Several ancient-looking bicycles, with 1950s-style frames and trimwork, were lined up in front of the shop. They were so nicely restored that Alan thought that this might be a collectors' bike boutique! However, a good-looking used Malvern Outback with fat tires, one gear, and a large wire front basket was tagged at 2 rogers, 500 pence, or, "2/500". That seemed cheap enough.
A friendly-looking older fellow approached, and said, "Hello. Don't know if I've seen you before..."
"Oh, Hi. I'm Alan. I'm staying above the art gallery down the road."
They shook hands. "Good to meet you, and yes, I know the place. I'm Rothschild, and how can I help you?"
"I need a bike."
"I see. For just you or will there be cargo? For short trips or long? Over flat land or into the Highlands?"
The questions gave Alan pause. "Well, I have to go all over the island in the next few months, with my supplies, and sketch pictures for the Tourism Office. I can travel by train here and there but most of these places are path-access only. I just came back from my first trip out to the Hook and to Capetown, and it took days just to get to one spot to the next. I'm thinking that a good bike might save time..."
"Ahh, walking is fine for the young people, and these bicycles are okay for a trip to town, but you, young man, could use a true overland conveyance!"
He then led Alan inside the shop to a display of solar bikes - long, low, three-wheeled contraptions with cargo bins behind the seats and roofs covered with photo-voltaic cells.
"These beauties are built by the Hilltop tribe, outside of Putney. They import Kettwiesel Eco trikes from Hase Bikes, a company in Germany. Hilltop started their own Tera-Bike Works in 2007 to adapt recumbent bikes into solar-powered path conveyances. The roof carries enough cells to give these bikes a powerful boost, plus offers weather protection, especially from the sun! The cargo bay behind the seat holds about 100 lbs of gear. It rides like a dream...would you like to take it for a spin?"
Alan could tell this was a sales pitch, but he was nevertheless enchanted. "Hmmm, I think this is just what I need! Uh...how much for one of these?"
"Oh, take it out for a ride first, then we'll get into that..."
Alan watched as Rothschild wheeled an electric-blue solar bike out the front door. "It's easy enough - just climb into the seat, pedal with your feet and steer with these steering handles. These grips are the brakes. Down here is a switch to turn on your motor to help you get up the hills, or just cruise without pedaling. This thing will ride over rocks and bumps and does well on soft ground. We've even added a handle in front so you can pull it out of the mud!"
The bike felt heavy as Alan moved it into place to climb in, but it pedaled easily out onto the street, and was also easy to turn. Sitting low, he felt much more at ease than on a regular bicycle - he could stop and just sit in it without putting a foot out.
"Wow, I like this thing. The price?"
"For you, 99 rogers, and I'l throw in a water bottle for free."
Alan had to think a minute on the math: That sounds like about 2200 dollars! Well, I'm sure it's worth it - I've never seen anything this advanced in the states...
"Umm, okay...I'll have to think it over.