8mm Home Movie of Christmas Bicycle

Several years ago, my brother, Mark, converted a bunch of our 8mm family movies to VHS. They weren’t of high quality to begin with, and the duplication didn’t help them any. I recently bought a ION Audio VCR 2 PC USB VHS Video to Computer Converter to copy the analog movies to digital files.

While looking through them tonight, I found this short piece on Brother David getting his first bicycle sometime in the early 1960s. The part I like best is when he polishes the fingerprints off the fender.

I wonder how many kids are going to be getting bikes this week? Lots, I hope.

Magic Carpet

Bikes were magic carpets that expanded our world when we were kids. (Once you got the front tire pumped up, that is.)

RAW Gas-Powered Bicycle at the Jupiter Island Beach

Wife Lila’s sister, Marty Riley, came down to do a chalk drawing at the 16th Annual Lake Worth Street Painting Festival. While they were down here thawing out from a snow-filled Midwestern winter, they did the obligatory beach thing where Marty shot this striking photo of birds and a sailing ship on the horizon.

Wife Lila spotted a Huffy with a RAW engine kit

When they stopped at the county park at the north end of Jupiter Island (reportedly the richest per capital Zip Code in the country), Wife Lila spotted a bike that was out of the ordinary.

She never did find the owner, but it looks like a Huffy big box store bike that’s been modified by adding a80/66CC RAW motor bicycle engine kit.

The RAW kit looks a little kludgy

There were only two reviews at the Amazon link above.

Both gave it four out of five stars, but they also mentioned problems with fit and finish.

It sounds like something you could make work if

  • It fit your bike
  • You were mechanically inclined
  • Not overly critical

Matt Lovelace’s New Specialized Sirrus

Mike Lovelace on his new Specialized Sirrus

“I want a bike for about $350”

Son Adam said his buddy, Matt Lovelace, was looking for a new bike, but he didn’t have a lot of money to spend – about $350 – because he was a student working on his Master’s Degree in Biomedical Science.

I told Matt that my wife and I had started out with Trek Navigator 300 comfort bikes for about that price in 2001. “The most important thing is fit, not price. You’re 31, which is when you start losing the flexibility that let you ride an old yard sale bike you could pick up for $50 in your 20s.”

I suggested that he’d be better off going to a regular LBS, instead of a big box store, so he would be dealing with folks who understood bikes and riding.

Of course, he went to a big box store

He found a Diamondback Insight at a good price and was pleased with some of the reviews he found, but, fortunately, someone walked by who knew something about bikes and convinced him that it was the wrong size.

It was then that he “decided to spend my money on something that was the right fit,” and he ended up at Bicyclery on Military Trail south of Okeechobee Road in West Palm Beach.

“I had to have it”

There, he saw the Specialized Sirrus in a flat black color scheme. “It just felt right. I had to have it.”

The base bike cost him $520 plus tax, more than he had anticipated spending originally.

I told him before he started shopping that price was important, but to keep in mind the price of the bike spread out over its lifetime. If you think you’ll outgrow what the bike can do in about three to five years, divide the difference between what you planned to spend and what you want to spend and you’ll find out that it’s probably less than a cup of coffee a day.

Nice handlebar grips

I liked the feel of the Specialzed handle bar grips that are a little flatter than the normal round grip. I think they’ll be more more comfortable on a long ride.

A compromise on the front fork

This model bike has an aluminum front fork. To go to a carbon fork would have jumped him up a model and about another $100. He figured he could put up with a slightly stiffer ride for the dollar difference.

That was probably a good choice. He’s already talking about accessories: bib shorts, computer with cadance and, after today’s ride, a spare tube and some basic tools.

Florida sand spurs are nasty

He liked that the Sirrus comes with a wider tire so he could go on sand or gravel if he wanted to. He was demonstrating that on a ride with his friends this afternoon and scored his first flat when he picked up a sand spur.

The Specialize Sirrus meets his initial goals

Matt was looking for a bike that would let him ride in a more or less upright position while cruising parks and trails with his girlfriend. At the same time, he wanted one that would let him ride faster and longer if he wanted to go on longer rides with his friends.

He came back from his first group ride feeling like he had found a bike that would meet those requirements. The ride wasn’t that long, but he did manage to hit 26 mph for a stretch when they gave him a chance to see what it would do.

Electra Townie Original 7D as Commuter Bike

Ryan Before His Electra Townie Original 7D Inaugural Run[Guest bike review by Son Matt]

It’s always fun to spend someone else’s money.

Ryan was looking for a commuter bike. He is just two miles from work, doesn’t own a car and doesn’t particularly want a car. (He’d probably take a car if it were given to him but, for sure, he doesn’t want car payments, car repairs, car insurance and all the overhead associated with owning a car.)

A Commuter Bike, Nothing Fancy

We looked at hybrid bikes — something with an upright seating position, but thinish (28c or 35c, for example) tires; something that would take fenders and a rack. He obviously didn’t need a full touring bike for his two-mile commute. He certainly didn’t want the full-suspension mountain bike that I see so many commuters riding around town.

In flat Florida, he didn’t need much in the way of gearing range. Internal gearing would be sweet but outside of his $400 or so price range. As a utility cyclist, he wanted something that was comfortable to ride in regular clothes as opposed to the most efficient transportation.

Electra Townie 7D

After test driving a few bikes (including a sweet Trek in the color of root beer), he decided on the Electra Townie 7D. Electra Townie Orignal 7D I’m sure you have seen the ads for the Electra Townie line of bikes. Their claim to fame is ‘flat foot’ technology: when you’re stopped, you can put your feet flat on the ground without leaving the seat.

More cruiser than road bike, more beach than mountain, the Electra Townie wouldn’t have been my first choice. (My utility bike is a Trek 7300.) The Townie is heavier than I’d like, and the tires are two inches wide for a lot of friction. Still, I gotta admit, it rides smooth and is really comfortable.

With a Shimano seven-speed rear derailleur (14-34 cassette), there is plenty of range for just about anywhere he’d like to go in South Florida. The lack of a front derailleur makes for less maintenance and allows for a nice factory-original chain guard.

Mandatory Accessories: Bell and Helmet

Ryan is going to hold off buying the fenders and rack but bought a nice bell and helmet. The Townie requires a non-standard rack for which they charge a king’s ransom (about twice what a standard rack costs). Ryan balked at buying the helmet until I pointed out that he keeps some rather important stuff in his head, and he spent a lot of money working his way toward a masters degree.

Inaugural Ride: Palm Beach Lake Trail

We hit the Palm Beach Lake Trail for the inaugural shakedown cruise. The weather was just about perfect. Ryan’s new Townie cruised straight and true. He is very pleased with the bike. I’ll follow up with him  after he’s gotten a few weeks of commuting under his belt to see if he is still just as happy.

Celebratory Bike Lift At Ride Completion

Ryan Does a Bike Power Lift After Completing the Ten-Mile Bike Ride

On What Do You Commute?

With Ken going on and on about his Surly Long Haul Trucker and the rest of us yapping about our carbon fiber this and fine Italian styling that, it’s easy to forget that most bikes on the road are used for utility and not touring or speeding along.

So, what’s your other bike? You know, the bike you actually use to take the kids to school, go to the grocery store or just take a ride over to the local pub. What bike to do you ride when you’re not riding your real bike?


Ohio Bikes from 41 years ago

I’m sorting through nearly half a century of photos, newspaper clips and film getting ready for an orgy of digitizing. I just came across pictures that I took in in Southern Ohio in 1968. What struck me is how ubiquitous bicycles were.

A neighborhood fortune teller

1968-07-08 The Future picture page -bikesI shot a photo essay on “Madame Rosinnii’s” fortune teller tent set up at 80 Briarwood in Athens, Oh. It was the psychic version of a lemonade stand.

Look at all the bikes. Bro Mark wasn’t the only kid with a banana seat bike in that era. These bikes have fenders, baskets and saddle bags. These were bikes made for getting places and carrying things.

Hemlock, a dying town not yet deadBoy with bike in front of general store in Hemlock, OH, circa 1968

I ran into these two boys in front of a decaying general store in the dying coal town of Hemlock, OH.

The 2000 Census found 142 people in 48 households living in the town, so it’s still holding on. You can probably find kids on the streets today, since almost half of the households had children under 18 living in them.

This Galaxy Flyer is set up as a real utility machine. Check out the rearview mirror, heavy-duty rear baskets, fenders and a chain guard.

THIS bike has seen better days

Hemlock, OH, youngster with broken bicycle circa 1968The rear tire is flat, the pedals are shot and the front tire is coming apart. I’m going to guess that at least one older brother put a bunch of miles on this machine before it was handed down.

When I look at these pictures, I wonder if the boys rode their two-wheeled magic carpets out of Hemlock or if they’re one of the 48 households with kids of their own still there.