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New life for this old Panasonic


The other day, as I was driving through traffic, something very jarring caught my eye.

Some other dude was riding my bicycle.

No, he hadn’t stolen it.

After I processed the image, I figured exactly what had happened.

I recently donated the bicycle to the Hub, a local bike repair and redistribution center created by Velo Las Cruces.

A few days later, I saw the same guy and my bike at a homeless encampment. It had become a primary mode of transportation for him.

That’s something it never was for me. I’m someone who’s never been without a car, truck or SUV (and for a while, one of each) since I was 16.

There were long stretches when that bicycle hung upside down from my ceiling in my garage.

The guy had strapped a milk crate to the rear bike rack I had mounted shortly after buying the bicycle many years ago.

It may not have looked very cool, but very practical for the new owner.

  A little over a year ago, I put my 1987 Panasonic Mountain Cat 4500 up for sale. I was the original owner of this unique mountain bike. Despite how much I liked it, though, it was out of date. With no front shocks, and a heavy frame, the cat was inferior to today’s more updated mountain bikes.

Just as cars and trucks have improved in the last 35 years, so have bicycles.

I advertised the bike as a collector’s item in good condition for $265, and identified myself as its original owner. Panasonic didn’t make mountain bikes for a very long period, but as it did with stereos before, it tried to do some cool things, such as a “Biopace” sprocket. Rather than the traditional round sprocket, Panasonic flirted with a sort of kidney-bean shaped sprocket with supposed ergonomic efficiencies.

I got a call right away and was excited at the prospect of a quick sale.

But a sale never happened. Instead, it was an elaborate scam attempt, and I narrowly avoided getting ripped off for $1,250. (Thank you, Pioneer Bank for helping me dodge that fleecing).

So after hearing a presentation from Velo Cruces about the Hub, I thought maybe I could donate the old Mountain Cat.

When I took the bike to the Hub one Saturday, several of the people working there got excited, like I’d just brought in proof of Bigfoot.

I wondered who might wind up with my longtime prized possession, and had sort of resigned myself to never knowing.

But when that unmistakable red and pearl bicycle toodled along beside me that day, it was a bit of an out-of-body experience.

And I’m grateful it’s being used by someone for whom it can make a difference.