Sunday, February 22, 2009
Searching for the perfect Commuter/Trailer Tow-er/Foxy Minimalist/Utilitarian Date Bike. Why so elusive?
OK so it's a bit ambitious, and maybe I'm a niche market of one, but I am nothing if not obsessive and something like a hound with a scent. I will search the internets and beyond for a solution to my various biking needs. I am on a quest.
Here is what I do with my bike:
I tow 100 pounds of kids + trailer about 5 miles a day, with one small hill. So I need a sturdy frame with a pretty decent low gear and the ability to attach a hitch to the rear quick-release skewer. Currently I get down to about a 23T in front and an 18T in the back. I get stronger all the time, but that gear makes me laugh in the general direction of the hill on our regular route. The other hills in our neighborhood still instill a bit of fear. Is there an internal hub (for a cleaner look than a triple + granny derailleur) that can give me what I need? I'm not yet sure about that. This rig is also used for grocery shopping and other cargo situations you'd think you might need a car for. So this is my Family Man ride.
I commute and generally leave the car at home when possible, on easy 4-10 mile routes depending on the destination. For this I'd probably be fine with a single-speed with a slightly forgiving gearing, and I love the clean, stripped-down look. I don't carry too much back and forth, usually just a laptop and maybe some clothes, but I'm not totally opposed to panniers or some other bike-mounted bags/racks. My messenger bag works OK, but I do like the feel of getting the junk off my back, especially as the weather warms up here in L.A. But racks and cargo space and lights and locks can quickly turn into a mishmash of utilitarian debris, loosing the simplicity I love. I also like to really fly when on these rides, so I like something on the sporty side. This is my Bread-Winner, Eco-Proselytyzer ride.
I also like just getting out with the wife, for a lazy shopping run or a Bike Date (as the blog title implies) so I like something a bit relaxed and elegant. Not a full-on Dutch bike necessarily (though I love those, too) but something with some élan, some form to go with the function. Something I can wear nice clothes on, an eye catcher as we pull up to a swanky L.A. valet. This is the Date Bike.
Writing this reminds of the scene in Woody Allen's Stardust Memories where he is in love with specific elements of two different women, so he has this fantasy of taking the best parts of one and combining them with the best parts of the other, Frankenstein style. But then once he completes the transformation, he falls in love with the one with all the bad traits!
I am also more aware of the challenge, the impossibility you might say, as I write down the contradictions. But my journey in the wilderness, my search for this Two-Wheeled Grail of Transportation goes on. So I will post some of the bikes that catch my eye, and how they attain or fall short of my ideal. I will continue my quest, because it is something bigger than me.
Oh, I forgot. It needs to be reasonably priced. I need a pile of cash left over for one of those sweet Rapha Tweed Softshell Jackets...
UPDATE: I like some of these...