24 July 2011

Urban Bicycle Anthropology--Or Is It Archaelogy?

There are bikes on encounters, it seems, only when they are locked to sign posts or parking meters in large cities.

Talk about a Frankenbike!  This is a Schwinn Varsity, circa 1974-75.  I base those dates on the color and the fact that Schwinn was offering it around that time, which was when I first started to work in bicycle shops.

That a Schwinn Varsity or Continental of that vintage is being used for a city transport bike is not unusual.  I had a continental, and I recall what a tank it was.  And, it was a "lightweight" bike:  The Varsity was, if I recall correctly, about three or four pounds heavier.

Well, someone lightened this Varsity.  It has alloy rims and Continental Gator Skin tires. (I know those tires are not lightweights, but compared to the original equipment, they're helium balloons. )  And those bars--they alone save about two pounds over the original equipment!  I know they're not the originals because they're alloy.  That alone would have halved the original weight, but then most of the bar was cut away.

Is the bike's owner a messenger? Can't be a hipster:  The bike still has its derailleurs.  They're the originals, in fact:  Schwinn-branded Huret Allvit on the rear and a Schwinn-branded Huret on the front.  What's really strange, though, are the shifters.  Yes, they are also the originals, but stem-mounted shifters really look strange with those bars--and brake levers.

And on this bike we find the ultimate weight-saving measure:  no saddle.  Yes, that has to be at least two pounds of avoirdupois excised from the ensemble.  Believe it or not, I've actually seen cyclists ride without saddles.  The thing is, nobody believes you when you tell them that's how you lost your virginity!

Anyway...I concede the seat might have been stolen. However, when one sees a parked bike without a seat (but with a seatpost remaining in the frame), it's usually starting to decay, and is often missing other parts.  So I'm wondering whether the bike's owner removed the seat when he/she parked the bike.  Usually, though, when cyclists remove their seats, they take the seat post, too, because their bikes have quick release clamps.  Whoever removed the saddle of from this Varsity must have used a tool of some sort.  Given that the bike has good tires and fancy brake levers, perhaps the seat is a Brooks or something similar.

Ok,I'll admit it:  I must be a real bike geek if I can look at a parked bike and speculate as much as I have about how it might have come to be what it is now.

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