On selling regrets

1955 Schwinn Corvette (with some alterations)

I’ve been selling off some bikes. Sadly, I’ve finally come to admit that I’ve mistakenly sold one I should have kept. Or perhaps not. The bike in question happens to be a 1955 Schwinn Corvette 3 speed. Mine was slightly customized to suit my riding, and aesthetic tastes. I sold this bike well over a year ago, but only this week came to the realization that I would reverse that transaction, if possible. I’d owned this bike for over 11 years, and it’s the first bike I bought when I returned to bicycling – having not ridden much in the preceding 16 or so years.

That old Schwinn evolved over the time I owned it. When I began to get more interested in riding, it took me on 12 mile rides on my lunch break on many workdays. I also commuted on it. I learned about bicycle repair, and old bike preservation on it. I learned a lot about old bikes in general, which led me to want fancier and rarer models, which I eagerly added to my “collection.” Nevertheless, the old Schwinn had its place still. It got me around. It both held a child seat, and pulled a trailer (often simultaneously). I probably never rode it more than 20 miles in a single ride, but it took me on group rides. It never failed – not even so much as a flat tire. I didn’t have any sentimental attachment to it (I generally don’t attach sentiment to objects), but it’s fair to say that this bicycle and I had history.

On an outing with toddler

As my kids got older, I got more “serious” about my equipment. This culminated in a Surly Big Dummy set up for kid portage. However for all its good points, a Big Dummy isn’t the most pleasant bike to just tool around on. So I’ve been able to justify having at least one other bike. I had been thinking that bike would be my Humber Sports, a three speed utilitarian bicycle from 1956. It’s in fabulous original condition, a definite classic, and enjoyable to ride.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I took an old 1963 Raleigh Sports out of the basement. This is a neglected, weathered beater, very similar in design to the Humber. I initially bought the Raleigh as a parts bike. I was rather into English three speeds by then (still am). I have a problem with parts bikes, though – I tend to fix them up and ride them before breaking them down. Therefore, I installed a used chain, lubed up all of the bearings and cables, and rejuvenated the dried out Brooks saddle. Turns out this wreck was, in fact, a pretty nice rider. And once I ride a bike, it’s hard for me to dismantle. So it became another old bike kicking around. But it possessed one small advantage over my other bikes: I felt comfortable leaving it outside. This Raleigh was now my go-to bike for quick rides with the kids, or even for an evening ride after they went to bed. And I realized the advantage of having completely removed any barrier from riding. I simply remove the saddle’s rain cover (or not), and go. It became a great bike for winter use as well, since I didn’t give much thought to the effects of salt on this already thoroughly rusted pile. It also serves to remind me that I still like the very essence of bicycling. There is no pretense to this completely valueless, disgustingly weathered, step through bicycle. After spoiling myself with bikes bearing names like Rivendell, Surly, and Bianchi, it felt reassuring to realize that if all I could afford was a beat up $20 junker, I’d still be ok.

A ratty Raleigh Sports

As stated I took the Raleigh out of storage, and returned it to it’s former spot near my kitchen door. I then took a spring break trip to Florida (where I very nearly abandoned my Brompton at MCO – topic for another post). Upon my return, I cast a fresh eye on the Raleigh. I installed a used Wald basket on it, and finally got around to lacing the dilapidated Brooks saddle to bring it back into shape. I got to thinking about how much better it could look if I took the time to clean it up a bit. I concluded it could look a whole lot better, but it would be a lot of work. Right now, I need to be discriminating as to how I spend my time. Yet my Humber, while having been fantastically preserved, also really deserves a full disassembly and deep cleaning. The Humber would actually require more time, as it would be done to a much higher standard. And all the mechanicals (save for new tires – which the Humber would also receive) have already been done on the Raleigh. For the first time, I began to ponder keeping the crusty Raleigh, and passing the Humber on. I know I would be precious with the Humber, but not with the Raleigh. There would be a financial upside to selling the Humber Not enough to be a major deciding factor, yet it’s something. But the main reason to keep the Raleigh over the Humber would be I’d ride it more. It wouldn’t need to come out from its storage space in the basement on special occasions (garage is already at capacity).

OK, so somehow my remorse for selling a Schwinn turned into an ode to a Raleigh. But I can connect the dots: I realized that in cleaning up, and personalizing that Raleigh, I’d essentially be reincarnating that old Schwinn. Not only was the Schwinn infinitely cooler than this Raleigh will ever be (my opinion), but the work was already done. So yes, for the first time, I am in regret over selling a bicycle. Now middleweight Schwinn bikes are rarer than English 3 speeds, at least where I live. But they’re not actually rare. So I thought about putting my mistake right, and acquiring another. It wouldn’t even need to be a Corvette (but a three speed would be a huge plus). I quickly realized, however, that building up a bike similar to the Schwinn I sold, would cost far more than I collected at its sale. And that’s a hurdle which is tough for me to navigate. 

This blog series is all about the lessons life has taught me. I could leave it here, and let the reader conclude I learned I should not sell off my bikes. That would be a terrible lesson, but one I could see myself embracing. But then I had this thought: I’ve sold off many bikes in the last year and a half. And recouped many dollars which were just sitting in steel, hidden in a basement. I could put together a really fine replacement to that Schwinn, and still be way ahead of where I was a year and a half ago. The important lesson is that I needed to let go of all of those unused bicycles before I could realize which one I would miss. It was an essential part of the process. So while I sold a bike that, in retrospect, I would rather have kept, I ultimately have no regret about selling it.

To the Playground
Seat and trailer

To a neighborhood get-together

2 responses to “On selling regrets”

  1. Thanks for this post. I’ve had some twinges of regret selling a few of my bikes (namely my LHT, the XO-3, and the Crested Butte). But right now I wouldn’t return to any of them.

    A technical note about your blog: It looks like you have it set up to a static home page. In the menu, you can see the first two blog posts, but not this one. Can you add a “blog” page to the menu? And if you decided to switch from static home page to blog, this issue wouldn’t occur–you can move your static home page to an “about” page in the menu.


  2. Hi Shawn. The thanks for this post belongs, in a roundabout way, belongs to you. Untold in the essay, I got to thinking about that Schwinn again, only after posting it in the Three Speed Adventure April challenge last week.

    As for the technical stuff, well I admit I have a WHOLE lot to learn about WordPress! There are only so many hours in a day, and I’m not excited about watching hours of YouTube vids, or other tutorials. That said, you’ve given me a freebie here, so I’m going to enact that – probably tonight. Hopefully that incites more learning, and I can honor those who take the time to read this, with a more polished product.



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