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Our Beloved Junk

by Ted Johnson

Yesterday my bike stayed at work due to an unforeseen series of events (a.k.a. poor planning on my part).

I got a ride home from my wife. And this morning–again to my utter astonishment–my main commuting bike had not found its way home on its own.

I considered my options. I passed over my trusty Diamondback, which still has studded snow tired from the winter, and chose instead to ride my wife’s bike.

I’ve given this bike so little consideration over the years that until I started writing this post, I always thought it was made by Specialized. It’s not. It’s a Motiv.

Motiv? Yes, that obscure bike company that doesn’t even seem to have a Website.

Motiv Stonegrinder

I was in the saddle about five seconds when it all came back to me. I love this bike.

It’s at least ten years old, and was probably purchased new for less than $200 at a Costco. My wife picked it up used off a friend in Juneau, Alaska.

Motiv Stonegrinder

You're not alone. Even this neighborhood cat was unimpressed.

When I first met this bike, probably five years ago, I lubed the chain, and was pumping up the tires so my then-fiancee and I could go for our first ever bike ride together. She asked, “Do you have to pump up the tires every time you ride it?”

I said, “No… I mean, yes, if you only ride it once a year.”

On paper, this bike is a piece of junk. But it fits me better than any bike I’ve ridden as an adult. If I were ever to spend $10,000 on a handmade bike, I could probably save the frame builder a bunch of time by just saying, Make it fit me like this. (It might knock 50 bucks off the price of that custom bike too.)

Those riser handlebars allow me to ride upright in great comfort–yet I don’t feel the least bit Dutch.

I can’t take much credit for the quality of the ride. I’ve put a little work into this bike over the years, but I’ve never invested in quality components. Instead it’s been used shifters from the discard bin at a local bike shop, a cheap new derailleur, a cushy seat for my wife.

There’s something magic about this bike. I don’t think it’s been ridden in a few months, yet the tires were still mostly full, and index shifting was dialed in.

If all bikes were this dependable and comfortable, more people would bike commute.

Motiv Stonegrinder

Not Specialized

One day, we’ll be getting my wife a new bike. But this one’s not going anywhere. This piece of magic junk is a keeper.

I’m wondering if there are other magic bikes out there; unassuming bikes with unexpected quality. If you have one, let’s hear about it.

 
Burley nomad 229

6 Responses to “Our Beloved Junk”

  1. Ed6061 says:

    Steel, late 80s early 90s geometry, best riding mountain bikes for general use ever. Wish I still hade my Schwinn High Plains.

  2. Jesse says:

    I have an early ’80s Schwinn Traveler that I picked up 11 years ago at a yard sale for $10. Aside from tires and brake pads, it is all original. It is my main commuter ride from April to November. It’s comfortable (for a road bike) and fast. I really haven’t found anything that I’d want to replace it with.

  3. jones says:

    I have an early ’80s Puch that i salvaged from a scrap yard – most of the original parts were fair (a little sanding and re-surfacing), but I’ve added very little to the stock frame. This became my EVERY-day commuter, and i still love it. Just recently I came across an old mid-80′s Shogun that fits my wife perfectly. It has replaced her newer commuter. “Life is too short to ride new bikes”

  4. Dann Golden-Collum says:

    My ride is an ’87 Bianchi Axis – Bianchi’s first production cross bike. It’s an unusual purple color that’s just now beginning to fade. Lots of rock chips now, especially on the fork. Still riding on the original Bianchi Celeste saddle, although the vinyl is now beginning to crack. Have the original seat post, bars, Sakae SX triple crank, Dia Compe 984 cantis and Suntour XCD front and back deralleurs. The hubs are now Shimano 105′s, wheels are Mavic A719 with 36 spokes, running 700/32 rubber. The peddles are now Crank Bros candy – they’re orange (looks good with the purple frame!).

    I can ride this bike all day. The Bianchi Superset Tange double-butted chrome-moly frame and fork are fairly light for steel, stiff enough so there’s very little oscillation, but still smooths out the bumps as only Tange can.

    I’m now commuting in Anchorage AK (transplanted from Portland OR), and am looking forward to my first real snow/ice commute in 25 years! Hope to wrap the wheels with some Nokian studs and ride through everything!

  5. ah, the motiv. alas. and yet, i have to give mine the credit she deserves, for i would not now know mountain biking as i do if i had not first known her. i wrote about my old motiv some time ago on my own blog http://rockychrysler.blogspot.com/2010/07/just-about-bike-retrotec-64.html

    and, fwiw, their old website is preserved at archive.org http://web.archive.org/web/20040824051138/motivsports.com/bike.html

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