On a tip from Arni from the Iceland mountain bike club I went in search of a used bicycle in Reykjavik in the shops that specialize in selling new bikes. Apparently, it is common for these shops to offer discounts on the purchase of new bicycles if you trade in your old one. Nobody seemed to know what these shops do with all the used bikes they hoard up from these trade ins though, as they are surely not sold in the showrooms. Arni suggested that I go and find out.
Walking into a cycle shop in east Reykjavik I asked the first salesperson I came to if his shop sold used bicycles. He was a young, athletic looking guy with a touch of a Vanilla Ice haircut. He seemed a little puzzled at first by my request, and then admitted that there were, in fact, used bicycles in the shop. “We buy them for 10,000 Krona when someone trades in for a new bike.” Telling me to wait a moment, the salesman went into the back room.
I was left to browse through the bicycles in the showroom. The cost of many of the new mountain bikes far exceeded $3,000, the cheapest bottoming out at $600. Far too much for a vagabond on a mission to circumambulate a single country.
The salesman returned a few moments later with the shop’s manager, and called me over to the back room door. The manager asked me how tall I was. I momentarily forgot my metric measurement and replied with my imperial stature. Apparently, it was enough for the manager to size me up, and he and the younger salesman returned to the back room to search for a bicycle that would fit me most appropriately.
They returned with a bright pink one.
“Ice Fox” was written down its side.
Spinning the pedals as he held it in the air, he proclaimed that it worked, but he did offer an apology: “It is a really awful color.”
Bright pink. In the 80’s, we would have called it hot pink.
I cracked up laughing, it was too perfect. I imagined myself not only biketramping a popular route of professional bicycle travel, but doing so while flaming.
I spun the tires, gave it a quick one over, kicked it, asked how much they wanted for it. The salesman shrugged, asked the manager.
“I’ll take it.”
“You have to pay in cash, do you have cash,” the salesman replied.
Paper money is going the way of hot pink in Iceland: out of fashion.
The salesman rang up my bill. I asked for the receipt. He printed something out that was a mangle of numbers that didn’t make any sense, but the bottom line was the price I paid. I asked the salesman to explain the receipt to me. He seemed confused. Another salesman came over to help.
“These are sales units,” the new arrival spoke, “this bicycle costs this many sales units.”
It was gibberish, but the manager was quick to unravel my confusion. He grabbed the receipt, crinkled it up, and promptly tossed it into the nearest trash can.
“No receipt,” he proclaimed, “this bicycle is from me to you.”
Fair enough. I had just been sold the cheapest functioning mountain bike in Reykjavik, I was not going to bobble the sale on a tight assed technicality. I wanted my pink bicycle, receipt or not.
“Where are you going on this bike? Around Reykjavik?” The salesman asked.
“No Ring Road,”I answered proudly.
The entire shop erupted in laughter.
“You are going on Ring Road with THAT bike!?!” the manager exclaimed.
“Yes,” I answered meekly, “I’ve done stupid shit like this before. I”m a pro.”
“Why don’t you just buy a new bike if you want to do that?”
“Because a new bicycle in Iceland costs more than my plane ticket to get here,” I replied factually.
The owner shrugged and nodded. “Yes,” he spoke. It was true.
The entire shop was now thoroughly entertained by my proposed route of travel on the now notorious pink mountain bike.
“I met some guys on the airplane coming here,” the manager’s brother, who just flew back to Iceland from the USA, spoke, “and they were going to bicycle Ring Road too. But they had thousands of dollars of gear and sponsorship!”
The laughter continued: “Maybe you will see them!”
“Yeah,” the manager picked up the refrain, “You are going to go vroom right by them on this bike!”
Everyone in the shop was now standing around me, jovial, laughing in a friendly way as I stood my ground in defence of my new traveling machine. “I’ve bicycled farther on worse bikes than this,” I reached out for redemption. There was none to be had. These guys had just sold me the cheapest bike in this city, I let him have their laughs. I laughed too. I could see their point: nobody bikes Ring Road on such a bicycle. Nobody.
“Well, at least you don’t have to worry about anyone stealing it,” the jokes continued.
It was time to go. I shook hands with the manager, passed over a Vagabond Journey business card, and told them to watch me do Ring Road in style: on an old, traded in, pink mountain bike.
As I made for the door, the manager shouted out one last jest: “Hey, if you need any parts, just give me a call, we can have them to you in a day!”
I’ll show em.