When I was wee, I had a (hand-me-down) red Murray tricycle. When my knees started hitting the handlebars, I graduated to a (hand-me-down) violet Schwinn Hollywood with coaster brakes. I loved that bike. I loved everything about that bike. Every spring I would sit in the driveway with a bottle of chrome polish and a shop rag, and my tiny fingers would lovingly polish the fenders, the wheels, the spokes. And eventually it, too, was too small. When I was in 6th or 7th grade, I got my very first New Bike. Again a Schwinn, my silver Sprint had a full 10 speeds. This was moving up in the world! It wasâ€¦okay. A perfectly serviceable bike, and I rode many miles on it. It didn’t have the pizazz and style of the Hollywood, but having gears was a bonus. I eventually outgrew the Sprint and on the very rare occasion that called for a teenager on a bike, I’d borrow my sister’s semi-abandoned Schwinn Collegiate. At that point in time, the only adults who rode bikes did it for sport and I was no athlete.
Fast forward a number of years, and mountain biking has taken off. At the time that I move to Colorado, my dad and his wife bequeath to me one of their two Giant Iguanas, with the statement that “I think it’s the law that you have to have one of these if you live in Boulder, right?” I am blissed. But I am still no athlete. I ride it to and from the supermarket on occasion, and that’s it. After throwing myself off the bike twice (and with great flourish), and feeling the pain of a beyond-empty wallet, I sell the Iguana for a piddling amount of cold, hard cash and pay a phone bill with it.
A few years later, my then-boyfriend secretly joins forces with my dad to buy me a new bike for Christmas. I am the very happy owner of a silver 1999 Trek 800, which still has the knobby tires for gripping the dirt but a somewhat more upright position which is better for my weak shoulders. We take it out on a couple of (flat) trails, and I ride it around the neighborhood in the evenings from time to time. I still have that bike, and it’s still in great shape, mostly because I so rarely ride it. It’s just too technical for me. No, what I really want is something more reminiscent of my old Hollywood, but with a few gears. I don’t need a lot, just, say, 3. But it has to have fenders. And a basket on the front, to hold a grocery bag. So I start window shopping.Â Used bikes on Craigslist cost just as much (and more) than some new bikes, plus carry the desperate need for a tune-up, so I stick with new models. Cruisers have the right look, but they’re heavy and clunky and single speed. Dutch-style bikes (think Electra Amsterdam) have the look and sometimes the gears, but the price tag is prohibitive. PashleysÂ are gorgeous all around, but there’s that dastardly price tag again. So I look. And I look. And I look.
Last Wednesday, on a whim, I search Craigslist again. I’d long ago learned to leave out the word “cruiser,” as that only brings up ads for crappy old bikes that people are asking astronomical amounts for (and I don’t really want a cruiser anyway). But for some reason, “cruiser” is what I type in. And there are the expected ads for $200 rust buckets that will require another $200-300 of work just to get running. At the bottom of the page is the header “Few LOCAL results found. Here are some from NEARBY areas…” and there, there is The Ad. The headline reads Vintage Raleigh Sport Bike Cruiser – $50. I click the ad. I see the photo (of a road bike, not a cruiser). I fall in love. I call the number in the ad, and get voicemail. I wait. I wait. I wait. I wonder if I’d misspoken my callback number. I wait. The next morning, I call again. Live person this time! I ask a few questions. I get the answers I’m hoping for. I make arrangements, and that Friday, I pick up My New Bike, a 1972 Raleigh Sports ladies (step-through) model in Coffee. Functional 3-speed Sturmey-Archer hub. Made in merry olde England.
It’s missing its original Brooks saddle, frame pump and “touring bag.” It rattles. It’s dented, it’s scratched, it’s greasy and dusty and has a few bird feathers stuck to it. It’s beautiful. I’ll be getting new tires first thing, and then will start adding/replacing parts as need determines and budget allows. Stay tuned!