23 June 2010

A World of Bike Dreams

You've probably heard this joke:   

There are two kinds of people in this world:  Those who categorize people and those who don't.

Well, I haven't met very many people who don't fall into the second category, at least some of the time.  And I am as guilty as anyone of dividing people into categories.  I often do that when I teach, especially when I tell my students that there are basically two kinds of people in the world:  dreamers and schemers.  Very few of us are purely one or the other, but most of us tend toward one or the other.  And, of course, it's very important to know what you tend to, and to find someone else with the opposite tendency.  As if I know how to make a relationship work!

So what are cyclists?  I guess the ones who ride because it's cheaper than driving or using mass transit are schemers, or at least pragmatic people.  And those who do it as a release or escape are most likely dreamers of some kind.

Well, I know which one I am.  Perhaps my condition is genetic.  But I think it also has to do with having seen this very early in my life:

The Unisphere was the centerpiece of the 1964-65 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows Park, which is about six miles from where I live.  My family and I went to the Fair when I was about seven years old.  My youngest brother was born only a few months earlier.

Years later, when I was an undergraduate at Rutgers, I rode in one of the early Five Boro Bike Tours.  At the end of the ride,  a man whom I never saw again invited me to join a couple of other guys and a woman I never saw again for some post-Tour beer.  From Manhattan, where the tour started and ended, we rode across the Queensboro (a.k.a. 59th Street) Bridge to Woodside, a neighborhood that probably had, at the time, the greatest concentration of Irish people--and Irish bars--outside Dublin.  

Back then, my hair was redder than it is now and I think that I'd first grown a beard around that time.  Also, if I recall correctly, I wore a stovepipe hat.  Back in those days, few cyclists wore helmets (which were the useless "leather hairnet" variety), so unless the weather was very hot,  I wore my stovepipe hat or my beret when I rode.  I don't recall why I chose the stovepipe hat on the day of the Tour.

Anyway, a couple of the bar patrons adopted me for the day and, after staying somewhere I can't recall,  we spent much of the following day riding in circles around the Unisphere when we weren't emptying bottles of beer that were much better than any other I'd drunk up to that time in my life.

That, I must say, is a long way--in spirit if not in distance--from my ride today:

Yes, I was test-riding the Le Tour III.  If you saw my previous photos of it, you'll notice one difference:  the Wald fold-up baskets in the rear.  I haven't used them yet, but they look like a good design--and that they would be bombproof.  

Naturally, I had to do a test-ride in a dress or skirt, as I plan to use the bike for commuting.  As it was hot today, I opted for a sun dress.  And I wasn't wearing high heels:  Instead, I wore wedge sandals.  Still, I felt I was close to "real life" commuting conditions, at least for me.  

The bike is "almost there."  I've adjusted the seat and bars to comfortable positons.  I'm still not sure of whether I'll add a front basket.  I like to keep my purse in it when I ride.  But I really don't like to put much more in them, as weight on handlebars affects steering.  (Of course, I didn't say that to the dancer I once escorted on my Cinelli Giro d'Italias through the streets of Soho!)  Plus, I haven't had the best of luck with baskets:  I've broken a couple of wicker ones and a "quick release" version did exactly that as my wheels bounced along a street in an industrial area of Maspeth.  Maybe I'll get a small basket that attaches with a brace to the front dropout.

OK, so I'm being practical--a schemer.  But can one be called a schemer if her real purpose is to enable a dreamer?

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