The best part about buying our bikes in Germany was not having to pack or ship them or pay excess baggage of $250 per bike, and the worst part was going to be trying to sell them before we left. Before doing a please-come-rob-and-beat-me-up ad on Craigslist I stopped by a used bike shop filled with rusted out POS specials and which had a sign saying “We buy bikes.”Our two Radon ZR Team MTB’s were the newest thing that had been in the shop since the owner put on a new sweater back in ’95.
Mehmet, the owner, eyed them suspiciously. “Where you steal them? I’m not telling, our secret.”
“They aren’t stolen. We bought them in Bonn two weeks ago and rode to Berlin.”
“Yeah sure, of course,” Mehmet said, dismissing the presumed three consecutive lies. “And now you must sell quick, yes?”
“So you can show receipt?”
“Actually, you see … ” I had thrown them away with the manuals in Koblenz.
Mehmet waited patiently for my explanation, nodding sympathetically. “Yeah so I can give you 75€.”
“I paid 400€ and they’re barely two weeks old.”
“75€ each,” he added, effectively halving his earlier offer.
“Thanks,” I said. “Let me check around before I take that.”
“Next time I see you, 50€,” he smiled and waved.
I went to the grocery store and got some wet wipes. It’s amazing how dirty two bikes can get in two weeks. An hour later they were clean, photographed, and posted in a “Like New!” scammer’s special on Craigslist.
Several buyers emailed, all wanting copies of the receipt. I was asking 200€ apiece. I had to admit, it did sound sketchy that, buying new with intent to quickly resell, I had tossed the receipts, but I managed to get a screen shot of my Visa statement and emailed the relevant transaction to the inquiring murderers.
“You take 175€?” asked Gregor from Potsdam.
“200€ each, firm. They are pristine.” And they were, except for the scratches, dents, dings, malfunctioning brakes and shifters and drivetrain, slow leak in the front and worn-through spot on the rear tire.
“Ok. When can see? Today? Now?”
Gregor showed up with his friend Tobias, who was 6′ 6″. I am not kidding.
“Test ride ok?”
I saw that they could simply hop on and ride off. “Sure,” I said.
They disappeared around the corner. Five minutes later I shrugged, pissed that I’d passed up Mehmet’s offer but glad that Tobias hadn’t punched my face.
A pregnant woman walked up. “Have you seen my husband?”
“I don’t know your husband. I don’t think.”
She furrowed her brow. “He was coming to buy a bike.”
At that moment Gregor and Tobias whizzed around the corner, smiling like kids. “These are fantastic!” He pulled out 400€ and stuffed them into my hand. “Thank you! Can we buy you a beer?” They were the kindest people.
“I don’t drink,” I said, bringing back all of their earlier suspicions about my trustworthiness.
“That’s okay,” said Kristina, “we will buy you a nice water.”
We walked over to Burger Amt, where Tobias ate enough for twelve people. They insisted that I eat, and we got to talking about East Germany, where they were from. At first I was puzzled by their polite and respectful attitude until I realized that I was old enough to be their dad.
“You should come to Potsdam, it is so beautiful,” said Gregor, so I told them that I would. Then I realized that I couldn’t, as I I no longer had a bike.