Can a single 3-speed bicycle be the agent for taking a new turn in life? In July of 2001, about to accept a job I didn’t want and feeling the need for drastic measures, I left Manhattan after 17 years and moved in with my mother down on the Jersey Shore.
Moving back in with the people responsible for your existence was part of the zeitgeist of the time. As a chronic potential entrepreneur, I bought the domain name livingwithmom.com. Livingwithmom.com was catchier than livingwithparents.com, but the site would welcome those who lived with both units or, in rare cases, just dad. While I pondered the income possibilities of a website for adults who move back in with their parents, I worked for a bike shop and cruised around on my Schwinn Suburban.
Realizing this moving back home thing was probably a trend without legs (and a bit worried about the impact glorifying my situation would have on my self-esteem), I started a site called bicyclewire.com instead, and I began to think even more seriously about what to do next and where to do it.
In the fall a friend of my mom suggested the up-and-coming Hudson Valley river town of Beacon, New York. Around that time, my brother Joe decided to ride to work in the city and asked if I could keep an eye out for a decent bicycle. As fate would have it, a blue woman’s 3-speed was listed on ebay for $9.99. The seller welcomed local pickup—in Beacon. My brother said he didn’t mind riding a girl’s bike.
I borrowed mom’s car and made the two-hour drive to Beacon, where I met Nina and Walter, owners of Blackwell’s Gallery, dealers of used furniture, jewelry, serial killer art, weird antique medical instruments, shrunken heads, and bicycles, all out of a 300-square-foot shop facing Mt. Beacon on the eastern end of the city’s mile-long Main Street.
I picked up the bike and quizzed them about the town. They thought I should move to Beacon and open a used bike shop slash junk store. I was not into bad art by mass murders, but we decided to stay in touch via email. I became their bicycle consultant guy.
In February they called to say they were moving to a larger space, and did I want to take over the lease. I bought a Ford Econoline van for $200, filled it with some old furniture and a few bikes, said goodbye to mom and headed to Beacon to open the Iron Fish Trading Co, purveyors of vintage furniture, lighting, art and bicycles.
I’ve sold other 3-speeds, but Raleigh 3-speeds are the ultimate working man’s machine. While I had the Iron Fish I was temporary custodian of some fine examples, including a his and hers set in classic black in great shape, with the leather B-72 saddles. I always liked the greens, too. Not crazy about the blues. I got my partner Stephanie a mint one in brown just before I closed my doors in the spring. I never did come across a red Raleigh.
Every couple of years, Joe would come up from the city and grab another bike, the previous one having been stolen or the steel rims having met with one too many New York City potholes. (His were 3-speed off brands, Columbia or Sears, not Raleighs. Hey, you get what you pay for.) So when he called a few weeks ago looking for a new ride and this crimson beauty popped up on craigslist soon after, I jumped on it.
It’s a fine red Raleigh LTD. But I doubt any bike will lead me over new horizons like the $9.99 blue 3-speed I won on ebay eight years ago.