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PhotoBy Shawn Spomer

I have two mountain bikes that both push the $6000 price barrier, yet my favorite bike is a beat up, generic, mail-order beach cruiser that I bought for $100. Why is the most pathetic bike in my quiver my favorite bike?

I don't really even care about my favorite bike. I have never washed it. I leave it outside all night, unlocked, as hobos pass by my porch. If something is loose, I just ride through more water and sand, so the loose item becomes tight again. I have never lubed the chain on my favorite bike. The chain along with many exposed parts on my favorite bike is red with rust from surf checks and low-tide cuttie sessions on the salty sand of the local beaches. Last week, however, the original chain broke. My favorite bike let me scooter it to the local, touristy bike shop, two blocks from my home. I spent $8 on a new chain and my favorite bike pedaled again.

Photo The more I neglect my favorite bike, the better it becomes. The longer I ride it, the more we enjoy each other. Her little idiosyncrasies are shared only with me. Knowing the perfect position for maximum braking efficiency with the 1/4-turn ratchet required to activate the coaster brake. Where to start pedaling to avoid spiking a foot while keeping momentum during that rocky singletrack to the beach. How to shift my weight when plopping off a curb so the bars don't slip in the stem. Did the founding fathers of MTB like Joe Breeze and Gary Fischer really ride bikes like this down mountains? My favorite bike gives me respect for my MTB Elders.

When I ride my expensive all-mountain bike in town, one of two things usually happen. Some sketchy stranger asks, "whoa, how much does that cost?" and I feel like a trick-ass mark about to get mugged. If that doesn't occur, it's highly probable that I'll get hassled for spare change by the hobos in my neighborhood. On the other end of my quiver, when I ride my downhill bike, I must drive to a trail or resort and the dollar-spent-per-mile-of-ride-time skyrockets. My favorite bike releases me from all of these confine; my home, my work, my wallet and myself...not to mention the presumptions of the hobos and on-lookers. Hobos don't ask for handouts from their own kind. My shitty-looking bike totally fakes them out and I ride on with all the change in my pocket.

PhotoI came by my favorite bike accidentally. My boy Smiff found the $100 beach cruiser online and snatched one up. I figured it would be fun to have for pub crawls, so I snagged one, too. Little did I know much I'd enjoy her over the past two years.

I've done a few little things to make my favorite bike, my bike.
The addition of sub-$10 Odyssey PC pedals came from ordering the wrong size pedals for a different bike project. The 1/2-inch PC pedals fit my favorite bike, so on they went, replacing the gripless, stock platforms. They're not Burgtecs or anything, but some of you keep an eye on the pedals I use, so I wanted to stick with the Odyssey theme. The little nubs provide enough grip for some rough riding, but I can ride barefoot if I really have to.

PhotoI put on a slick rear tire, purchased from the same bike shop, two blocks from my house for about $16. It can rain a lot in the winter where I live. I have a trainer and wanted to use my favorite bike on the trainer for some spins. The stock knobby was too loud, so I got the slick. It worked like gang busters and makes cutties on low-tide beach-riding sessions that much more scandalous.

The bike originally came with a 42 or 44 tooth was HUGE and the gear was too big to be any real fun. I found a 36 tooth replacement online for $3. Yes, $3. Having never worked on a crappy, one-piece crankset using an American BB with loose bearings, the switch was pretty fun and allowed me to bond with my favorite bike. I think that's where the relationship deepened.

The stock foam grips have been moved to the lower center of the bars for maximum aero-efficiency and broken lock-ons from an old bike are mounted traditionally. The aero position is clutch in those afternoon north-westerlies.

Finally, I painted one side of the bike. I was working on a painting project and had too much paint on my brush. My favorite bike was sitting there, so I slathered the mint green paint on the frame. I feel like it works.

PhotoI live within 50 miles of one of the heaviest populated areas in the world...Los Angeles and its suburbs. Thankfully the majority of the millions of people in the area are lazy and don't like to walk. With my favorite bike, I can ride to empty beaches for surfing, photographing or relaxing. These nearly-untouched beaches are literally one mile away from some of the most crowded beaches in the area, but you have to walk or ride to them. I cruise the flat one mile and leave my favorite bike laying on the rocks as I surf, take photos or explore on foot, without fear of her being stolen. There are very few humans on these beaches and if a stranger does pass by, they look at the rusty, painted contraption and keep right on walking. This would not be the case if I left my other bikes sitting alone, unattended. If someone actually decided to steal my favorite bike, I would not weep. I would not file a police report. I would continue to feel a sense of freedom because I would only need about $100 to replace her. Chances are the thief could really use it as transportation OR they'd end up severely injured when the brakes don't work as they expect or the bars drop away underneath them as they ride off a curb.

At the moment, this is my favorite bike. This is my favorite bike because the freedom it brings me is complete. Will she be my favorite forever? That's tough to say. But for now, we really have something special.

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