Friday, September 2, 2011

Desperately seeking Bicycle. (Been through the desert on a bike with no name.)

As an Official Pedestrian, making the decision to return to cycling as a mode of transport was easy. Deciding which bicycle to purchase was an eye-straining nightmare. I knew I wanted something low-tech, something 'easy' to ride, something functional. I knew I wanted one like my long lost Indi 500 but with a hint of 21st century pampering. Like gears. What I wanted was a 'Bicycle shaped' bike; but fifteen years had passed, mainstream bicycle culture in Perth had evolved enough to warrant infrastructure but it had also evolved into an alien landscape of carbon fibre speed machines ferrying a cargo of sweaty, lycra wrapped balls. One of the busiest city-bound cycle paths was near my residence so I'd personally observed the archetypal Perth commuter and it didn't look promising. Overwhelmingly they were bright green synthetic fabric covered men aged between 18 and 60, their helmets were designed to look like they were going very fast even when they were standing still, their bug-eyed sports Raybans were permanently attached to their faces and they rode hunched over their handlebars not quite kneeing themselves in the chest like only those who have never been tit-punched can. I found this Praying Mantis parade of testosterone bleak. Where were the people just riding their bicycles, not racing them? Where were the women? And children? And retirees? Where was Everybody Else and was there even a bicycle for the rest of us? (I was at this stage unaware of

And just when you think there can't possibly be a stock photo image for 'Praying Mantis on a bicycle'...

I had already suffered a disappointment after a bicycle shop opened right near my house. It had the word 'Bespoke' in curling font and a picture of a Penny Farthing on the sign. 'Wow!' I thought with predictable ignorance, 'They must make their own bicycles and they must not be road bikes!' Just after they opened, I excitedly peered through the window. Every wall was covered with wafer thin wheel rims and dynamic looking frames. There was carbon. There was fluoro. There were drop-bars. I was bummed out. It wasn't what I was looking for. I determined that instead of wandering around hitting up random bicycle retailers I should first Google my brains out. Immediately I ran into a problem: What was the official term for a 'Bicycle shaped' bicycle? I Googled 'Traditional bicycle' but it turned out the search engine bonanza was waiting behind the door marked 'Vintage Bicycle'. I soon learned that Vintage and Retro were now interchangeable terms and thanks to an international deficit of language (and people calling them whatever would get the most hits) my dream bicycle went by many names, each requiring their own search to get an idea of what was out there.

Cycles Bespoke - Does not contain actual Penny-Farthings.

(But does contain people who will make you an awesome road bike if that's what you wish for.)

There was Upright bike, Town bike, Loop frame bike, Dutch bike, Cruiser bike, Comfort bike, Vintage bike and Retro. Each search brought success. Even the mislabelled ones (Cruiser, Comfort). You could buy a brand spanking new 'Vintage' bicycle online but I didn't want that. I wanted to view one in person, test ride and see if it lit up my soul like I remembered. Through bicycle blogs I found the names of manufacturers, searched the companies and then if they stocked in Australia. I discovered that Melbourne was the slow bike capital of Australia, thanks to also being the Hipster capital. They were on a serious 'Vintage bike' kick. (And if you think American Hipsters are ridiculous, you haven't seen one in 45 degree heat.) As usual, Perth was behind (and 2720 kms away) but had enough local Hipsters to cause a ripple effect of fashionable things to filter across to our side of the country. By this point my eyes were bleeding but I knew I wanted a basic loop frame, steel bicycle at a relatively cheap (But not budget department store, designed to be ridden only thrice a year cheap) price, with at least 5 gears, a chain guard and mud guards. And at age 28 I would finally have a basket. Come hell or high water. In an ideal world my bicycle would also be a charming shade of blue.

Much like I imagine is inside a 'Roadie's' shorts after hunching on that razor saddle.

I found exactly what I was looking for in the 2011 model 'Jenny 7 Speed' from Schwinn. I saw it on the Schwinn website and HAD TO POSSESS IT. My fervor was such that the car-worshipping Spouse became infected. He saw a picture of a Schwinn Cruiser and wondered if it would be the gentle reintroduction to cycling that he was now craving. (We have matching rusted mountain bikes in the shed from our respective 90s follies.) It was December, almost Christmas 2010 so a lot of the 2011 models had already sold but Spouse found the Jenny by... randomly hitting up a bike shop. In a Hipster friendly area. We went there ASAP. Acutely aware that I hadn't touched a bike for over a decade and that this was not actually my bicycle, I took the Jenny for a nervous test ride on the baking hot, tarmac coated slope behind Canning Bridge Cycles. In Normal Clothes! Sandals and a dress! It was magical. I didn't fall off. I hadn't forgotten how to balance! Although I did go up an insane incline in 5th gear, much to the amusement of the Proprietor. She and her husband were excellent the whole way through. They knew we were rusty and not 'real' cyclists (...yet) but they never mocked us. There was proper seat adjustment and kind correction of any technique I had forgotten, like which side of the bike to mount from and how to officially dismount. Spouse tried out the cruiser and was hooked. He wasn't intending to buy himself a bicycle (Mine was a Christmas/Birthday present) but we discovered he could get a slightly damaged aluminium model at a discount. We put a deposit down and quickly took onanistic phone pictures to satisfy us until collection:

Schwinn Jenny 7 Speed 2011


Schwinn Classic Al Beach Cruiser

We were now set up to simultaneously descend into madness and revolutionise our lives. We just didn't know it.

1 comment:

  1. I... just.. praying mantis... OMG

    and talk about your false advertising.. I would've been excited about a store called bespoke cycles too..