Stickers & a new paint job make any old bike a true beater.
contributed by John FX Flynn, row2k
Coaches: Ever packed your nice, new bike on the trailer for a regatta, then hoped it would still be there the next morning after you parked overnight? If so, here is simple hack to ensure you always have the wheels you need at the race course: get a used bike--the more beat-up the better.
At most race courses, bikes are really handy: you can jet from the boat yard to the finish line, scoot back to the trailer for tools and spare parts, and--of course--chase races and scout your opponents, all using the best way to follow the action since they decommissioned the IRA spectator train.
Having your bike stolen, though, can be a real drag, but the rowing hackers out there in the coaching ranks have figured this one out: if you just use an old bike, or a really cheap one found at a Wal-Mart or garage sale, then you always have wheels when you need them. (In fact, if the bike is really sketchy, you don't even have to worry about the spares or other coaches borrowing it.) A good regatta bike like this can be irreplaceable: I once had the ideal regatta bike stolen from my garage at home. It had been free, was in good riding shape, but looked like a piece of junk. The thieves made off with my mountain and road bikes that day, too (both insured), but that regatta bike, being perfect and literally priceless, was the real loss that day.
This hack borrows a bit from the theft-proof outboard hack, of course, though--truth be told--we came up with this one first. It is the same principle: when traveling with something light, portable and, in the case of a bike, really mobile, making it look old and undesirable keeps it "yours." The twist here is that a well-hacked regatta bike actually is old: a total "beater" bike that would never attract the attention of a thief, and is thus perfect for leaving outside on the trailer for days at a time at a large regatta.
Acquiring a good, old bike is part of the trick though. Craigslist and family or friends who don't ride much anymore can supply cheap-o bikes. You can also try hitting up seasonal rental outfits: once the summer ends, there are lots of beach and lake-side places are looking to unload bikes that won't last another summer but could easily handle a few regattas each spring. Here's a hacker tip: buy them for your whole staff, because getting three or four at once can net you a nice bulk discount (plus, bonus hacker points for teams with matching beater bikes).
One tip: the bike has to be good enough to handle a few dozen 2ks in the course of a weekend, so sometimes "just cheap" is not the best way to go. There is an urban legend about a coach whose found that the "cheapest bike I could find at Wal-Mart" was not really up to the task. After a frustrating day of not being able to keep up with the crews, so he just left it at the race course at the end of the regatta. Probably not a true story, but if it is, we bet that bike found its way onto another trailer and is still on regatta duty to this day, somewhere.
Of course, you may be wondering, does this hack really work? Well, it sure did the time row2k left his bike leaning against a tree at Camden, got busy, and dashed home to start uploading Stotes and Sprints galleries…without the bike. Would you believe that the bike was still there THREE weeks later when row2k returned for the IRA's? Of course it was: as a true regatta bike, it was untouched, despite having no lock and being completely unhidden, and all set for another day at the races.
So the next time you are waiting up at the start, astride your bike, stroke watch in hand, and another coach pulls up on a beat-up piece of junk whose only redeeming feature is a well-oiled chain, then you are undoubtedly in the presence of a fellow Rowing Hacker…and the crew that coach will be following is probably pretty quick, too.
Got a great beater bike in your boathouse? Tell us about it in the comments below or, better yet, send us a picture
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