While the pandemic has spawned a lot of new hobbies and ways to keep busy, one of the most popular seems to be bike riding. Driven by a need to get out of the house, avoid public transit, or simply get some exercise and a bit of fresh air, the use of bicycles has skyrocketed, causing local New Orleans bike shops to sell out quickly. Even orders from national bike companies take weeks to be fulfilled.
Cycling is a hobby that is close to my heart, so when I heard about a man who was refurbishing vintage bikes, I knew that I had to meet him and learn more about his unique and cool passion.
While other shops are struggling to keep bikes in stock, Percy Baulden is running a bicycle business out of his garage, where he stores, works on and sells long-forgotten vintage steel bikes. For Baulden, his passion for working in the garage started with his father and grandfather; working on old bikes seemed to be a natural fit.
“Growing up, I always worked in the garage with my dad,” he said. “I’ve always liked antiques- bicycles found me.”
From Craigslist to cash
Baulden’s passion for vintage bike restoration started, about six years ago, when he was looking for a bike on Craigslist. He found one, but it was too big for his 6’4” frame, so he resold it on eBay for double what he paid. Intrigued, he tried that process again and was able to sell another bike at a profit. From there, Baulden bought 20 bikes online, fixed them, and sold them.
“The bikes sold immediately, so I thought that I might be on to something,” he explained.
Baulden’s specialty is steel vintage bikes from the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s because, he said, they were built to last. He especially likes English racers, but he keeps an eye out for all steel bikes from that era. He works on brands such as Schwinn, Raleigh and Peugeot and he especially likes to work on Schwinn road bikes. He rides a 1973 Schwinn Paramount, himself.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, business has skyrocketed and Baulden is selling bikes to college students who need a way to get around town and who have an appreciation for the older bikes.
“The bikes are built well, and everyone is always amazed by the quality,” he said.
Traveling for bikes all over the country
For Baulden, one of the best parts of refurbishing the old bikes is traveling all over the country scouting for bikes that he can fix up. Recent trips have taken him to Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and all over the Midwest.
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“I’m always scouting bikes and people are always reaching out,” he said. “I’ve traveled all over the country buying bikes. I’ll explore back roads and take in the sights, wherever I am.”
The trips are often profitable — sometimes Baulden is able to score 100 to 150 bikes in one trip, even though most of them usually need some love and care before they can be sold to their forever home.
“Most bikes I get need a lot of work- new cables, brake pads, tires, tubes and chains, but the body is solid,” Baulden explained. “Right now, because of COVID, bike parts and tires are in high demand.”
Baulden has been a New Orleans firefighter for 19 years and, for now, fixing up and selling bikes is a hobby. However, he hopes to open an all-vintage bike shop sometime in the future.
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A $50 deposit is required for a restoration to begin, and most restorations take two2 to four4 weeks. Most of Baulden’s bikes average in price between $225 and $600, and the best way to reach him is to make an appointment through his website at www.cikcycles.com.