The Perfect Bicycle? March 23 2016

What would your perfect bicycle look like; comfy seat, easy to pedal, a beautiful colour? I agree. These are all characteristics of the perfect bicycle. The bicycle has evolved to be more that just a recreational vehicle. It can be much more. Today it is equally a symbol of conscious living, an extension of your personality and a way of exploring and getting around on this planet. So comfort and character should rank high on your list.

However, the bicycle you choose has to function first and should reflect your consumer values in terms of production and purchasing, then you put your stamp on it. So let’s look at the functional elements of what may become your perfect bicycle.

First of all, there is no such thing as a bicycle that will do it all. Although hybrids exist and lots of options provide many opportunities to customize, bicycles will always work better in one environment over another. Chances are you will be doing most of your riding on paved roads and smooth trails in a community setting. You probably want to get around at a good pace but wouldn’t sacrifice comfort for going faster and want to feel steady while riding. As you gain confidence you will want to ride as often as possible, even in less than ideal weather to do more and more by bicycle.

So be that our criteria for the perfect bicycle, it would likely fall under the heading “City Bike”. First of all a bicycle has to fit. If it doesn’t, then it just won’t feel right. A lot has changed in term of bicycle geometry, frame sizing and tire size so the best way to choose a “size” is to ride the bicycle and have a knowledgable person guide you through riding position while making some adjustments to the setup of the bicycle. Feel is often more accurate than frame size in finding the right fit.

Numero deux on the list is gearing. Most bicycles have a lot of gears these days which are unnecessary and detract from the joy of riding a bicycle. Many casual riders are so focused on how and when to change gears, they never get to experience the euphoria that comes from a long, pleasant bicycle ride. My advice on multi-speed bicycles is to find a gear you like on the easy side and just stick with that for a while. Once you are comfortable with that one gear then learn to use the one harder and one easier gear on either side. That will be likely all you need. And remember the most fun and easiest gear is called “coasting”.

That said, you may only need one, three, five or ten speeds, not 18 or more. I am partial to three and five speeds. But what is even more important is the size of the chain rings on the front and sprockets on the back. The front is the more important; and the fewer teeth the easier.  I like  32-36T, but most would say that is too low. Most bicycles have between 38 and 48T on a single chain ring or for the middle/small chain wheel on a triple or double front set respectively. Just remember, smaller/easier on the front.

A "Mixte", which means "unisex" in French. An upright that gets its pedigree from road bikes! A Canadian Made Raleigh 5 Speed The Classic Raleigh 3-Speed Sports. By the way, owned by a female rider; There are no ladies and mens bicycles, just bicycles!

I think a general consensus would be that most bicycles (including vintage) are geared too high (hard) for the average rider. They are fine on very flat roads, but truly flat roads exist almost nowhere. Most places have hills and some have lots of them. In most cases it is easier to lower the gearing on a vintage bicycle (and for less money) than to convert a newer bicycle to lower gearing.

Fenders! Fenders were standard issue on most bicycles built before the 1980’s ten speed bike boom hit. If you speak to a European about bicycles, they often question why most of the bicycles sold in North America are sold without fenders. For those who compete on their bicycles, fenders are not necessary as weight and accessories detract from the function. Unless you fall into that category, your bicycle should have fenders for obvious reasons. It is nice to see the resurgence of bicycles that come with fenders as standard equipment.

Baskets and racks (carriers) are also essential equipment for the average rider. Racks are best for carrying any amount of goods securely. Lots of options exist for loading up on groceries or carrying other rather bulky materials around by bicycle. Baskets are great for smaller lighter items such as a small purse, water bottle, lunch, etc. In the end, it will take a while for you to decide what you need to carry on your bicycle and what (basket, rack, etc.) is best suited for the job. Just be sure to try different options and to speak to other riders about their preferences.

Then there is the seat. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked, “have they learned how to make a comfortable seat yet?” The answer is “yes and no”. Seats (or saddles) are made of very comfortable materials these days. The problem isn’t really the seat in most cases, it’s your bottom where the discomfort exists. You need to break in your butt more than the seat. Yes, there are  good and bad seats, and fit is a factor, but generally speaking you will always need to break in your butt as well. Try taking shorter trips at first and increasing the time in the saddle over a period of weeks and months. Usually this will resolve the conflict. If not, do visit your local bike shop and discuss a replacement.

Now that all the mechanical, technical stuff is out of the way, we can talk about the fun stuff.  The style should match your personality so long as it fits and is comfortable to ride. Some like road bicycles and some like loop framed city bikes. Other like classic English three-speeds while others like the raised “camel’s back” top tube of vintage CCMs. Of course this wide of a selection in only available in vintage bicycles. With vintage bicycles you have access to every style ever made!

Once a Raleigh "Racer" road bike; Now a cruiser One of my favourites; Jodi's low geared city bicycle in beautiful blue Pure "10 Speed Bike Boom"! Canadian Tire SuperCycle 10 Speed

Colour is also important. If you decide to go with a full restoration of a vintage bicycle, you can choose whatever colour you like. It seems that bicycles once came in many different colours compared to todays selection of new bicycles. Then there is that one of a kind, only age can do that colour, called patina. As paint ages it takes on it own characteristics like good wine and great friends. And don’t be afraid to put your own touches on it. Decorate it if it’s your style. Just enjoy riding it!

 

Take care,

Daryl

p.s. Your's may be in here somewhere :)