I was so upset.

Having just finished my first bike ride in six years with my first bicycle in nearly twenty, I knew my $200 expenditure was a mistake.

The bike, which during the five-minute test ride made me feel like I was flying, was in terrible shape. The grips were plastic, the seat was too low, the brakes squeaked, and I wasn’t nearly qualified to ride it.

My lack of experience in purchasing a bike was more than enough to overcome what little bit of research I had done online.

And unfortunately, you can’t return items on Craigslist, especially when you pay for them in cash.

Fortunately, my busy schedule allowed me to avoid the bike for nearly eight weeks. But then I had a free weekend, and it was time to face the music.

Off I went to a bike shop to fix up my tragic bicycle.

Having never been to a bike shop, I was amazed at all the options available. Now, suddenly, my bike had potential! I gathered a squishy pair of grips, a better-bent handlebar, a sturdier kick-stand, and a new brake cable. (Having a mechanical background makes moments like this one particularly fun.)

Also, in the corner of the store, was a used bicycle, on sale. It had everything I had hoped the Tragedy Bike would have, and more. But I’d already committed* to my new bike, so I paid for my upgrades and went home.

The upgrades made an instant, incredible impact. Tragic Bike was transformed! It was now Minimium Viable Bike: it would get me to the train station and help me buy groceries. We’d be fast friends, I knew.

That night, however, I couldn’t help but think about Other Bike. The one I saw in the shop, on sale. It really had everything I wanted. And it wouldn’t have to wait for my one free weekend for me to fix it up. But I put those thoughts aside and prepared for the ride I would go on the next day.

I took the MVB out of the garage. There’s a notion in engineering where you have the “good enough” solution. No, it’s not perfect, but without the time, talent, or funding to make it the best solution, you will settle and hope you remember to fix it later. (You, dear reader, might also know this phenomenon as technical debt.)

As I left the house, the front fender fell off. I removed the fender. Turns out the fender fell off because the brake fell off. I removed the front brake (that’s what the rear brake is for, right?). I guess the front wheel felt lonely, since it fell off next. We didn’t make it out of the driveway.

And with that, I returned what was now Failure Bike to the garage, got in my car, and made my way back to the bike shop.

An hour later, I had Other Bike (now New Bike) in my possession. It was, in fact, everything I wanted out of a bicycle.

We often get caught up in what we think we want. In an attempt to save money, we’ll grab the first thing we see, realize it was a HUGE mistake, and try to make it better, usually with more money. When possible, the best approach is to do proper research, find out what you need, and buy the best option available, the first time around.

* Commitment is a funny word. To stick with something you love, during good times and bad, makes perfect sense: nothing is perfect, but if you are willing to compromise, your chances of being happy over all are pretty high. If you stick with something you don’t love, however, what’s the point?


This was originally posted on The Pastry Box Project at https://the-pastry-box-project.net/raquel-velez/2014-March-31.