My Schwinn Suburban contemplates the liminal qualities of life. Island Heights, NJ. 2005.
Some folks may not realize this but, despite being a hot-blooded American lass, I don’t have a car.
I did drive a car for about 5 years. It was convenient but, what with its constant demands for gas and parking – plus its habit of breaking parts and or getting stolen, driving could often be kind of a drag. Part of the personal appeal of moving to a city was the ability to live free from car ownership.
Now, I’m not one of those chip-on-the-shoulder, four-wheels-bad/two-wheels good kind of blow hards. Dave has a car and it is wonderful. I really like being able to buy lots of groceries when it is rainy outside. But most of the time I get about by bicycle. Have I talked to you about my bikes? About my precious baby chromoly ponies? My sweet, bi-wheelin’ dears?
I really like bikes. I really like to ride them. And think about them. And I’m starting to talk about them and read about them. Every day, I love bikes a little bit more. I’m not sure if they will usurp my love for buildings and cities and public planning but they are ever edging closer in the polls.
Currently, my stable includes:
An early 2000s Bianchi Pista in all black everything. For the past year, I have been riding it as a single speed which is stupid for a number of reasons. The first reason is because there is only one break, on the front, and the rear of the bike is not even drilled to accept a back break. Eventually, I became sick of feeling like I was either going to plow head-first into a bus or violently flip over the handle bars so I swapped it to a fixed gear. This also eases reason number two, which is that the bike becomes all twitchy and ultra responsive at higher speeds. But if I am providing all the speed myself, well, I don’t count on breaking the sound barrier any time soon.
I purchased this Surly Long Haul Trucker from my friend this past spring. I have every intention of nicing it up and switching all the black stuff to silver stuff so that it looks pretty cool and olde timey and spiffy. At first, I was unsure if I would keep this around because the ride was less than great (and very different after years of riding super minimal single speed bikes). However, I found out that what this bike needs is a little junk in its trunk for optimal performance. Even 10 or 20lbs of groceries make a difference. I’ll probably load this up with all sorts of shit and then only ride it as far as Bristol (14 miles away). Anyone want to take me on a long-ass cycling trip?
RIP This old, half-disassembled Monark Silver King. It used to live in the basement until a few weeks ago when I took it out to play around on. The ancient gears assured that it never went any faster than a slow jog while the similarly ancient coaster break made me feel like I was living one teensy arm-pit hair away from death. Kind-of-sadly, it was just stolen from our backyard the other day. I didn’t want to lock it up because I knew I wouldn’t be bummed if it wasn’t my responsibility to deal with it anymore. But let that be a note. No matter how shitty your bike is, lock it up! There are a lot of terrible people in the world and sooner or later, one will pass through your back yard or let themself into your stairwell. While you are home. Watching Twilight. (Yes. This happened to me.)
And then there is this, my Puch mixte fixer-upper. A few months back, I got it into my head that what I needed, I mean, NEEDED, was a mixte frame bicycle. But not with those lame drop bars that always look so dinky on such a weird frame. It wasn’t until I started to see photos of porteurs and and other utility bikes that I realized, “Gee. Those frames can look really nice.” So, as if everything else going on in my life was not enough of a diversion, I went on craigslist and picked up this cherry red, small-sized frame as a great winter 2011/2012 project. The object: learn to build a freaking bike. Then, make the perfect freaking bike for getting around town in all weather as well as something that can go on trips out of town. And it should be speedy. And it should be comfy. And it should have at least one religious icon decal stuck to it. I’m no fan of the Puch font, anyway.
Here’s some around the web eye candy: