The blue Schwinn Varsity, circa 1976, looked like others I'd seen. That is, until I turned the corner.
When I worked in bike shops, I saw some strange, interesting and unusual "repairs" customers had done themselves. Most of the time, I could see what they were trying to fix.
But on the blue Varsity I saw today, I had to wonder. At first, I thought the tape was an attempt to repair a flat. That's what it probably was indeed.
However, I also couldn't help but to ask myself, rhetorically, whether the person actually rode the bike with the tape wrapped around the rim. After all, I could only imagine what that tape did to the braking.
Also, I found myself thinking about the time a customer brought in a bike because the front wheel was "bumping" as he rode. I realized that he meant "thumping" after I saw the tape wrapped around his tire and rim, much as it was on the Varsity I saw today.
The man begged me not to unwrap the tape--duct tape, to be exact. I explained that I couldn't replace his tube--which he almost certainly needed--or his tire (probably needed) unless I could remove them.
"But that'll ruin the wheel!", he exclaimed.
Of course, I removed the tape and saw a crack along the surface of the rim, nearly from one tire bead to the next. Probably the only reason the rim hadn't broken was that the cracks didn't begin or end at a spoke hole: It'd cracked along the smooth, solid area of the rim.
Before that day, I knew that all sorts of things could be held together with duct tape. But, until that moment, I'd never seen a bicycle rim fixed that way.
At that moment, Frank, the owner of Highland Park Cyclery walked by and made it clear to the man that if we could not replace his wheel (It wouldn't have been worth rebuilding with a new rim), tire and tube, we would not work on his bike.
The man grabbed his bike and, with a huff, pushed it out of the shop.
You guessed what he did when he got out onto the sidewalk: He wrapped duct tape (He'd had a roll in his bag!) around the cracked rim and tire.