11 June 2018

They Don't Make 'Em Like This Anymore!

The other day I was wandering some familiar haunts in Brooklyn with Arielle, my Mercian Audax special.  Along the way, I made a quick detour to look for a sign the world hadn't ended.

All right, so it wasn't so dramatic.  I was, however, relieved and gratified that one of the truly gentle people I've known still has his shop.  If the repair bicycles weren't locked to a rack in front of the store, it would be easy to miss.  

Arnold's Bicycles and Trains is no bigger than my apartment but is chock-full of history. It has been on the same block of Sunset Park for decades.  I don't think Arnold has sold any trains in a while, but I suspect he may have a few leftover tracks or cars in his basement. (Do kids still pine for model railroads at Christmastime?)  He says he still has a few nice old parts but "I've sold most of them over the past few years" as people are restoring all sorts of old machines.

These days, I suspect he makes most of his money from repairs, helmets and other accessories, as well as the occasional new kid's bike.  In addition to his gentleness, everyone who's dealt with him remarks on his honesty, which is probably why his store has weathered the changes in the surrounding neighborhood.

It's hard to believe, but when I stopped by, one of the repair bikes I saw is older than the shop--and possibly Arnold himself:

Like Arnold, it's "the real deal".  In other words, it's what lots of bikes today claim they are:  a Dutch city bike. (Brand:  Victoria) It could have been parked next to an Amsterdam canal yesterday, or 50 years ago, and it wouldn't have looked out of place.  This bike is meant for commuting, as evidenced by at least one interesting feature:

People pay custom frame builders and constructeurs good money for internal generator-light wiring, but here it is on an everyday utility bike!  But the thing that fascinated me most is the crank:

We expect most bikes of this type to have cottered cranskets.  Cotterless sets, we're told, were the province of Campagnolo, Stronglight, Specialites TA and other makers of high-end racing and touring gear.  

This one is made of steel.  Its chainring cannot be changed, but I suspect that it will never need to be.  

Nor will Arnold.  Whatever he sells in his shop, people go to it because of him.  Oh, and there's a place on the next block where you can eat some of the best pork buns you can get without taking a flight to Shanghai!


  1. He certainly has an eclectic assortment of bikes.

  2. Steve--He does. I'll bet his life experience is even more interesting!

  3. When my daughter was living in Sunset Park a few years back, I had to ship her a bike I built up. I contacted you for suggestions about some nearby bike shops that I could send it to and have it assembled. One of your recommendations was Arnold's Bicycles. I called him and we chatted for a long time and made the arrangements. He was such a pleasant fellow. He called me when it was ready to pick up, but told me not to wait too long because he didn't have much room in the store. He also said I did a nice job fixing and modifying this older Fuji. I took that as a great compliment indeed. Thanks Justine for the lead:)

  4. Chris--I remember that exchange of e-mails. Arnold really is a gem, isn't he?