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But that’s a Jim Blackburn

January 26, 2012

I hit the buzzer. Nothing. No door, no windows, no sound. I remember there used to be a fabricated bicycle sign on the building. But now even that was gone. Was I too late? We stood shivering on this cold, rainy Saturday in January. It had taken us over an hour to get here. As I reached to hit the buzzer again, the garage doors of the bicycle co-op opened. We were in.

I had heard of Velocity bicycle co-op in Alexandria before but it had been too out of my way to wander down there. However, while searching Craigslist for penny-farthings and other ultra-modern machines, I came across this ad:

This caught my attention. As readers (hi dad) know, I’ve begun a project converting a Bridgestone road bike into a touring bike. The co-op moving sale was the perfect opportunity to pick up cheap parts and allow me to splurge on other items. Where did I get the idea that the Co-op moving sale would be a “perfect opportunity?” Well, it had to do with words like “GO, GO, GO!” and “PARTS…ACCESSORIES…!” You don’t capitalize words and throw in uncessary excalamation points if you don’t mean it. This was going to be a sale of a lifetime, I thought. So after convincing my wife to come along (to talk me out of any irresponsible purchases), we took the metro (damn weekend track work) and eventually made it to Alexandria. From there we boarded the free old-timey trolley and headed to the east end of King Street, rang the buzzer, and waited. Finally, we were allowed in. I can’t be sure but I believe this queue was designed to size us up seeing if we had the “right stuff” to enter. I guess we passed.

We were led inside and pointed to the direction of the bike “PARTS, GEAR…ACCESSORIES, and MORE!” The rafters and walls were lined with bicycles. No time to gaze and window shop, I was here on a mission. At the back of the garage was the wall of bike parts.


The first box opened was the “Pedals.” My current gear was as good if not better than the clutter in here. Unfortunately, there was no box labeled “Shiny New Pedals.” Onward to “Lights, Bells + Reflectors” Bells were good. Plus, I could always use more lights. Again, nothing of interest. The box was overflowing with cut wires belonging to old bike odometers and uninspiring lights. It would take me all day to piece together what I wanted. I only had two hours.

“Alright, that’s it. I have to get over to the new shop.”

Just ignore it and it’ll go away. It didn’t. We had been there less than 15 minutes before we were told this. I’m not sure of the exact reason. If you advertise you’ll be open until 6 don’t book out at 4. Newt happens, I guess. I managed to find a decent looking front rack.

It was an old “Jim Blackburn” (not to be confused with the currently produced “Blackburn” rack). There was something odd about its mounting set up. I wasn’t positive the rack would fit my bike but it was worth a try later. I proceeded to the counter.

“Hmm, how much am I going to charge you for that rack?” He asked me, “You know that’s a Jim Blackburn rack? How much do you want to pay for it?”

I thought – missing all hardware, worn, unsure if it would even mount correctly. “Um, 15 dollars.”

“No way man. That’s a Jim Blackburn. Lowest I can go is $40.”

Now, I didn’t give a crap that it was a “Jim Blackburn.” $40 was probably a decent deal on an ordinary day, but what about that “Everything must GO, GO, GO!” spiel? The design looked like the expensive Nitto rack I was aiming for but I did not care about the nostalgic value associated with the rack in hand. We briefly discussed how the rack would be attached. The back end of the rack wrapped around the stem and attached to the screw on the back side of the fork. The rack came off a bike with cantilever brakes. My Bridgestone is equipped with caliper brakes. I was worried about rubbing and clearance (I can’t even fit fenders on that thing). I took out my phone and did a frantic Google search trying to find a similar brake/rack configuration. Nothing.

I left the rack at the counter. If the rack was guaranteed to fit, I may have thought differently about dropping the money. In the end, I figured the rack would be better suited for a a true Jim Blackburn fanatic.

Shop rack was similar to this EXCEPT this one has a front mounting bracket (photo by 'beikridder' at

The rack at the shop had a wrap-around mounting set-up similar to this one. Note the cantilever brakes. (photo by Wayne Bingham at

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2012 4:52 pm

    junk…I got lot’s of old bike stuff in the shed. Want some?

  2. Nancy L. Seibel permalink
    January 28, 2012 7:36 pm

    An odd experience, that. You made the right choice. What would you have done with the rack if it didn’t work? I hope the right Jim Blackburn fan came along and bought it.

  3. January 29, 2012 12:42 pm

    Was led here because I’ve been looking for that exact front rack. Wouldn’t call myself a *Jim Blackburn* fanatic, but it does match the original rear rack on my Trek 620.

    40 dollars from a cooperative for a front rack, regardless of the vintage, sounds absurd to me. At our co-op here in Pittsburgh, it wouldn’t be more than 10, especially missing mounting hardware. Co-ops are supposed to be to make functional bikes, not be a haven for vintage collectors, no?

    • January 29, 2012 12:46 pm

      Ha, I know. I thought my $15 offer was overly generous 🙂

      • January 29, 2012 12:48 pm

        For $40, they might as well just post it on eBay, get $80 for it, and open up a vintage parts warehouse.

    • Jambo permalink
      July 29, 2012 8:51 pm

      I work for a co-op style bike shop and I disagree. We are always short on funding, overworked underpaid, and the reality is that historically, most of the nice old (valuable) stuff would end up going to vintage collectors via someone else’s Ebay account…why should we give up the premium so that others can make a profit? Since we have started high grading the nice stuff and selling at a premium, the only folks that have actually complained were the profiteers and vintage collectors used to getting a $150 vintage Jim Blackburn front rack for a mere $10…at least we are doing something positive with that money…

      • July 29, 2012 9:06 pm

        Thanks for your comment Jambo. It’s definitely a balance that’s sometimes hard to meet. I know for me, the times I’ve sold bike surplus on Craigslist, I’m always a little cautious wanting to sell only to someone that will make good use of an item for themselves or a friend rather than flipping it and making a profit. For me, a rack was a rack and the fact that it was a vintage Jim Blackburn meant not much more besides being just sort of neat. I guess my expectations were just too high going in.

  4. Jerome Hughes permalink
    March 22, 2013 8:56 am

    Drag you couldn’t rummage longer. Ride an exactly matching Jim Blackburn rear rack on my Cannondale ST-500, which sports a cr-mo cantilever fork from a Miyata Alumicross that has more than enough room, with fender. Have been looking at adding the Nitto or more likely the Velo Orange front rack. Would have snapped this up at $40 as a bargain. Guess should contact them to see if they still have it.

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