no, this is really the Sensible Bicycle

Inspired perhaps by seeing Dianne‘s very nice Bachetta recumbent last night, I went looking for the state-of-the-art — and I found it in the form of the Flevobike GreenMachine: fully enclosed chain, mudguards, hub gears, disc brakes …

I remember the GreenMachine as a concept machine in the cycling press a decade ago, but Ben has seen one, so they must be real. Only problem is the price; I’m not going to see one for under $5000 …

I think I’ve found it …

Batavus Personal Bike

I was at the Dutch Bike festival last weekend, and I think I found the Sensible Bicycle. Curbside were showing the Batavus Personal Bike. It’s lovely. At $1400 for the 3-speed, though, I’m not just about to trade in the old Stumpjumper.

I’m not wild about the squidgy roller brakes, and the dynamo really should’ve been built into the hub, but these are very minor things. Wonder if the company would let me expense this instead of getting a transit pass?

king ov shim

To round out the Dawes Super Galaxy, I got a pair of used Sun Tour Superbe non-aero brake levers from Bicycle Specialties. Wouldn’t you know it though, but one of them was for thicker (Cinelli?) bars than the narrow GB Randonneurs that are on my bike.
Armed with a sharp knife, a straight edge, and an empty can of Irn Bru, I cut myself some shim stock to fill out the gap. The lever has a little lateral play, but it’s not moving up or down any. I am the king ov shim!

“The clean air choice of Earth Day Canada.”

So, what would you think would be “The clean air choice of Earth Day Canada“? A bicycle, perhaps? Some kind of renewable energy? Some really brilliant Canadian enviro-social development, like a biodegradeable donut?

Nope, a car; the Toyota Prius. Last time I checked, it still used petroleum (with its high environmental and geopolitical toxicity). It still causes gridlock; I see Priuses (Prii? Your moon-pie eye!) inching along the Gardiner from the GO train with all the other wretched junkers. The way I see it, it’s not looking like part of the solution. It’s a bit like having an official assault rifle for the the International Day of Peace.

Toyota also give out $5000 Toyota Earth Day Scholarships. I mean, that’s nice and all, but it’s hardly giving back. If you look at all the scholarship materials, it’s carefully arranged so it looks like the event is called Toyota Earth Day, with the ‘scholarship’ on the next line. Nice cooption. Good greenwash.

not sensible, just lovely

uh oh, indeed. On Sunday, I bought that beautiful Dawes Super Galaxy that they had in Cyclemania on the Danforth. Reynolds 531 ST frame, SunTour Cyclone M II gears, Maillard hubs, and a Brooks saddle. I’m guessing it’s a 1984 model from the date on the gears.

Its sky-blue “Handbuilt in England” frame is a little dusty with age, but it’s still got the E. Chamberlaine & Son dealer decals on it (and they’re still at 77 Old Kent Rd, too). When I was a bike-obsessed 14 year old, I so wanted a Dawes Super Galaxy, after reading too many articles in Bicycle (long gone, sadly missed; some images from it here) magazine.

It rides like a dream. If the legendary Reynolds 531 Super Touring frame was always reviewed as being a little less lively than regular 531, it must’ve been a bronco. It’s a sparkling ride, with the beautifully thin forks taking up a lot of the vibration. I took it out for a spin down to the lake this evening. I’m usually too pooped to go anywhere after work, but not when I’ve got this joyful vehicle to ride …

Stewart’s Quest for the Sensible Bicycle

A trip to the Toronto Islands yesterday got me thinking about the perfect bicycle for me — and why nobody makes it.

In Scotland I had nearly the perfect bike. It was a ridiculously solid Pashley delivery bike. It had huge heavy steel wheels, full-length mudguards, hub brakes, hub gears, and a dynamo (generator) lighting set. It took minimal maintenance, and didn’t require special clothes to ride it.

The mountain bike, though promising so much to utility cycling at its birth 20 years ago, is failing to deliver. Complex suspension systems and derailleur gears make maintenance difficult, and so users seldom do. The complete lack of chainguards and mudguards mean that riders have to wear different clothes just to be on the bike. Can you image a car trying to sell itself by requiring special clothes just to travel in it?

So this is what I want from a bike:

  • Fully enclosed chain — I don’t want my drivetrain anywhere near road grit. Neither do I want my trousers to meet chain grease.
  • Full mudguards — I don’t get mucky, riders behind me don’t get mucky. We all win.
  • Hub gears — once you’ve used them, you’ll never consider anything else for utility cycling.
  • Dynamo lights — with a standlight, for preference. I don’t like getting stranded without lights.
  • Proper carriers — riding wearing a rucksack is bad and wrong.
  • Anything but rim brakes — why do we still use these relics? Hub brakes work in all weathers, and seldom, if ever, need maintenance.

You’ll notice the conspicuous absence of suspension. Good tyres, at the right pressure, are great suspension. They are also light and very puncture proof, if you know how and where to ride.

We’re not all athletes. Some of us would just like to incorporate exercise and sustainable local transit in our daily routine, with the minimum of hassle.

So who comes close to making these bikes? Pashley still do, but they’re murderously expensive in Canada. Workbike manufacturers Worksman and Mohawk almost do, but they’re short on mudguards and chainguards. Kronan is nearly there, but why they only have one brake (a rear coaster, which is terribly inefficient) is beyond me. Maybe I’ll find an importer of Dutch bikes. My search continues …

Yes, I used to have an M5-designed recumbent bicycle

Speedliner BlueGlide
Perusing the logs, I find that IP address 195.188.41.154 was searching for info on M5 recumbent bikes. Yes, I had a Speedliner BlueGlide, which was a budget version of the M5 26/20.

A fun, fast bike, which I probably sold for too little. Oh well. I do kind of miss it.

Scotland wasn’t ready for it, though; on different occasions, I was spat on, and another time had “Your bike’s pure gay, mister!” yelled after me. And no, that last one wasn’t a compliment.

It was always interesting gauging the response of groups of teens to it. There would always be a brief pause, then one of the teens would utter either a strongly positive or negative statement. Within seconds, the entire group would be repeating it. Who says that people don’t display pack behaviour?

car free in canada

It’s fairly easy to do without one if you make your housing and
working arrangements around it. I’ve been car-free since 1996, but
we’re mostly urbanites, so this may not work for everyone.

Most of my ideas come from a great UK magazine called AtoB.