Emmanuel the gardner has been dutifully sprucing up our yard for the past year. Since he relies on tro- tros or walking to get to and from work we don't really keep close tabs on his coming and going. Tro-tros seem to be the cheapest way to travel, but at the expense of being slow and unreliable.
Every now and then I see a bleary eyed Emmanuel around 7am stepping out of a tro-tro or walking down our street as I'm returning home from an early morning ride. A few weeks ago he commented that the tro-tro operators were increasing fares to offset the rise in fuel costs. (The federally set price for a gallon (US) of standard petrol currently runs about $4.08.) The additional cost was being passed onto the the passengers.
We had planned to go give Emmanuel a raise anyways to account for inflation, transportation and being a generally pleasant fellow. Instead we were able to work a deal with Emmanuel to incorporate the cost of a new (to him) bicycle into a portion of his annual pay raise. It was actually his idea in order to offset his transportation costs. Since I ride almost everywhere already, I thought his idea was brilliant. Sort of a green version of a car allowance. So off I went on my bike Monday afternoon to the Nsawam Road bike markets in search of something maintainable, reliable, safe and used.
The markets are sprawling with all sorts of bikes standing in perfect rows ready for inspection. The selection ranges from tri-cycles to mock-mountainbikes to Chinese farm bikes to road racers, to BMX to Dutch folding city bikes. I have yet to see a tandem in the collection.
The men that clean and repair the bikes used to be helpful, if not a bit pushy at times. Since I've never actually purchased anything in the past - just looked, yesterday they barely showed any interest in me - which was actually fine by me. I was able to inspect the repairs and components closely without being asked if I wanted to buy everything I touched. Sometimes the guys will do such a good job cleaning the bikes that broken bits can be overlooked easily.
When it came time to make a deal, the prices were just too high at the first vendor, so I carried on down the road to three more vendors. I was about to call it a day when I saw a 15 year old fully stock Specialized Rockhopper mountain bike. No rust or dents to the purple to blue fade paint scheme. Original tires. Everthing worked. By far the nicest bike I had seen all day. I haggled the price to fit within my budget. Paid in full, we loaded both bikes into a taxi and headed for home.
[SJD and I both owned the same circa 1992 Specialized Rockhopper as our first mountain bikes even before we knew each other (coincidence?). It is one solid machine. In fact, SJD has been riding her's almost daily ever since. Mine was long ago passed along to a friend and then sold in DC. It was last spotted a few years later at an anti-war rally on Constitution Avenue a few years ago. Good bike! So, we're a bit partial towards the Rockhopper...]
Emmanuel was finishing up the sweeping when I arrived home with the two bikes. I explained to him that he had to wait two more days before he could ride it home so I could make a few minor tuning adjustments. But I let him test ride it briefly. He hiked up his coveralls, swung a leg over the saddle and rolled away towards the corner narrowly missing the trash barrels and bushes. It was a bit amusing to watch the expression on his face. Sort of joy and terror. It hadn't really crossed my mind to ask if he had actually ridden a bike with hand brakes and freewheel, or even any kind of bike for that matter. Ooops.
So here he is this morning with his new ride.