My Bikes

Many people seem to think that 7 bikes is a bit much. I disagree. Update: now at 8 bikes, after the recent purchase of a folder! Newer update: now at 9 bikes, after the purchase of a $20 bike I leave in Vermont, so it doesn't really count. Furthermore, the dinosaur bike frame is definitely beyond repair, and I have cannibalized it, so I'm really back at 8 bikes again. (For larger versions of each picture, click on the small image.)

The commuter

Commuter This is the first new bicycle I ever bought, a 1982 Raleigh lower-end Olympian "touring" bike. Now it's my beloved commuter. Fenders, folding baskets, a sturdy rack and a powerful light system make it excellent for basic transportation. There at least 32,000 miles on this bike, mostly before I got the other bikes. Lots of stuff has changed, but a few things though hurting are still original: bars, brake levers, front wheel, crankset and front rings. Bar-end shifters were a nice addition to this bike. Update: left crank pedal eye has stripped threads, so I had to replace it. I used a 172.5mm crank instead of a 170mm as the right hand side does, and no ill effects so far.

The old mountain bike

Univege Alpina Univege Alpina This is the only other new bicycle I've bought. It's a 1989 Univega Alpina Sport mid-range mountain bike. It's dependable and has been lots of places and is my preferred mountain bike for long rides or likely mud and such. Not super-nimble or light, but with the rear rack, great for longer trips carrying stuff. The rear rack has held everything from snowshoes to climbing ropes and gear. I've changed the gearing and the rear wheel (it went somewhat out of true after I rolled my truck while it was in the back) but still have the original shifters (push-push below the bar, not a very good idea, but the beginning of Shimano's marketing success) out of inertia more than anything else. I have some nice thumbshifters in a box that I'll put on the next time I've got the grips off for something. Update: I now have an old Softride stem suspension on the front. After getting used to it, I think it's great.

The tandem

This is a wonderfully charming old bike, an old Schwinn 5 speed Twinn tandem. I'm not sure about the year but after a little research I suspect that it is about 1968-1972 era. Its frame is a step-through for both the captain and the stoker. The reach forward for the stoker is pretty short, so tall people aren't usually too happy back there (not much knee room.) But I've got quick release seat post binders front and back and long posts since you never know who will end up riding. It weighs quite a lot, something like 75 pounds, and lots of things have needed to be replaced. When I got it, it still had the original 26-inch-ish funny Schwinn size wheels with the hub brake in the rear. Tandem wheels take plenty of abuse so those both gave up the ghost and now it is much happier with modern 26" mountain bike sized rims and a caliper brake in the rear. With a nice detachable basket and fenders it is great for poking around town. Its best role, though, is as a tour vehicle. Being on the back of a tandem is the best way to get a tour of campus. The tourist don't have to steer or look forwards or worry about directions or traffic and it is very easy to chat.

The fancy road bike

This is 1989-ish Bridgestone Radac that sat in a warehouse until 1992 when it was built up into a nice lightweight road bike. This bike has the normal-diameter aluminum tubes. It is very light and feels great; when I pick it up or roll it around it says "Ride Me!" But I haven't been riding it much since I got the XO-2 so in principle I'm trying to sell it. Ultegra drivetrain, old Shimano "walk like a penguin" clipless pedals, downtube shifters...

The dinosaur mountain bike

dino at Pt. Reyes

This is an 1989-ish nice Nishiki mountain bike. It was their nicest steel frame at the time and had a career as a race bike for a gung-ho mountain biker type. He had repainted it green with bright dinosaur stickers which is great since I'm a sucker for dinosaur stuff. The front fork is an old Rock Shock fork, their first one, but it works pretty well. I used this bike for rides on technical trails and it is a great climber as well as a good roller. Update: on a ride along the Rubicon River, the seat tube broke. That tube was quite thin and unfortunately rusted noticably. The break probably happened on a stream crossing since I'd carried the bike across a bunch of swollen streams and knocked it around a bit. Anyway, evidently repairing the frame makes no sense so I'm not sure what I'll do about this one. It was a great looking bike (the fork had the same paint job as the frame, which is a nice effect) and a great riding bike. After mourning it for a while, I've started to move over some of the nice bits to the Univega.

My Bridgestone XO-2

It's really too bad that Bridgestone no longer sells bikes here in the States. They had a full selection of very sensible, well- thought out bikes, of which the 1993 XO-2 is one of the best examples. It is exactly what a "hybrid" should be. It takes the riding position from a road bike and the wheels from a mountain bike, instead of the other way around. With light, strong, 26" wheels, there is a great tire selection. With the wider, flared Dirt Drop bars, there are plenty of positions and the extra width is nice on bumpy stuff. This bike goes anywhere. Even with the 1.4" slicks I usually ride, it does amazingly well on everything from pavement to technical trails. Mountain bikers are often surprised to see me with slicks on rougher stuff, but the only real advantage of a big knobby 2.1 seems to be on very sandy stuff (for flotation) and on fast, bumpy descents that I prefer to slow down for anyway. There is enough room for me to run 1.95" knobbies if I want, but it's rarely worth the trouble. And if I know I'll be sticking to pavement, I'll put the 1.25" skinny tires on and enjoy zinging along. Supposedly there are now some nice Ritchey 26x1" tires available; those should be great but I haven't seen those yet. I've got front and rear racks and it is a wonderful bike to tour on. Its triple crank now has a 24t granny gear, good for spinning/grinding up those passes with tons of stuff. And it is a beautiful shade of purple. If I could have only one bike, this is no question the bike I'd want. Update: the original Dirt Drop bars were bent in after years of great service. They got bent after a very gentle crash in 10cm of snow, so I guess they had already been weakened. I've got moustache bars on there now. I have not been able to find DirtDrops similar to the original ones. Rivendell sells newer Nitto Dirt Drops but those are wider and curved differently than the ones I liked so much. I'll probably switch to those but I am trying to give the moustache bars a proper chance.

A unicycle

one wheel fun I'm still learning how to ride this one. It a basic unicycle, 20" wheel, which is a little on the small side. I can't get too far before stopping yet, but already I know that it has helped my balance and bike handling on technical stuff. If you read the California Vehicle Code carefully, it appears that unicycles fall into a void, not being vehicles since they do not meet the following:

231. A bicycle is a device upon which any person may ride, propelled exclusively by human power through a belt, chain, or gears, and having one or more wheels. Persons riding bicycles are subject to the provisions of this code specified in Sections 21200 and 21200.5.

Though a unicycle has one or more wheels, it is not propelled through a belt, chain or gears since there is a direct connection. By similar reasoning, a penny-farthing bicycle would also not be a bicycle.

I have yet to take advantage of this legal loophole.

The Bickerton

This is a 3 speed small-wheel British folder. In fact, this is the bike that inspired much of the modern small wheel folders, which now include the Brompton and the Bike Friday. I just got this off the net and it looks great. It is an aluminum (or perhaps aluminium since it is British) and has no welds- the main "tube" is a rectangular beam that is hinged to fold halfway. The handlebars are remarkably tall and adjust via quick releases. The bike folds easily to something that is quite compact. The front wheel is a 14" and the rear is 16" and both wheels have fenders, which is great. The chain is nicely protected by a guard. The ride is good for a folder, and of course very flexy but it is great fun to ride and compactifies nicely for train and BART usage.

Vermont Bike

This is a Columbia 5speed, step-through frame, that I bought up in Vermont to leave there. I got it at a garge sale for $20 and it's proven to be great fun. The roads near camp are all dirt, but the bike rides fine on inch and quarter tires there. I use it to bike over to the spring to refill our 5 gallon drinking water jug. People seem surprised I can ride with a heavy awkward load, but it really isn't bad and it is nice when we are up there for a while and want to remain as internal-combistion free as possible. We can canoe over to the spring, but biking is definitely faster. Maybe it would be good to get a nice sturdy front basket for it. The bike rides pretty nicely in the snow and is a good way to get around on the road after it has been dirtied up by stones and such and doesn't make skiing that nice. If the conditions are reasonable, it is a blast to ride on the frozen lake. Riding on slick ice is fun and something of a study in momentum and very gentle changes in direction.

Other remaining possibilities

There are a few other bikes I'd like to have. A simple 3 speed would be nice to have to leave at school for quick trips to the library and to teach and such. And I would like to replace the dinosaur bike with a nice mountain bike. I'm not in a hurry though and I'm looking forward to trying some of the modern bikes. I'm hopeful about the beam bikes, after riding those it seems like a very promising idea for a mountain bike. But I'd also like to give other bikes a go on a proper trail and see what they are like. The Bike Friday folding bikes are well- thought out and well- made, as well as being a super clever idea. (Update: I'm happy with the Bickerton!). I wouldn't mind a fixed gear bike if I ran across one, either...

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