Pity the driver of that hand-waxed BMW stuck in I-10 construction entanglements on Sunday morning, as crowds of bicycle enthusiasts combed Fourth Avenue for bargains of two-wheeled paraphernalia, in celebration of their quadricep-fueled ride of choice.
Call it a farmers’ market for cyclists. El Bike Swap de Tucson’s spring rollout sounded last call for the Sonoran desert’s prime riding season.
The 17th semiannual gala of chain-driven lore found $30 knobby tires fetching a third of their normal price. Stories, and lies, of ultimate trail experiences came even cheaper.
Brad Nutting figured he’d finally found his life’s work. Alongside a row of basement-priced full-suspension rides and campus specials, the Ajo Bikes tech guy espoused the benefits of custom-machined frame parts.
After a couple decades working construction and a stint in architecture school, Nutting said he’s happiest around bikes.
“It’s a cool little niche,” Nutting said. “You’re not going to get rich, but you’ll be a happy idiot.”
Others flouted their rejection of a car-intensive commuter lifestyle.
Jacob Winnes, a 24-year-old screen printer, summed that up best with his fresh-made T-shirt that boasted, “I’d rather spend $4/gallon on beer.”
Though he didn’t end up purchasing anything besides a couple hot dogs, the collection of cycling gear represented Winnes’ outlook on the automobile’s future.
“The cost of insurance, gas, wiper blades — just look at how many people are moving out of the suburbs,” Winnes said. “This is the car lot of the future.”
True enough, the stereotypical sleazy car salesmen would’ve been run out with hemp pitchforks from El Swap. But most of the best deals changed hands early, as the event kicked off around 6 a.m. with early birds scoring aluminum worms.
Many of those buys came not from dealers, but scab-inclined folks who’d decided to clean out their garages and take advantage of the event’s lack of registration fees.
James Mitchell, Kim Gilchrist and Aaron Potter left Phoenix at 3:30 a.m. to secure prime real estate. By mid-morning, the trio sat under a shade canopy, freed of two spare bikes while hawking their glut of chain rings and miscellanea.
Most of Mitchell’s gear reflected his habit for mountain biking’s madman-take-all subgenre of down-hilling, where gravity always prevails.
“My endurance these days is about eight minutes,” Mitchell joked.
The swap lasted till noon, though, when folding tables began landing in backseats and truck beds. A gangster-clad duo — one quite rotund, the other thin as a spoke — strolled past a kid sitting Indian-style on the pavement, whose cell phone sounded a continuous recorded loop: “Bike for sale.”
“Man I ain’t never even seen so many bikes,” the larger one offered. His buddy nodded deeply.
While the pair’s thousand-bike strong awe came free, it seemed the only thing not for sale was another few months of noontime 70-degree riding weather.
Around Tucson, that’s a bundle package, available only with a plane ticket.