I wonder what the good people of MetaFilter will think?
So my quest for the Sensible Bicycle is over; I found it. Or rather, it found me, for bicycles have lives of their own.
Curbside Cycle had a sale. They also had, for reasons known only to the manufacturer, been sent just one of their top-of-the-line Batavus Crescendo Deluxe city bikes. I took it for a test ride in the ice and slush of the Annex. It did everything just right.
Here’s how it measures up to the checklist I wrote about in 2004:
- Fully enclosed chain — yup. Batavus have a really clever clip-together sectional polymer chainguard.
- Full mudguards — for sure.
- Hub gears — 8 speed hub gears, no less.
- Dynamo lights — a front dynamo hub, no less. Slight marks off for a battery rear light, but it does make the wiring simple.
- Proper carriers — a really nice alloy one, with built in pump and elastic strap.
- Anything but rim brakes — roller brakes, in the hubs. I was initially sceptical of their gentle action, but they can stop you to almost the limit of adhesion of the tyres, so they do work well.
The one thing it does have, but I didn’t think I’d need, is suspension. It irons out the uneven Scarborough spring roads rather well.
I love the manual; it’s written for sensible riding. Basically, most advice is given as Talk to your Batavus Dealer. The similarity to a modern car manual is striking; just you get on with riding the thing, it implies, and we’ll worry about fixing it. Tellingly, the English language section is the back; these bikes are much too sensible to waste on those silly Anglos.
I’ve barely walked the length of myself in the last few months, so in even short distances my legs let me know about it. It’s freezy out, but dry and bright – I must go out on my bike again.
(the title’s from that early eco-geek, and it’s the other half of the widely-misquoted:
I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes. If there is not a new man, how can the new clothes be made to fit?
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden
For me, it’s perfect; not merely do I not require new or special clothes to ride it, but I have become a new wearer of clothes by it.)
If you need to find me, you know where I’ll be …
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 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?
The small image doesn’t do them justice, but I saw two Raleigh Superbes locked together near Dundas on Yonge. These were the deluxe ones with the locking steering column and the front dynohub. Lovely bikes, definitely sensible.
And so our Danish Wind Odyssey draws to a close, after visiting Rinkøbing, Lem and Randers today. We’re up at an unsensible hour tomorrow to fly to Copenhagen. It was a great trip. Will post photies.
This is one of those issues that is catnip to the adolescent language-lover but which a sensible person grows out of. I too used to enjoy tormenting people with the “truth” about the phrase, but I eventually realized that, whatever its origins … I had never seen or heard the phrase used “correctly” except by people making a point of doing so (cf. “hoi polloi”); in current English usage, “beg the question” means ‘raise the question,’ and that’s that. I got over it …
[T]his … is a sign that the language has sailed on, leaving wistful archaists treading water and clutching at the stern.
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 …
Flipping through the Hedonics fallout (you know, the slick catalogue selling semi-useful battery-operated tat that falls out of your weekend newspaper; cf Sharper Image, Innovations and — for both of you that remember it — Scotcade) I see the Cadillac Bicycles AV8.0i. It’s the first time I’ve seen hub gears, hub brakes and a full chainguard on a featured bike.
Sure, I could swap the full suspension and back rest (which looks more like legal means to prevent the Enormous Midwestern Arse from subsuming the saddle, akin to lawyer lips) for mudguards and a carrier rack, but it’s heading towards the sensible bicycle. And I know it’s not really a product of General Motors (whose company slogan currently appears to be losing money, hand over fist), but a licensed product of Kent Bicycles. But if car companies feel they need to license their premium brands to anonymous Taiwanese-built roadsters, maybe something good is happening after all?
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 …