Thursday, June 3, 2010

Individual Perspectives

It always interests me to know how a person arrives at their preference for a specific bicycle, especially people of different skill levels. Unlike me, the Co-Habitant is naturally athletic, handles a roadbike like it's nobody's business, and loves speed. And yet, he chose a sedate, stately roadster as his daily commuter - complete with such distinctly non-sporty features as full chaincase and dressguard.

To be honest, when we first bought the Pashleys I assumed that he was getting the Roadster mainly for my benefit - so that we'd have matching bikes. When we later got roadbikes, I expected him to gradually transition to riding his roadbike to work, and to only ride the Pashley when out with me. But nothing of the sort happened. He loves his Roadster and has been commuting on it faithfully for over a year now, snow days included. When I ask him why he prefers such an enormous and heavy bicycle to his faster and more agile roadbike, his answer is that the Pashley is "the most comfortable bike [he has] ever ridden." A straightforward enough reply that explains how two cyclists with different skill levels can ultimately choose similar bicycles for their practical, everyday needs.

The terms "commuter bike" and "practical bike" can mean completely different things to different cyclists. There is a school of thought out there positing that relaxed and upright bicycles are mainly for those who are inexperienced, afraid of car traffic, or lack physical stamina - and that as a rider grows more confident, they will naturally come to prefer a faster and sportier bike for commuting. But clearly that is not the case. A runner can still prefer walking as a means of getting around in their everyday life, and a bicycle racer can prefer commuting on a beach cruiser in flip-flops. It's really all about individual perspectives.

26 comments:

  1. I really liked this post. There seem to be so many bicycle blogs that only focus on one specific style of biking, and often with negative views towards others.

    I fall into the sportier category for biking, I ride a Trek hybridy roadbike and adore it. I have quite a long and hilly commute to work and I love being able to really pick up speed along the way. I'd love to own a mixte someday and I think I could incorporate both biking styles into my life.

    Thanks for the post. There's a bike out there for everyone.

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  2. anneb mentions a good point - the characteristics of the commute are also an important factor in the commute bike choice. I'd not choose a Pashley for a long and hilly commute in fine weather.

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  3. I like to have a different bike for different occassions :-) That and as I ride around the interwebs and see great bike fix-ups, I sometimes have to buy (or at least consider buying) another bike to create another look. Since most of my bikes come second hand and I have full access to a professional bike shop where I can work on my stuff (and our humble home shop), I can often fix things up on the cheap. I'm afriad I have a bike problem but I'm told admitting it is the first step to...something?

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  4. i'm firmly in M&G's camp-- i like having bikes for different occasions, and the ideal bike really depends on the situation.

    for example, my 1951 raleigh DL1 is, hands down, my most "comfortable" bike for short rides. however, it is heavy, clunky, and has poor brakes. when you consider that i have to carry my bikes up 17 steps to my house every day, as well as pedal up a steep hill, this bike doesn't make sense as a daily commuter. on the other hand, for slow group rides around town on dry days, or for cafe hopping, it's a dream. so while the pashley may make a great daily commuter for velouria's co-habitant, it (like my DL1) would not make a great commuter for me.

    on the contrary, my recently completed jeunet porteur is not quite as comfortable as the DL1, with less of an upright seating position, narrower tires and unsprung saddle. but it is half the weight (!!!) of the DL1, allowing me to easily hoist it over my shoulder to carry up to my house. it has great brakes for any weather, and it also allows me to zip up any hill i encounter without breaking a sweat. for these reasons, it has become my daily commuter.

    (and both bikes are equally practical: the porteur has a large front rack, the DL1 has a rear rack and saddlebag).

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  5. I did put up my lost comments re what the rural life transition was / how we did it / what it's like - take a look if you're interested -
    www.rural14.com

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  6. These comments are making me salivate for a second, sportier bicycle. I've got mixtes on the brain and moths flying out of my checking account-- curses!

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  7. I of course agree with the p.o.v. that different bicycles are good for different purposes. But you would be surprised how many people I've encountered who insist that a bicycle with drop bars is the way to go for commuting "once you are a competent cyclist". I have even been congratulated on "finally getting a real bike" when I bought the Hillborne.

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  8. You know, I am pretty fast on my Pashley, especially now after a year of riding it and configuring it just so. I've taken it on 30+ mile rides (such as to the end of Minuteman trail, or following the Charles river west, etc.), and I was not exactly suffering on the hills. I've taken it all over Boston, through downtown traffic and over broken-down pavements. I've ridden this bike through rain and snow, during blizzards with ice building up on rims and snaking up my spokes toward the hubs. And I was comfortable going as fast as I wanted. Basically, I wouldn't so quickly jump to conclusions such as only "short rides" or "short commutes," in favour of a road bike. Just saying.

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  9. Beautiful (artistic) new banner. :)
    L.

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  10. From experience I agree with what MDI has stated.
    Except for the 'small wheel bikes' no other functional bikes should be classified as for short rides/commutes. The adventurous/gunho would stretch (some) small wheelers and himself for 'long rides'.
    L.

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  11. I am so looking forward to the day I get my Pashley. Especially after not having brakes in the rain yesterday!

    LOVE the new banner! :)

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  12. I just came on to say that I love your new blog layout!!!!

    BTW do you do customer headers on commission?? I had someone that was supposed to do one for me but they disappeared....I can email you also if you'd be interested:)

    P.S. Test riding the Fryslan today too!!!

    Fiona

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  13. MDI: One might even say that those who need a bicycle that weighs under 40lbs (scoff!) in order to go fast just aren't trying hard enough? :-)

    Love love love the new header photo! So dreamy and perfect for summer-- at least, my ideal summer, which would involve weather that allowed for long-sleeved tops and plenty of time to sit in the grass...

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  14. I love this post! It's really made me think about different bicycle types and why I've chosen one type.

    I think many commuter cyclists are in one of two schools of thought: 1)Find one bike that meets all my needs vs 2)Own a bike for each particular use/situation. As an amateur who's still learning so much about cycling, I'm firmly in the first camp - but I could see how I might end up in the latter eventually.

    Of course, those theories only work if one is in possession of a bicycle(s) which meets your needs. My husband is still tooling around on a 15-year-old, $100 WalMart mountain bike - he never rides off streets or paved pathways, and last time I checked, there were no mountains in St. Louis ;-)

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  15. Love the new design of your blog. Great picture on the header, the green dress, bike and trees play off your hair and shoes nicely. As always wonderful pictures. You have one of the best bike blogs. I read it daily and always find your comments interesting and current.

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  16. The new banner is incredible!

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  17. Thanks for the comments about the new banner. Just a casual snapshot on my daily commute, really. Cycling is chalk full of these moments : )))

    MDI - I am not trying to flatter you, but I actually think that you are an *unusually* strong cyclist, and that most people would not enjoy cycling on the Pashley through 30 miles of hilly terrain.

    Fiona - It depends on what kind of banner you'd like. If it's photography-based, then yes I'd be happy to. If cartoony/graphics based, then it's not my specialty. Drop me a line at "filigreevelo-at-yahoo-dot-com". Exciting that you're trying the Fryslan!

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  18. Velouria~

    I'm totally interested in something photography based and I'll email you later today when we get back from our ride:)

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  19. I have to wonder at the person that tells you that a certain type of bike is required for a certain task. I believe it is up to the individual to choose what works for them.

    People like Heinz Stucke and Joff Summerfield come to mind.

    I never believe there is a one size fits all situation bike.

    And to "anonymous" @8:29am...I am suspicious of people that comment on small wheeled bikes, and question if they have ever ridden one, or have ever ridden one that is appropriate for the task. I routinely ride my Raleigh Twenty on 40 mile rides and it is just as comfortable as my full sized Superbe, not all bikes are the same.

    Bike Friday has an entire line of small wheeled bikes that win races, do world tours and are used for commutes, and I would not consider the people that use them anything other than cyclists that just have happened to discover what quality bikes are all about.

    Aaron

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  20. What a lovely blog! I live in London where fixies and road bikes are all the rage (I've had fixies for 30 years), but I have just bought an old black Raleigh Roadster for my work commute. The rod brakes often get recognised by people who had them in Jamaica or rural Ireland (known there as a High Nellie). It is ideal for London's potholes and Canal towpaths and pretty robust. It is also less likely to be stolen.
    I stop short of wearing tweed, though..there IS a Tweed Ride in London however.

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  21. I want lots and lots of bikes of all differant kinds!(except Triathlon bikes, I don't swing that way)

    I don't spend much on most of them and once in a while I get the urge to give a couple away to make room for more. I use whatever bike seems like fun that day, and while I'm not going to take a 60 year old 50 pound coasterbrake Schwinn Hornet on a 25 mile roadie ride I might use it on an alleycat race. Put a junk tire on it,lay rubber and make a bunch of noise(and a little smoke) everytime I hit the brakes.

    I'm on the lookout for one of those dorky miniature bikes with the rollerblade wheels and the 2 1/2" cranks. I'm going to keep it on a hook in the stairwell with the jackets and raincoats so I can grab it and ride it around the kitchen while I cook. It just seems stupid to use a $3,000 roadracing bike for that and what else am I going to do while the spaghetti is boiling? If I get tired of having the little mongrel around the house or if it proves to be a threat to my health I'll just give it to some other 9year-old and wait for the next interesting velo vagrant to show up.

    Bikes, cheaper than a secret family and less dorky than "crafting" beer at home(maybe only a little less, but less). What more can a middle-aged whiteguy hope for?

    By the way, your gorgeous new banner looks like it could be the poster for a BBC movie adaptation of some Thomas Hardy novel.(and is that a Hasselblad?)

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  22. Felix, I will think of my Roadsters as "High Nellies" from now on, Perfect. I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few High Nellies in Jamaica as well...

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  23. "There is a school of thought out there positing that relaxed and upright bicycles are mainly for those who are inexperienced, afraid of car traffic, or lack physical stamina -"

    My Batavus weighs 62 pounds with the child seat and front basket mounted on it (and they are always on it). I ride it at least 15 miles a day all year long. I live in SF so I hit hills, traffic, pot holes, headwinds... I usually have a 50 pound child on the back of it. I have taken it on the lycra packed "Paradise Loop" in Marin and up to 40 miles at a time. I grocery shop on it, ride to the bar, commute to work, take it on public transit.... I have found myself going 20 MPH on the flats many times. I have taken it down fire roads and jumped curbs on it. I will ride it in traffic if I need to (in fact, if I have to ride in lots of traffic it is the only bike I will ride) and have put 6000 miles on it over the last, almost, 2 years.

    It has taken me a while to get strong enough to do it, but I do. This is how people rode for decades before they abandoned bicycles for cars. It can be done!

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  24. Darn, now I'll have to rename my DL-1 to "Nelly"!

    Spindizzy - Took me a while to stop laughing : ) The camera I'm holding in the picture is a Rolleicord Ia Model 3.

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  25. One of my deep life regrets is having sold my lovely Rolleiflex 2.8D TLR to finance a Mamiya 645. Well, actually, the regret is that at the time I couldn't keep both. :)

    I keep a couple of bikes - the LHT is my commuter, the Bridgestone RB-2 is the road bike. Which one I ride depends on my mood that day. :)

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  26. Adrienne Johnson sounds like the absolute best sort of trouble. Someone who gets on with the job, has her brain turned on and has great taste in sunglasses.

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