or perhaps used but used only by low-impact tourists who don’t know how to properly abuse a mountain bike.

(I will probably get a mountain bike eventually for actual mountain biking and exploring the countryside, so don’t use “dual-purpose” as an argument to talk me out of this idea.)

But for the time being, it looks as though I will be taking the bus to work, which costs 400 Madagascar Ariary per day — about 13 cents US, and about twice as much time as commuting by bike.

The Gear I Still Have:

Last month I was in America. I dropped in on Bike Shop Hub in Tucson and picked up some commuting gear, knowing I would soon be giving USA back its bike.

Here is most of what I still have in Madagascar, laid out like skeletal fragments of homo satis habilis, where the fully-formed creature can only be inferred a physical anthropologist.

Bikeless Accessories

The spot where I used to park my bike at home.
Photo: Ted Johnson

I bought a CygoLite Hotshot 2W USB Tail Light — including USB cable (because you can never have enough USB cables).

I was able to put this tail light to use for about two weeks. Plus I developed a custom mounting system for my rear rack.

CygoLite Hotshot 2W USB Tail Light

Sadly, the prototype for my mounting system was destroyed when uninstalled.
Photo: Ted Johnson

My old Philips SafeRide 80 Headlight still impresses the locals, but it is starting to lose its battery charge life after several years — now its good for only one round trip commute. So I got a Light and Motion Urban 800 Bike Headlight.

Light and Motion Urban 800 Bike Headlight

Photo: Light and Motion

I commuted with this for two weeks. I still haven’t had to recharge it.

And I bought an Abus Catena 685 Shadow Bike Lock. Interestingly, on my way back to Madagascar, I saw this very same model of lock at work in Paris.

Abus Catena 685 Shadow Bike Lock

I think this bodes well.
Photo: Ted Johnson

I visited my storage unit when I was in Flagstaff and pulled out my Lazer helmet and some Velo Orange trekking bars that I’ve never used. I fully intend to put these bars on my commuter. Does anyone have a problem with that?

Yes. Of course. Here on Commute by Bike, I intend to document the resurrection of whatever old French bike I might get — unless I’m talked out if this plan. I will document all the stupid mistakes I make, and the triumphs too, if any.

So, should I do it?


Ted Johnson is lives and works in Antananarivo, Madagascar. Follow his hardly-ever-about-bikes blogging at Half-Hearted Fanatic, and tweeting at @TedJohnsonIII.

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