Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Littlest Bike Shop

With an area of just over five square miles, New London is a pedestrian city that is also bicycle friendly. There are two professional bike shops in the city. Wayfarer Bikes is the oldest and most successful, located on Ocean Avenue in an old department store on the corner of Squire Street. There is another bike shop, the name of which I forget, in the old Red Cross headquarters on Williams Street just behind the Chinese restaurant now called Shanghai Garden (formerly the Fortune Cookie). Besides these two professionals, there is a small scale entrepreneur located at 77 Garfield Avenue, across from the American Legion Post.

Neither rain, nor snow, nor gloom of night will keep this amateur bike mechanic from the completion of his appointed avocation. He refurbishes old bicycles to almost new condition and arranges them on the porperty's front lawn. Everything about this mechanic's operation is homegrown and homemade. He arranges his products in a professional looking line, each one with a cardboard sign hung from the handlebars that reads, boldly and legibly in black magic marker "For Sale."

These are not the sportiest, lightest alloy, most fashionable bikes on the market. They are serviceable bicycles, made for city commuting and local errands. Some have bananna seats and chopper-style handlebars. Some are mountain bikes. Some look like ten-speeds with longhorn handlebars Lance Armstrong used to practice on when he was a tyke. Wheel diameter runs from ten inch to twenty-six inch. Training wheels are available. There are knobby tires and narrow, racing tires. Some bikes are all one color and others have mismatched pieces. All are affordable and all run smoothly without skipping gears or squeaking break pads. The cables are tight and safe, the tire pressure is up to the recommended psi, no more nor less. These are bicycles assembled and tuned for regular use and reliable wear.

77 Garfield Avenue is a home-based business, the kind of small-scale, boot-strap enterprise that keeps a city vital. It isn't for connosieurs or collectors. It is for people who need reliable transportation. If you need a bicycle to get around New London, you now know where to go without spending a lot of money on features you don't need. Support the little guy who knows his way around a sprocket and how to wield a can of WD-40. Tell him Whalehead King sent you.

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