Wednesday, November 30, 2011

{Part 2} How I Ruined Myself on Upright Bicycles: The "Others"

*If you missed reading the first part of this post, please see here.
How I loved the online blogging/cycling community, and I regularly sought information from them (whether they were aware of it or not). Even though I was blogging myself, I thought of my blog as my own personal journal of events or thoughts, and not as something anyone would be reading. Really, who would want to get information from me, because what did (do) I know? While the (mostly) female bloggers I was reading were (are) a great source of inspiration, information, and motivation for me to continue to ride, looking back on it now, I think it also created an environment for me to wonder what else was out in the world in the way of bicycles. Knowledge is power, but in my case, knowledge created questions which led to doubt. Stuart and I had been moseying right along and were happy together, but perhaps a cruiser wasn't the best choice. I went to something I knew and that I thought I could manage to reasonably purchase: another Electra.
Phoebe, my former Electra Amsterdam 3i in Sunflower green
I spotted an Electra Amsterdam 3i in a local bike shop (which I would later name Phoebe) and was enraptured by her hideously wonderful chartreuse green/pink/baby blue color combination. While I often think of myself as a bit of a wallflower, there would be no hiding from anyone on this bike (of course, Sam will highly disagree that I am a wallflower - and he's probably correct). Everywhere I went this bike received attention. People would stop in traffic to yell out "nice bike," and women would smile and wave as I rode past. I have to admit, I kind of liked it. It was reassuring to have people acknowledging my bike, particularly in a community of mostly non-upright/city bike riders. It made me believe that I had chosen wisely... at least for a time.
Trial with a Brooks B-67 saddle on the Amsterdam
Phoebe had everything I needed. She was an upright bicycle (no hand pain), she had a bottle driven head light and battery operated tail light (I could ride in the dark), she was beautiful in her own odd way, and I could carry what I needed to between the rear rack and front basket I'd attached. Why would I ever want anything else? Between riding Stuart and Phoebe though, I began to experience pain in my spine and lower regions, so I experimented with a Brooks saddle to see if it would remedy the problem. I just couldn't make the Brooks work for me however, and after more reading online, more bicycle purchases, and even more riding, I determined that there was no fixing the problems with the Electra bicycles.
Pepper Potts, the Pashley Princess Sovereign on her first day home
The other online bloggers all seemed to have more expensive, European made bicycles, and I determined that my problems stemmed from buying a lower-cost bicycle (there were other factors involved, but ultimately I believed it had to do with the cost of the bike). After lots of debating, research and test riding, I ended up selling all of my bikes in order to purchase a Pashley Princess Sovereign. Finally, I had the bike I was supposed to have that would cure all of my ailments and that would, of course, bring world peace... or at least this was the high standard by which the Pashley would be judged and held accountable. In my mind at the time, a completely reasonable expectation.
Riding to meet a friend on the Pashley
I don't know that the Pashley and I were able to bring any kind of world peace (I'm guessing not), but we had great fun together. She was a heavier bike than the Electra Amsterdam (which was aluminum, rather than steel), and I often felt as though I was riding slow, but this would be the case with almost any upright bicycle. No matter what I did, I could never quite escape the feeling of that often (painfully) slow ride, and while I loved the Pashley, I realized that our location in the world did not provide me the ideal surroundings to be successful with an upright bicycle. All of the women I was reading about online mostly lived in large cities with lots of things close by. The only thing within a few of miles of my home was a grocery store, a 7-Eleven, and a few fast food chains - not exactly the prime location to justify this sort of bicycle. Since we couldn't sell our house, and we couldn't move, I had all but given up on the idea of riding an upright bicycle. All of the others seemed to be enjoying their upright bicycles, so why wasn't I? Sure, it was a good distance to get to anything, but I enjoyed being out on my bike. By this point in time, I had purchased and we'd put together the Rivendell Sam Hillborne, and I believed that it would have to be my only bike. Little did I realize that between my insatiable need to get more information, and a chance happening, I wasn't done with the upright bikes...(to be continued).

Part 3 can be found here.


  1. I can't wait to read the rest of this post. I too have travelled somewhat the same path. I am a senior citizen who began riding after purchasing a $40 cruiser from a garage sale. I loved riding the bike and frequently took it out on the local bicycle trail. By the end of a couple of months I was climbing hills on this cheap one speed bike. Little did I know (until I started with the blogs) that I wasn;t supposed to be coasting down but pedaling. I was quite happy with this bike, and though everyone was whizzing passed me on the trail I didn't mind. That is, until I started reading the bicycle blogs.

    I then became embarrassed about being seen on a lowly Huffy and started searching for a new bike. I visit Lovely Bicycle daily. I now want an upright loop frame bike. I too have mentally owned a Pashley, first a Princess Sovereign then a Britannia, then a Poppy. I have lusted after a Retrovelo and a Gazelle. A few months after starting to read these blogs I was convinced I needed a strong bike able to carry a passenger, a good strong rear rack, a lugged steel frame, and on and on. Every week I became obsessed with a different bike costing upwards of $1,000. I spent literally hours online reading reviews, looking at photos, and visiting the manufacturer websites of my current love interest.

    But wait..I am a senior citizen. I am retired and will not be commuting to work. I probably won't even ride in traffic. I will NEVER leave a bike in excess of $1,000 parked outside a store or be able to enjoy a cup of coffee in a cafe. I will probably not ride in the rain so I don't need fenders. I really don't need to save up to buy a bike of this caliber.

    My bike of choice for this week is a Public. They are at a comfortable price point for me and they meet all my needs. I like the look of the Electras but I hear they can't climb hills. I will probably lust after something else next week. I am waiting until spring to buy the new bike. I will be relieved when I do.

  2. Ah, the lure of "the one I don't have". Why is it that it's the one we always want?

    I'm in sort of the same situation as you were, but for a different reason. I prefer proper European bikes with upright geometry. But, I keep wanting one that is lighter than those I have. My lighest bike is 32 lbs and my heaviest, the Pashley Roadster Soverign, is 50.

    Of course, it's not too hard to find something lighter than the Pashley Roadster Soverign, but will it be comfortable? Therein is the problem. Since no bike shop in 500 miles of me even stocks the kind of bikes I buy, I'm not likely to find anyplace to try them out before buying. Sometimes I really wish I didn't live in a bicycle wasteland.

    What to buy, what to try? I guess the bike I really want is the Pashley Roadster weighing in at 25 lbs, instead of the 50 it actually weighs. Until I find it or a suitable substitute, I'm still looking.

    I can't wait for the next part of your story!

  3. Anon. 11:52 - Velouria of Lovely Bicycle is a wealth of information, and her blog is a great resource for all of us. I think it's certainly a good daily read.

    I can also understand not wanting to leave an expensive bicycle parked outside, and fearing that it will be taken (Believe me, I really do understand. I have a lot of paranoia about this very matter). I have tried to relax a bit though and try to remember that if I have a good lock, it's much more difficult for someone to take it (not impossible, but more of a challenge). I hope you find the right bike for you... an by the way, I think Public is an excellent option for just about everyone.

    Anon. 3:16 - I think it really is that the grass is always greener. You'll find the right bicycle for you, I'm sure. It can be challenging in the interim though. Hang in there!

  4. "Even though I was blogging myself, I thought of my blog as my own personal journal of events or thoughts, and not as something anyone would be reading. Really, who would want to get information from me, because what did (do) I know?"

    Ha. It was the same for me. It still shocks me when someone refers to me as a "source of information" : )

  5. Interesting post! My wife loves her electra amsterdam and I started out on an electra ghostrider. I discovered cargo biking and wandered off in that direction :) looking forward to reading the rest of this story!

  6. Velouria - You are a great source of information, but I understand how it can be surprising as well. I think we often believe that if we haven't done something for decades or have "industry" experience that our opinion is completely invaluable. I disagree. It's nice to read about people in all stages, and even to watch the changes take place as we all grow and learn new things.

    Litter - The Electra's are an interesting brand, and I think that the fun colors add to their intrigue. I'm glad to hear that you both have enjoyed yours!

  7. Anon, don't discount those old huffy bikes! I know everyone bitterly rips them to shreds online, but those bikes are still built better than most of the aluminum bicycles available from dept or sporting stores.

    My husband and I rescue old bikes for cheap and restore them if we can. We do a lot of alteration/personalization. Hubby's current favorite is a 1970s huffy five speed; he converted it to a 10 speed with parts from a Suncrest donor bike. No one has ever given him a hard time about his bicycle; quite the contrary, he gets a lot of compliments on it! With upside down north roads bars and a nice leather non-branded saddle, it barely looks the part of a 1970s boom bike. He loves the ride, and is happy with his speed on the trails. While you are waiting to purchase your perfect bike, see what you can do to make the bike you have work for you. If your bike is comfortable to you and you really like it, there is always the option of replacing the back wheel with one with a 3, 5, or 7 speed internal hub. (Look for yard sales and local bike shops for cheap parts. We found a 3 speed hub wheel for $5.)

    I've lusted after all the loop frame bikes, too, but I ended up appreciating and falling in love with 10 sp Schwinn world. After many modifications, I have a bike that I trust and can repair on my own. I feel that I can ride in the city without fear of it being stolen. Plus I have some other vintage bikes if I want to change up my riding experience. Then again, I'm not doing heavy commuting (yet), so I may change my tune.

    The female online bike community is pretty amazing! I've really learned a lot online from blogs and websites; not only how to wrench on a bike, but also how to adjust for fit and comfort. I feel a great sense of empowerment from learning how to assemble and work on my own bicycles. While you are shopping and lusting, you are learning, and that is one of the exciting parts of the journey.


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