Monday, November 28, 2011

{Part 1} How I Ruined Myself on Upright Bicycles: Beginning Bliss

Sometimes, I really wish I could turn back the hands of time, returning myself to the days of simple wants and wishes in a bicycle. Because I am not capable of time travel (yet), I thought I would share a tale of how it is that I went from absolutely loving and knowing that an upright bicycle was the only way for me to ride, to being incapable of finding an appropriate upright bicycle. You know the saying, "The grass is always greener?" I believe this is the starting point of my demise.
*Image source here
In early-to-mid 2009, I started talking about getting a bicycle. I had been riding Sam's old mountain bike to and from work for a few years prior, and we also did some weekend riding together. I grew up on mountain bikes (I think almost anyone who was a teen from the mid-to-late 80s into the 90s, and rode a bike, knew that they were the only way to ride) and honestly, I thought there were no other options, except for perhaps a BMX bike, which was a part of a different crowd of riders. I was having a lot of hand pain (numbness and shooting pains) while riding the mountain bike, and it was only getting worse. I had seen people on more upright style bicycles, so I started looking for something of that sort.
1989 Auburn from the BMX Museum
My search first took me to hybrid bicycles. I wasn't really a fan of their looks, and I couldn't quite understand their purpose. They seemed to me like mountain bikes with higher stems and wider saddles, and I couldn't quite wrap my head around them. While searching, I came across cruiser bicycles, and very soon thereafter discovered Electra cruiser bicycles. In late May 2009, I came across this article and fell in love with the Gypsy and a few other models of Electra cruisers. It seemed like everything I wanted: upright, easy to ride and comfortable, which would mean no hand pain. I had read that most people don't use cruisers for rides longer than a few miles, but it did not deter me from wanting this style of bike, even knowing that we lived in a remote location at the time with very little available within an 8 mile radius.
Stuart poses on a ride in early fall 2009
In late August, Sam surprised me by getting the Electra Daisy cruiser I'd been drooling over for weeks. I fell in love, fast and hard. I immediately named him Stuart, and rode him anywhere and everywhere, including long trips into town which sometimes totaled more than 20 miles round trip. For most people, it seemed ridiculous to ride this kind of bike such distances, but I enjoyed the slow, comfortable ride and knew that we'd have many, many fun rides together...and we did. What I was not prepared for was the online community I would find in my search for the perfect upright bicycle. One of the very first websites discovered was Let's Go Ride a Bike. Trisha and Dottie had been blogging about their rides from early 2009 and it was amazing to see these ladies, dressed in every day attire, just going about their business. I remember this post as being one of the first I read on their blog, which immediately led me to search for more. By the time I saw the post, it was early summer, but I couldn't help but be a bit jealous that two friends were able to bond through biking, even living many states apart.
Workcycles Oma, the choice of Dottie of LGRAB
*Image source here
I found myself incapable of staying away from the online bloggers. I quickly discovered Girls and Bicycles, BikeSkirt, and Lovely Bicycle!, and not long after S. of Simply Bike began blogging about her cycling experiences in the Midwest. I also very quickly found my way into many bike forums. Locally, people were (are) generally hardcore road cyclists or hardcore mountain bikers (or they wander between the two). I wanted to see more people just riding a bike to get where they were going, and not because they were training for the next century or Leadville ride (not that there's anything wrong with either of those types of rides/riders). The only place I seemed to find comfort was in the online community of riders.

However, even in the online community I felt different. Not many were riding cruiser bikes for transportation, and even more were highly critical of the Electra product, so I began to wonder if there was something better out there. I don't mind (and often enjoy) being someone different in the crowd, but regularly viewing Dutch, English, German and Italian bicycles didn't help the cause, and to make it worse, the typical cruiser bike was more difficult to find among online bloggers. Maybe I needed a more appropriate bicycle for city riding? And so began the search for a "better" upright bicycle... (to be continued).

Part 2 can be found here.

11 comments:

  1. Enjoyed this part of the article. Cycling seems to evolve for a lot of us. We start on one bike and then move to others.
    Each bicycle seems to be a different experience.
    Love your blogs

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  2. Thanks, Robert. I suspect there will be many "parts" to this particular topic. I do agree with you - cycling seems to be an evolution for many riders, so I suppose I should be no different. :O)

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  3. I love my electra cruiser. I don't use it for long distances, but very much enjoy it!

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  4. I await the rest of this article - as this reads like my journey (so far)! I rode a mountain bike for 20 years and then the wrist pain started to kick in on shorter and shorter distances. I did not like cruiser bikes either -- not useful for daily city transport. Also not really comfortable for tall woman (6ft and above) in my opinion. I do love my Workcycles Omafiets though and it's doing the trick right now.

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  5. I think Electra made some really fun cruisers! I recently saw the sugar skulls model, and while it doesn't look like much online, it's really adorable in person. Glad to hear that you enjoy yours. I have to admit, the super long distances, while doable, weren't always the most pleasant, but I loved mine nonetheless.

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  6. I started with a cool, baby blue cruiser. I then added sugar skull stickers, a basket, sparkly grips and streamers. I loved that bike and rode it everywhere. Then, when my best friend was in town, she popped the chain on a downhill and almost ran into a bus. She dropped the bike and escaped relatively unharmed. However, that was very eye opening to me that I needed to get brakes at least. This was a week prior to Tour de Fat, so I ran out and bought the cheapest Electra cruiser to replace it. Since then, I've bought 2 other bikes - an upright commuter and the CrossCheck. I love all of them, but really enjoy the simplicity of riding the cruiser from time to time. It reminds me to slow down and just enjoy the ride. I, too, just saw that sugar skull Electra and am very, very tempted. :) Thanks for this post. You are so right, I got caught up in thinking that I needed a Dutch bike from looking at all of these blog post too. The cruiser is still where it's at. :)

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  7. Samantha, I hear only good things about the Workcycles Oma, and am glad to hear it's working for you. I think both tall and short riders have such a difficult time finding the right bicycle.

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  8. Lisa, I bet the sugar skull stickers and basket were awesome... but what a scary experience to nearly run into a bus! The simplicity of the cruiser was (I think) it's best feature. It is so easy to get caught up in all of it.

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  9. My experience has been very similar to yours. I enjoy the "female upright bicycle blogging community" or whatever you want to call it. They are supportive and non-judgmental, and 100% why I felt confident enough to start riding for transportation.

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  10. Velouria - I know, I don't know what to call the group of ladies. Trying to think of the most efficient way to word it was more difficult than I thought.

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  11. I commute ten miles each way on my Electra Amsterdam Royal 8i... I wouldn't trade it for the world. I love my tank!!!

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