Tuesday, April 03, 2007

**WARNING** Bike post

The new job is convenient enough to bike to and fro, and Makola Market is close enough to sneak over during lunch or right before quitin' time and still get home before dark. Not bad.

My commuter bike has been lusting for new tires for a year perhaps. I've probably put about $6.00 into maintaining ole reliable over the past year, so perhaps I could warm up that credit card and mail order a set of durable German touring rubber to the tune of $70.00. Not exactly cheap, but embarrassingly, not the most I've spent on a set of good racing tires for a bicycle. It is the cost per mile that counts over the long run.

(Have you ever figured out the cost per mile of operating a car? Yowza. Now add in all the taxes and subsidies you pay to maintain infrastructure you may not even use. Its just a concept that I do not have actual figures to back up, but you get the picture. Anyways...)

My current four year old tires have at least 10,000 miles on them with just two or three flats. They have worn almost bald, but will likely work fine for another year. So the cost/mile is around...well less than $0.01. Not bad. (Ghana might have a coin in circulation valued at less than 1 penny) Of course, I bought plenty of bagels and cappuccinos along the way to balance things out. But new tires would just make my ride...oh I don't know...snappier.

So, anyway (and this really does have something to do with Ghana), off I went to the Makola bike market where I'm always welcome for just being me - Mr. Moneybags apparently. If I'm lucky I run into one of the guys from the Stadium criteriums. And I did, but didn't recognize him without his bike, helmet and spandex - so embarassing.

"Just looking," doesn't cut it with these guys any longer. We know each other's game. The fourth or fifth vendor was actually polite with me. Asked me what I was looking for. He noted I needed new tires, and by gosh he just happened to have stacks and stacks of brand new tires for sale.

"Yellow and not-yellow tires," he said refering to color of the sidewalls of a tire he pulled from the pile. "Quality," pointing to the made in XXX country embossing.

At arms length, they looked fine. The rubber felt a bit hard - almost like plastic. The sidewalls were thin and brittle. The tread was certainly beefy. I just assume they were round.

"So...how much?"

"c60,000 for two."

I was thinking $6.50 for two brand new tires is a pretty good deal. All they have to do is last 325 miles before self destructing to get the cost/mile down to $0.01/mile. Of course I wasn't doing any of these calculations while standing there. I was thinking that peace of mind for 10,000 miles is probably worth a few extra bucks.

I looked at my watch and back at my stuffed bike bag, and used the excuse to say that maybe I would be back later in the week to strike a deal.

Building a complete bike for less than $50 entirely from Makola Market would be fun challenge.

(SJD comment: Just what we need, another bike... But I'm game. We'll just call it a piece of functional African art and feature it in our living room.)

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