Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Grass is Always Greener...

Pilen Bicycle, Castle Island
As the summer season of bike shopping continues, some are still looking for the right bicycle while others have already snagged one. And if the emails I receive are any indication, those in the latter category are often plagued with "the grass is greener" regrets.

I bought a Dutch bike, but now I'm thinking it's kind of heavy. Should I have gotten a mixte?

I bought a mixte, but now I'm thinking it's kind of aggressive and twitchy. Should I have gotten a Dutch bike?

I bought a vintage bike, but the components are creaky and it seems unreliable. Wish I'd sucked it up and bought a new one.

I bought a new bike and sold my old rust bucket on C-List. Now I wish I hadn't, because the old one was so much more comfortable!

Look: I don't know what to tell you, except that all of these scenarios make sense. No bicycle is perfect. How do you think I ended up with three transportation bikes?... And even that has not made me immune to the "grass is always greener" effect. Having delivered the Pilen to the venue from whence it will be shipped to the give-away recipient, I am now nostalgic for its super-stable ride and off-road capacity. I remain haunted by the memories of riding Anna's ridiculously gorgeous Retrovelo last year. And seeing the Rivendell Betty Foy makes me wistful every time, just because it is so iconic.

I don't think there is a moral to this story, except that we humans are annoyingly indecisive, covetous creatures. And perhaps also that there is a greater choice for wonderful transportation bicycles out there than ever. Determine what your priorities are, conduct thorough test rides, and don't expect the impossible. No matter how wonderful your new bicycle is, you will always discover an aspect of it where the one you had been considering instead might have fared better.

44 comments:

  1. I think at this point in life, at least, my Raleigh DL-1 is now perfect for me :) Well, once I get a rear light and rear wheel lock :) But basically...

    I'm happy every time I get on it. I think I'm one of the lucky few :)

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  2. I agree with you wholoheartedly on this. I have a modern bike, a Giant, which is very convenient and has 21 gears (many of which I do not use) and is in great working order and it gets me around very well though I am not 100% happy with the seating position. But I long for a vintage bike with mudguards and a skirtguard and a more upright position, so I am getting my bike from childhood restored to working order. It has no gears, which is my main concern with it, but the back pedal brakes work fine and it has a more comfortable and upright seating position. Plus it has that vintage aspect which gives it that indefinable credibility, to me anyway. I loved riding it as a pre teen and teenager and that history also adds to its charm. Though I do worry about how I will cope with the hills on it.

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  3. In the world of guitars, we call this G.A.S. - Guitar Aquisition Syndrome. But I see it as a journey of exploration in a given area of interest. How will you know what thing (bike, guitar) is "right" for you unless you try it? And often that means we must enter the cycle of buying and selling to find out. Often we find that "right" has many possible flavors. That's where we risk annoying our significant others with our conspicuous consumption. For me, I have learned from my guitar collecting that it's ultimately the craftsman who makes the tool perform to its potential. And so I will not spend the next 20 years collecting bicycles. I'm gonna ride 'em.

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  4. what do you feel about a 3 gear Stoewers Greif?

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  5. rpguitar - Several regular Lovely Bicycle readers happen to be guitar makers (Corey K and David Newton). Just saying...

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  6. Yeah, B.A.S. I mean it's like food, we just have to try something different and each bike and it's ride puts us in a different frame of mind. Right now I think I'll devour a converted DL-1 single speed and ride out to Terell's Island via Wisconsin backroads.

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  7. It's the same way with spinning wheels and especially drop spindles. Also woodworking tools. And boots. Just some of the vices that there are never enough of in our house. :)

    I didn't know that Corey K and David Newton were luthiers! I never made a guitar, but I made and designed many custom guitar cases, so I got to admire some gorgeous instruments.

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  8. Different bikes are suitable for different purposes. Anyone who does more than one kind of riding will eventually figure that out and realize they need more than one bike to get the most out of each type of riding. As an extreme example... My Surly Big Dummy is the perfect kid hauler/ grocery getter. My single-speed Pinarello fails at both those tasks but excels elsewhere. I enjoy my time on both bikes but for entirely different reasons.

    I think there was a blurb in a Rivendell Reader once about how many bikes one needs to own to cover all types of riding... the number was something like 8 or 9. They listed the types of bikes.

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  9. I looked and looked for my new bicycle... but never could decide on one. But having been instilled with more confidence from the knowledge gained on this site, I have turned down about 3 or 4 choices without regret.

    In the meantime I keep looking for a bike that will ride as nicely as my 17 year old Schwinn X-cross hybrid. I tried a Surly LHT and didn't like it. I tried a Raleigh Alleyway... didn't like it. Maybe I've just gotten used to my old bicycle... or maybe I'm just afraid to commit.

    Since I rode my last bicycle for 17 years I may never buy another one once I choose a new one. So the new one better be perfect! lol!

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  10. I found it... RR#42 pg#6... "A beater, a bomber, a single-speed, a touring bike, a lightish road bike, a do-all racked and bagged bike, a mixte, a loaner, and a work in progress."

    I've got a long way to go.

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  11. In an affluent consumerist society a smart monkey is confronted with a myriad of choices for everything. Unreasonable expectations quickly develop. There’s a lot of emotion involved. Comparison and decision-making quickly becomes overwhelming, and there is a fear of lost opportunity. I believe the paradox is generally true, that less is more, and smart monkeys are generally happier with fewer choices, and more apt to be satisfied with the choices they make in those conditions. We’re told that having more consumer choices will improve quality of life, but it seems if there are more than a few we become only more irrational and covetous. Especially when it comes to shiny objects, I’d say.

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  12. Mentioning readerswh o are luthiers, don't forget Dave Talsma. He makes some really nice instruments.
    And he's got an ANT truss bike coming his way!

    My workshop is filling up with bikes...I have more of them than I have instruments-in-progress right now.

    And at least two more vintage-ish roadie-bikes coming in the next few months.

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  13. This might be old news, but I recommend "It's All About the Bike" by Robert Penn as a fun and easy read (http://www.amazon.com/Its-All-About-Bike-Happiness/dp/1846142628). The author sets out to have a custom bike made from hand-picked components sourced from all over the world.

    Also, tres cool about the luthiers who read the blog. More and more, I've found that people who appreciate the beauty of crafted things tend to have intersecting interests, often in unexpected combinations. Pretty neat.

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  14. ".......we humans are annoyingly indecisive, covetous creatures"
    I love it! You certainly turn a phrase as easily as a wheel - HA!!

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  15. @Bif - Sounds like someone's read Marx's Capital.
    (Good observations, btw).

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  16. Of course, Dave Talsma - Apologies for the omission!

    54 canoe - Unfortunately, even those who have a bike from each category still tend to wonder about other contenders in those same categories... or else invent new categories : )

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  17. Lauren, yeah, it's not pretty at that end of the spectrum either. Six months wages gets you a Flying Pigeon, one size fits all, and any color you want as long as its black.

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  18. I really only want one bicycle. I have three. The 1940's basketcase balloon tire bike can go. I keep my "89 Haro Master for my children. I like my Heron Wayfarer, because I thought it would make an excellent one and only bicycle, which it largely does. I do like the Boulder Bicycles 650B frame a lot, though. It overcomes specific shortcomings of my Heron.

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  19. Purse collecting is worse. Handbag, shoulder bag, over the shoulder, wrist strap, built in wallet blah blah blah blah....

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  20. Ah, the old "which bike to ride?" predicament. I've just spent the last two nights hedging over which of three to bring on vacation. Old road bike, long-tail cargo, or belt drive internal hub commuter?

    FYI...the road bike won...this time.

    Choices are good, but certainly complicates life sometimes.

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  21. melissatheragamuffinJuly 29, 2011 at 6:39 AM

    I love my Surly LHT except sometimes I think a step-through (girl) frame would be nice when I need to use my back basket. Now, I have to tip my bike so far to one side to mount it that stuff falls out of the basket.

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  22. Good call on the Rob Penn book (and documentary). Funny thing is, every time I've seen Rob since he wrote/filmed that, whether on TV or in person, he's on some bike OTHER than the custom Rourke. What's with that then?

    You do all know the mathemetical formula for calculating the ideal number of bikes to have, right? ;)

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  23. Total happiness with Retrovelo. EXCEPT it is so pretty that I sometimes want less attention. So I think about a plain black Italian city bike. Would like an old battered version.

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  24. I had to chuckle at your post. Yes, we are fickle creatures and our needs and steeds can change over time. Maybe that's why I have three bikes, yet still drool over acquiring several others. But look on the bright side, isn't it wonderful that people went out and chose a bike? For lots of folks it was was most likely their first one. Bravo!

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  25. But one of the great things about bicycles is that even minuscule changes can make tremendous differences. A different tire, new handlebar grips, even just a saddle adjustment, makes me feel like I have a new, better bike without having to buy a new bike!

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  26. I compensate for this tendency (I have "only" 2 bikes -- a road bike and a fixie) by thinking, instead, about changes I can make to my existing bike. Should I move the seat forward a bit (it seems to have given you more power)? I would have to change the stem -- which means re-wrapping the handlebars -- maybe I should get that elk-hide wrapping from Velo Orange. Or maybe I should get new handlebars completely, modern ones with channels for the cables. Keeps me occupied, and is a lot cheaper than buying bikes, since I can usually keep going like that long enough that I actually buy new bike components only once or twice a year.

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  27. @neighbortease: just give the Retrovelo 20 years or so, and you'll have the old battered version (but still perfectly functional in all the ways it is now) :)

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  28. Seriously, the best way to go about is to do what you have done Velouria:
    Get your butt on as many bikes as possible, try all of the flavours at the ice cream shop, then make up your mind on two or three of them.

    Anyways, one really needs more than one bike anyways: at the very least one beater you're not scare to loose to a thief, one cargo to carry big-a$$ groceries and a "normal" one you can do comfortable and longer rides with.

    All of this is really human. Why should our bicycle coveting behaviour be any different that our mating coveting behavious?
    (Hum...)

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  29. Well, we may be indecisive, but it is my observation that once we commit to a course of action, we will find all the reasons it was the right decision and ignore the should've, would've, could've.

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  30. Montrealize - Unfortunately, for most people trying multiple bikes in depth is not realistic. I myself would not do it, if it were not for the blog/obsession. Not many stores sell the types of classic transportation bikes that people here prefer, so often these get ordered online without even trying - which in itself is a problem. Another problem, as I see it, is that even when people have a chance to test ride a bike, they get so excited that they are not really structuring the test ride in the most informative manner. I have that problem too, but I've been trying to get better at test rides.

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  31. @portlandize, that is the plan so far!

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  32. Thanks for the mention Velouria, I noticed several hits on my site from your blog.
    What's funny is my memory of my favorite bike, a Raleigh International, that was stolen. It is smoother and more comfortable every year that goes by. My current, very nice bike will never measure up to those memories. At my age, one good bike is all a person needs, just ride it and quit wanting more. Same with guitars.

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  33. @Dave: I feel the same way, both about my bike and my guitar :) Except I'm only 31 :)

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  34. I bought a Torker Cargo T, and was happy. Then I noticed the Planetary shift Mechanism, that allowed an infinite number of gears. And THEN I discovered some place in Portland was making modified version of the Torker 3 speed with (a) an 8 speed hub, and (b) the Planetary gear hub. Did it make my bike worse?

    Well no, but it made me less happy, so I went for a ride.

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  35. Velouria said...
    "I don't think there is a moral to this story, except that we humans are annoyingly indecisive, covetous creatures."

    One can't know what one really wants until one knows themselves.

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  36. I considered the Torker Cargo T when I was shopping for my first bike as an adult; it's a nice bike. I am not envious of 8 speed hubs, because I actually prefer 3-speeds. The Planetary gear hub - are you talking about the NuVinci?

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  37. So I'm going mountain biking tomorrow. Which bike do I take? My 1999 Marin Mount Vision full suspension or my '93 Orange P7? The P7 has some nice Pace RC36 forks, but the route has a couple of really rocky sections that full sus would handle better.

    PS as referred to in a previous post, correct number of bikes is N + 1 where N is the current number owned

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  38. Velouria

    "Another problem, as I see it, is that even when people have a chance to test ride a bike, they get so excited that they are not really structuring the test ride in the most informative manner."

    Man, do I hear this! I actually stopped doing that as all bikes were always wonderful => Useless. Then bike shops get annoyed after a while... especially when you are not buying. Here anyways.

    What I do now is hit people for trials... Friends, random folks in parks, popular cycling areas. Colleagues, folks at the yoga studio etc. Seriously. I explain my problem, I propose an exchange of trials, or I leave a deposit/guarantee. I got that idea the day someone I knew from a class asked me if she could try my bike. She loved it and the whole thing was very entertaining and informative (hearing her comments about my bike was actually enlightening).

    Of course, I don't jump randomly at people like a jack in the box. I kind of engage in a conversation about their bike, praise it a lot, and ask if I can try. As I look normal, usually have my hubby on trail etc. Most people are amused, and I get a feel (even though superficial) for different bikes with no commitment. I also listen carefully to what they say, which is always informative.

    Another point, I find people do not tap family enough. So many idle bicycles in those uncles' attics, grand-parents' basements... ask them as gifts. Garage sales, flee markets. Then you swap.

    All of these come out cheap and fun.

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  39. " I find people do not tap family enough. So many idle bicycles in those uncles' attics, grand-parents' basements... "

    My parents had a beautiful, great condition Raleigh Lady's Sports languishing in their garage when I was a teenager... and all the while I was riding a horrible department store mountain bike with non-functional gear shifters. Because they thought the old bike was much too old and could not possibly be safe to ride.

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  40. "Another problem, as I see it, is that even when people have a chance to test ride a bike, they get so excited that they are not really structuring the test ride in the most informative manner."

    Okay, I'll borrow that excuse for my original post-ride impression of the Trek Belleville.
    (laughs)

    CK

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  41. Fortunately, for a long time I had a large basement so I can have a 2-3 Sports, a DL1, a Dutch Gazelle, a Raleigh Twenty Folder, a Bridgestone MTB for snow & rain, and a Schwinn LeTour - I can keep them all without having to choose.

    Unfortunately, with a new job I've rented a room where I can keep one bike but not 12. I got a new REI commuter that is not quite as comfortable as the Sports but I it is a little more reliable. (and ride the other bikes on weekends)

    Angelo

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  42. Hah! I do this all the damn time.

    I did once do the math and figure that if I had all the bikes I wanted, I'd have six bikes. That was several years ago and the number has probably changed, but I haven't sat down and added them up.

    But one of my goals has been to buy a mid-80's mixte and give it much of the functionality of a "Dutch" bike: generator hub, internal gearing, chain guard, upright handlebars, fenders, a nice rack, a skirt guard....the idea being it would be lighter than a Dutch bike and a little faster and possibly easier to get uphill. But then I think, with all the stuff on it, would it really be lighter? And if I did all the stuff I want, gah, it would be almost as expensive!! Maybe I should just buy a Dutch bike! And, if I do make/buy this bicycle, won't it make my Raleigh redundant? I can't bear to give up my Raleigh....

    Yeah. Glad to know I'm not the only one who has these problems. LOL!

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  43. Had to laugh - this is a me too moment. I wrote earlier in your comments about now needing a bike with different geometry (an issue with falling); well I'm trying them. So far it's been wonderfully freeing, and I need to go try a good few more before I plunk down my hard earned cash. So glad to hear it's not just me! There were elements of both that I've liked at each shop so far and probably will be more. Now to see if I find the "just right" bowl of porridge!

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