Everyone experiences cycling in a different way, and to illustrate this variety we invite columnists to write about their personal experiences on two wheels. Sharief Mohamed tells a cautionary tail of the ultimate second-hand bike bargain…

Once upon a time, long, long ago (Christmas 1961) a rabbit named Flappy went missing. Okay, sorry, this is nonsense.

It was three weeks ago. After a week of hard labour, I came to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to buy a racing bike, mainly because the place of hard labour was moving location from the centre of Amsterdam to the west of the city. From the Herengracht to the Baarsjesweg, to be precise.

Amsterdam Eastside

I, as a resident of the Amsterdam Eastside (Indische Neighborhood), will hereafter have to cycle 15 kilometres a day (#fitboy). My erstwhile steel steed pedalled slower than sloth on madrax: it was time for change. After deep research based on half an hour’s extensive single source (#marktplaats) research, I decided to set my sights on a racing bike in the category “vintage tight-arsed hipster racer with dried-out tyres”.

This was a category I was familiar with, having regularly bought such items in order to immediately resell them and amass some extra ducats, which I promptly passed on to the local bar on a Friday night. I considered myself an expert in this particular product category.

During my search I came across several bicycles upon which I am an expert. However, I became as distracted as a magpie on ecstasy by one particular shiny object: a Bombtrack gravel bike.

Jiggy Jeff

A sporty bike that looked new and stylish, even without cranks and bottom bracket (as they were missing). A small Steve Jobs particle suddenly floated through my brain, and I heard myself saying: “Why should I join the navy, when I can be a pirate?!” Asking price: €200. “Frik it. I’ll change the game and bid €120!” (#rebelwithacause #livingontheedge).

Jiggy Jeff (Jeffrey the Gypsy to strangers) reacted 10 minutes after my bid with the news that I could become the proud owner for €150. I am a frikking pirate now, and this is my chance. A fantastic, absolutely amazing offer that I simply couldn’t refuse!

OK, it’s got no cranks and bottom bracket, but how expensive can that shizzle be? A few euros from my local bike shop? As I am qualified bicycle connoisseur, I visited the Bombtrack website. See! I said to myself whilst drooling over the pages of their catalogue. These are high-quality, expensive bikes.

Pimped Suzuki Swift

After five minutes I had Jiggy Jeff on the line; sixty minutes later I was waiting at the horse riding stables owned by my mum in Amsterdam Noord. In the distance I saw a pimped Suzuki Swift approaching with smoked windows and wheel rims that had been sprayed black. “This is a trustworthy fellow,” I thought (not).

Jiggy Jeff let me see the bike. Why didn’t the bike have a crankset or bottom bracket? Jiggy had put them on his other bike. Seems fair, I thought, after which he said it would only cost a few euros to repair at my local bike shop. You see! I said to myself.

After the transaction had been completed, I walked with Jiggy Jeff to my car. I asked him casually: “So, are you a cyclist?” “No,” answered Jiggy Jeff.

Bottom bracket and crankset

Two days later, on Monday, I start calling a few bike shops in Amsterdam. All are hopeful: “Oh, that’s an easy job, bring your bike along.” So I take the bike to three of these bicycle repairmen, all of whom go green at the gills upon my arrival. “A crankset for that bike? Nope, haven’t got one of those, nor time to find out what it is that you need. If you find out exactly what bits you need, then I can help you.”


I head home with that same feeling that you get after late-night heavy petting in the doorway with a cool chick and then have to sleep at home. I seek email contact with the people at Bombtrack, who, by the way, are really helpful (#shoutout). Within 48 hours I get a reply, and a list of the parts that I apparently need.

In good spirits, I once again sought contact with the bike shops. “No problem, bring the bike along,” was the reply. For the rest of the weekend, I was on a pilgrimage. The first shop informed me that the repair would cost €300 (!), the second quoted me €250, and the third told me to go home and fix it myself. After many travels I found a bike mechanic willing to fall for my “I’m a student and have already screwed myself by buying this amazing Bombtrack bike without a crankset and bottom bracket” story.

Tears in my eyes

The man saw the suffering and the tears in my eyes. The fact that I am neither in the navy, nor a pirate, clearly convinced him to help me out. He offered to fit second-hand parts (it transpired I needed more parts than a crankset and bottom bracket to create a fully functioning bicycle out of my purchase), which were spread all over his workshop. With a lump in my throat I agreed.

“What will it cost me?” I ask, sobbing slightly. “€150,” he answered. I decide within 10 seconds: Either I cut my losses like a man and hang this crap bike on my wall as decoration, or I carry on (#gamblerssyndrome), spend €150 and end up with an amazing fantastic bike for €300 euros. YOLO. “Just do it, just do it!” I say a little too loudly across the workshop.

Sharief with his Bombtrack: finally fixed


Yesterday I picked up my bike, and I’m now the proud owner of a single-speed Bomtrack HOOK gravel bike from 2015, for which I paid €320 (the final bill was €170, for all you mathematicians out there). All this, while I could have satisfied my needs for €150 with a “vintage tight-arsed hipster racer with dried out tyres”.


Pride? Overconfidence? Arrogance? Ah well, it was an expensive lesson. But I have a bike that works. The lesson I’ve learned? Stay off drugs, don’t trust people who want to do deals at your mothers’ stables (#metoo), and seek the advice among those you know, who actually do have knowledge of racing bikes, before even having the slightest intention of investing in a second-hand bicycle. Peace out. (#praisethelord #A$APROCKY.)