Monday, December 5, 2011

{Part 3} How I Ruined Myself on Upright Bicycles: Quantity and Modifications

*If you're just beginning this, please see Parts 1 and 2.
After giving up on the Pashley Princess Sovereign and any hopes of living remotely near "stuff," I happily moved on to riding the Hillborne. He was faster than any bike I'd owned for some time, I could go much longer distances, but had the benefit of being able to still ride him to the store or places that were relatively close to home. He was my all around bicycle, and I needed nothing more.
1976 Schwinn Suburban
The problem was that I still wasn't over the idea of having a city or upright bicycle. When I was wearing a skirt or dress, I just didn't want to have to hike my leg over the diamond frame. I experimented with various vintage models such as a Schwinn Suburban, a Motobecane, a Triumph, a Raleigh Lady Sports, and more. Some I enjoyed more than others, but ultimately, they all went by the wayside. It's not that they weren't good or solid bikes, but whether it was the amount of restoration, the fit, or something else, it just seemed there was always an element (or several) steering me away from each of those bicycles.

Then, one day as I was searching for a part for the Hillborne, I happened upon an advertisement for a Pashley Poppy that a shop in Texas was having a hard time selling. The owner had discounted the bike so drastically that I fully believed it would be completely idiotic on my part not to purchase the Poppy. If all else failed, I would ride her for a bit and then sell her to someone who would appreciate her. It was a win-win situation.
Enjoying the Pashley Poppy modifications
After the Poppy arrived, I wasn't happy with the handlebar set up. I felt squeezed into the ride area and decided to experiment with a pair of handlebars I'd tried out on the Hillborne. They were a perfect match. The Poppy was like a lighter version of the Princess Sovereign (because it lacked the racks, lighting, skirt guard, etc) and I happily rode her all around. I really enjoyed this bike, perhaps more than any other bike I had gathered. There was something about this one that was a nice combination of weight and speed, classic and modern, and she was really a great fit for the upright bike category with her slight modifications, at least for me. Soon after the Poppy arrived, we moved and I was able to use her as was intended. Finally, we were in a location that I could use this sort of bike - just what I had been wanting.

It would appear that I had reached what I had been looking for - a kind of bike utopia one might say. However, when we went on vacation a few months later, I had the opportunity to finally test ride the Public Bikes I had been reading about for months, which only brought trouble to the equation. I told Sam I would sell the Poppy and in its place, keep the J7 from Public because I was excited about the swift nature and set up of the new bike. I believed I would be fine selling the Poppy - a bike I'd originally intended to sell anyway. After all, it was just a bicycle like all the others.
The J7 with the modified handlebars
When we got home though, I didn't want to sell the Poppy at all, but rather wanted to keep both bikes. I had made a promise, however, so I sold off the Pashley Poppy and turned my attention to modifications for the J7. I wasn't a fan of the non-classic looks of the handlebars, so I opted for a northroad style bar. Ultimately, this switch caused a change in the way the bike felt and rode, and I was experiencing pain while riding. It caused me to question whether or not a bicycle could be too upright and I ended up selling the bike to someone who would use it. It was yet another bike that was a good fit and rode well, but because I had to mess with the set up, it brought on a new set of challenges. Could I have returned it to its original form? Yes, but by this point it was tainted and I was convinced it just wasn't the right one. I have to admit, my mind sometimes works in mysterious ways, and in retrospect, there are moments when even I am confused by what I have done (or not done). All along there had been plenty of opportunities that would have enabled me to keep the bike I had, but somehow I kept pushing forward, always thinking the "right" one was just over the horizon.

I had truly reached a point at which I thought I just couldn't and wouldn't have an upright bike.  However, as had happened before, I knew that there are times when I would really appreciate having a loop or mixte frame of some sort. The search began for the ultimate upright bicycle, with high hopes of finding the one that would remain in the stable of bikes...(to be continued).

Part 4 can be found here.


  1. I'm really enjoying this series! I'm the owner of an upright Haro comfort bike (first adult bike, bought it before I knew about European city bikes), which I like well enough, but I lust after gorgeous, heavy upright bikes. It's great to hear your experiences all in one place!

  2. It's amazing to me how much a "small" change can effect the upright style bike, or any bike for that matter. It's amusing to look back in time (albeit short), to see the changes I made as a mechanic. They are almost like old family pictures.

  3. I'm enjoying this series too! Very interesting to read, especially since I am the exact opposite of you. Every bike I have owned since I was a young child has worked perfectly for me. I was surprised to recently find a photo of me at age 9 on my bike, which was clearly too big for me, yet I happily rode all the time and all the way through high school.

    Good luck with your search for the perfect bike.

  4. I too have been struggling to find a step-thru that I enjoy riding. I've been riding a Quickbeam single speed, which I love but, like you, I can't seem to hike my leg over daintily while wearing a skirt. Right now, I'm looking at a Globe or considering an old English Raleigh 3-speed. Thanks for sharing your search!

  5. Liz, It is so easy to lust after the upright bikes! Over the last few years more and more seem to be coming available here in the States, so I know for me, it just adds to the intrigue and curiosity of it all. :O)

    Sam, I know what you mean... it is kind of like seeing family photos!

    Maggie, I truly envy you. I think it is so wonderful that you still have the same bike and that it works for you.

    Jennifer, Oh, the Quickbeam! That is yet another bike I've wanted to try out. Sad, I know, since I already have a Rivendell product. I think I just want to try everything. :O) I've seen some really cool set-ups on the Quickbeam though.

  6. I love upright bikes and now have 2! I especially love the handlebars and basket you added, food for thought me thinks! You have a great blog btw.

  7. Yay for multiple upright bicycles! :O) I really loved the mustache bars on the Poppy. I don't know what it was, but I think it was the ability to move my hands around a bit more, and have slightly different sitting positions. Although I hate to "recommend" something (just because one never knows what another will like), I know it really did work well for me.

    Also, I love your pretty pink Poppy! Hope she gets some lovely accessories for Christmas. :O)


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