This post probably won’t have anything to do with rhetoric, teaching or music, unless I find some torturous route to relevance, but it is what I am thinking about this morning.
Due to the need for an enhanced exercise regimen, and some changes in my personal life, I recently acquired a couple of folding bicycles (see pictures near the end of this post). I used to ride quite a bit when I was younger. I had an old Schwinn ten-speed that I rode to high school. I had that painted and fixed up and I rode it later when I was teaching at Cal State L.A. Then I got serious about biking for a while and I got a 12-speed Nishiki that I used for transportation. After a while I decided that the frame on the Nishiki was a little big for me, and I traded it to my brother for his Peugeot. However, the Peugeot sat unused for quite a while, and I finally got rid of it. I hadn’t had a bike for years when I got the folders.
Using bikes for transportation in the L.A. area is nerve-wracking. Even if you plan your route well, you are going to deal with traffic and parked cars. You have to be ever vigilant against the motorist who is going to open the driver-side door of a parked car right in front of you. If this happens just as a supermarket truck is passing you, as happened to me, you are in deep trouble. The truck missed me by an inch or so. I stopped riding in traffic.
Once I took the Nishiki on a bicycle wine tasting tour with a friend from high school. We started from Santa Rosa, north on Old Redwood Highway, which had been the main road before U.S. Route 101 went in. There was almost no traffic on the road, so the ride was peaceful, yet exhilarating, at least at first. I forget the first winery we stopped at, but it had a beautiful approach, a long driveway lined with trees. We were the only tasters there, and we were greeted by a young woman of blond, ethereal beauty. Smitten, I bought two bottles of Gewurztraminer, forgetting for the moment that we were on bicycles. I had panniers (saddle bags) on the rear rack of the bike, so a bottle went on either side. Now I had to carry the wine all the way to Healdsburg and back, about 30 miles round trip. It was idiotic.
My friend wanted to see a former girlfriend in Healdsburg, so that was our destination. He had done theater work at Santa Rosa Junior College, so later that evening we were to see a production of Dracula. All in all a full day.
When we got to Healdsburg, it turned out that the girlfriend was off on a camping trip with another guy. This disturbed my friend more than I had anticipated, and he simply jumped on his bike and began pedaling furiously on the way back to Santa Rosa. I followed, but although Old Redwood Highway was free of traffic, it was full of potholes and thorns. My 100 lb. pressure clincher tires were easy to roll, but they weren’t very thorn proof and I soon had a flat. I stopped to change the tire, but my friend, absorbed in his emotions, pedaled off out of sight. By the time he returned, I had changed the tire, but about half way back, I had another flat. This time I didn’t have a spare tube or any more patches, so it was time to walk the bike.
We made it to the play, which was horrible, and the next morning we made repairs. Biking is great fun if you learn from your mistakes. Don’t buy wine at the beginning of the trip. Call ahead to see if your girlfriend still loves you. And if there are likely to be thorns, use tougher tires. I think these days you can get bike tires that contain Kevlar.
Nothing could be done about the laughable production of Dracula.
So why folding bikes? A folding bike can fit into the trunk of a Honda Civic, or the back seat, without disassembly. You can drive to the lovely bike path and enjoy biking without sharing the road with trucks. You can put the bike in a bag and take it on the bus. You can store the bike in a closet, or under the stairs. There are many advantages.
Folding bikes generally have small wheels, either 16 or 20 inches, tall seat posts and tall handlebar posts. Everything is instantly adjustable. Once you figure it out and practice a bit, you can fold or unfold the bike in about 15 seconds. The high end models are very light. Those under $400 or so are generally heavier, but still under 30 lbs. When I started investigating such bikes, among the cheapest were bikes like the Citizen Tokyo for $164. People seem to like those bikes, but they also seem to want to upgrade them. Bromptons are popular, but are custom-made and most cost more than $1,000. Bike Friday makes some models that fit into an airline suitcase that can be converted into a bike trailer. Downtube is another popular bike, with a lower price.
However, the biggest company making folding bikes, and the brand you are most likely to see in a local bike shop, is Dahon. Dahon has many different models with different configurations of equipment. After much investigation, I decided on a Dahon Speed D7, for $389. Then, because my daughter wanted to go biking with me and the reach to the handlebars on the Speed D7 was a bit too far for her, I bought her a Dahon Eco 3 for $339. Here are the two bikes unfolded:
Here’s a picture with the Speed D7 folded:
Dahon makes a bag to put the bikes in when you want to take them in a building or a bus, or store them in the back seat of a car. Here’s the Dahon Speed D7 in a bag:
The bag is fairly easy to carry on your shoulder. It is large, and a little heavy, but it looks like a large duffel bad. Most people would not see it as a bicycle.
We have taken these bikes riding at Venice Beach and at Griffith Park. They are great fun. The Venice bike path has signs painted on the path every 50 yards or so that say “Bikes Only.” Of course there are roller bladers, joggers, pedestrians, baby strollers, dog walkers, and spaced out cellphone talkers as well, along with serious cyclists on high-performance racing bikes whizzing by. It’s a zoo. I didn’t see any other folding bikes, but we fit right in. One day we went from Venice almost to Malibu.
The folders are odd-looking bikes, but that is part of the fun. We are still finding new ways to use them. Being out on a bike does tend to get you out of your daily routines. Yesterday in Griffith Park we met a woman who was handing out flyers for her garden club show, so we stopped and bought a geranium. I’d actually never been to a garden show before.