Dream’s End.

Let’s see . . . this time last week I was pounding out my screed of resignation.

Convinced there was no perfect bike, that everything approaching perfection was more than I would spend right now, that I’d just enjoy the coming months dreaming about bikes I’d never buy.  At least that way, when the time came (and the pennies added up) I would really know what I wanted.  And maybe, once I knew what to look for, I could find a used bike that did the necessary-to-me.

Meanwhile, I intended to have fun trying out every likely bike I could get my hands (and et cetera) on, blogging happily about each one.

Meanwhile, I would be glad I did already have a just-fine bike that worked just fine.  And I would enjoy the rides. The riding above all! would be my rallying cry.

A prudent plan.

Eating crow has never been so pleasant.

Azor WorkCycle Oma from Clever Cycles in Portland, Oregon

Of course that this bike is in my garage now means there will not be a tandem for my 9 year-old son to ride for our annual coast ride – which is what we had been planning with that little nest-egg.  He’s too big for the Tag-along this year but not quite strong enough to bike the 80+ miles in one day solo.  His older sisters didn’t do it until they were 11.  So we’ve got two years probably to patch over.

Husband thought a tandem would fit the bill.  We’d get a telescoping tandem and then he and I could also ride it together.  I’ve suspected that on some unspoken and symbolic level part of him likes this idea - him steering and out in front, me steadily keeping in perfect cadence from behind.     It would at least be a novel situation for us.

But, “We’ll just rent a tandem for that weekend,” he said this weekend.  “You’ve never been that excited about a tandem anyway, have you?”

I  think it tickled him, this fever of enthusiasm that began years back as a mild obsession for the Rivendell catalog.  This past year, as my fascination with vintage bikes and Dutch bikes grew, he’d grin to hear me talking headstems and downtubes and researching internal hub gearing.

I don’t usually want things.  “People are more important than things,” my children will chant back at me, forestalling me, knowing I’m about to say it.  Have I mocked (gently but ever so self-righteously) other’s (like husband’s) material (including bikely) obsessions?

I have.

I’ve ridden the Oma four of the six days since bringing her home.  I have not used my car except after dark. And without much thinking about it, I’ve simply started out five to ten minutes earlier so that I am not even tempted not to ride the Oma.  She is indeed a heavy bike and on her I am slightly slower.  But there is such a silvery feeling to riding her.  (And I’m already thinking of her as a “she”)

I whispered to my 16 year-old daughter (we were supposed to be listening to the speaker) that I couldn’t believe it but I suddenly understood this urge people have to wrap silk flowers around the handlebars.

“Why stop there?” she whispered back.  “Get some plastic grapes and go for a cornucopia.”

My desire drives me”  a poet I admire wrote yesterday on her blog.  And it is true.

This bicycle is the one I’ve always wanted since I saw an elegant Belgian woman stop at a traffic light on just such a bike – long black coat, high-heeled boots, a swooping skirt and a scarf around her neck, her hair in a twist with tendrils coming down.  Though I have not thought of it before, I realize, counting back, that this was the moment my tepid re-interest in biking warmed.

There are other beautiful bikes.  But what I love about this one is that the beauty is so understated.  “It seems to be quite a workhorse,” said my husband when I showed it to him, all glowing eyes I’m sure.

It is an Oma, a Gramma, a Granny.  A WorkCycle.  That sounds reassuringly practical. She doesn’t look alarmingly new.  Everything from the silvery ride to the bright back light and the way the front hub-generated light works so well bespeaks good design and good construction, but all that is an invisible elegance.  And practical – did I mention that?

I sometimes think I ought to feel guilty for spending so much money on a bike.  And then next thing I know I’ve set off again, pedalling away and find myself laughing out loud.

Today for the first time I had some trouble with the gears slipping – third won’t even hold and fifth keeps losing its grip.  But instead of irritation as at malfunctioning machinery, I felt grief -

What is wrong with my beautiful bike?  Does this mean I can’t ride Oma tomorrow?

For a block or two I idly wondered if the Oma had been sabotaged . . .

. . . by my displaced Specialized hybrid?  (whom I did name ten years ago, never telling anyone much, because who names their bikes?!)

The next few blocks I wondered how it would be to live in a society where every thing we made and used seemed as invested with personality?  Seemed somehow alive.

A call for help to Clever Cycles reassured me that this gear slipping is normal in a new bike – it’s just the cables being stretched out.  (Usually it takes a little longer than three or four days.  I’m guessing it’s the massive hills I’m working my way up ).

I can bring it in Saturday and they’ll fix it.  And yes, I can keep riding until then without doing Oma damage.

On the down side,  having found my dream machine so soon really does drastically simplify my plans for this blog . . .

15 thoughts on “Dream’s End.

  1. Congratulations! Oma looks fabulous. This just makes me even more happy that I ordered mine. I can’t wait until she arrives. The basket looks great too. I ordered the standard front rack but am now thinking I should go for the basket instead. Would you mind telling me which one it is?

  2. Thank you!

    I may still get a front rack at some time – the woman at Clever Cycles carries a 3′ hamper on hers and totes home 50 lbs of vegetables in front and her 3 year old in back! But until I can climb my hills easily I want to limit the loads I can pile up.

    This is a Basil wire basket that just hooks over the handlebars – I like its portability. I’d planned to get a wicker basket, but found the sleek utilitarian look of the black mesh just appealed to me more.

    The basket is as big as it can be without being unwieldy to carry around. I’ve discovered I actually don’t need to strap on a bag in the back – swim gear, purse, camera, a bag of garden bulbs, bulb-digger, bike lock and water bottle all fit nicely without messing too much with the steering.

    There is a C-shaped part that steadies the back of the basket against the headstem. Mine sadly has already worn through the front sticker :( – but husband says he has some rubber wire casing for me to wrap around it that will solve that problem.

    I’m excited for you. How soon until your bike comes?

    • that boy is 7, actually! the seat is rated to 78lbs.

      re the gears slipping, indeed it is unusual for cable stretch to progress to the slipping point after only a few days. do have a look at where the shift cable emerges from the shifter on the handlebars. see that the shift housing is seated in the socket on the shifter. on rare occasions (less rare when certain front baskets cause the shift cable housing to bend sharply!), the housing will become unseated and stick on the edge of its socket, changing the effective cable length and screwing up the shifting. any time the shifting seems suddenly to act up, check this first. it’s easy to re-seat. try to route the shift cable around/behind any front basket so it makes only gentle bends.

      when you come in for your 30-day (or sooner) service, we’ll show you how to re-adjust the shift cable should it ever get out of whack again. not hard, but it does require undoing granny’s corset-style chaincase and having a look up into the works.

      re climbing: when you need more power on a steep section, or in a headwind or whatever, try leaning forward to rest your elbows on the handgrips, while you grasp the bars at the center where they meet the stem. this lets you put your back into the pedaling as on a triathlete’s rig, sort of.

      • Thanks, Todd. My husband was in town last weekend and swung by your shop and some of the great people there showed him how to reseat the cable. He came home and fixed it in just a few minutes.

        Re climbing: thanks for the suggestion. The extra pounds (And maybe the different geometry?) does make the Oma harder on the hills – and we’ve got some real doozies in any ride we take around here.

        But I’m doing it – except the days I’ve had groceries in the basket. Then I still get off and walk part way.

        I’ve decided the daily climb here is just early training for our ride to Astoria up over the Coastal Range. Come April I’m going to be laughing at those killer hills.

        We’re hoping to bike into Portland in the next few weeks for the 30-day service – maybe make a weekend of the trip!

  3. Thanks for the info. I thought it may be Basil from the look. It goes very well with the bike and the proportions look good. I think a utilitarian basket suits the Oma. I have to wait around 6 weeks until the arrival of my Oma. I live in Scotland and the UK suppliers only seem to stock Workcycles’ cargo bikes, not the Oma. (Pashley rules over here but that’s also a great bike!) I’m getting my Oma shipped directly from Workcycles in Amsterdam. The staff there are really helpful. You can tell they love their bikes and are proud of them. I wish you lots of happy trips on your bike. Sounds like a great decision!

  4. ohhh you have two blog, so nice!! I love my Pashley, she comes second just after my boyfriend (if it was the other way round would be worrying lol!). She’s definitely a ‘she’ to me, mostly because in Italian bicycle is ‘la bicicletta’ and it’s a female noun : ) My Pashley is called Vita, I am never happier than when I get to go on rides with her for leisure or for work. If there is something wrong I worry, just like you… she feels more like a friend than a ‘machine’… I love how bikes can bring happiness… and freedom and independence! Lorenza x

  5. @ Lorenza – Yes, that is what I love best about bikes, too – the vitality of happiness, the freedom of easy and self-powered mobility.

    “Vita” – is that “Life” / “Liveliness”? What an appropriate name if so.

    I do not know if the Oma will ever have a name beyond Oma. She may prefer that common and familiar familial title.

  6. This is fabulous news! I hope you enjoy this beautiful bicycle for many years to come.

    Re the basket: those attachments are inherently flimsy and damaging to the paint. Consider a front rack set-up like Dottie’s?

    • I am considering the front-rack. But I do like being able to take the basket in with me to the grocery – self-limits the amout I buy. And an easily removable basket has been part of my personal biking daydream for all these years since renting a bike with just such a basket in Belgium – but I am going to have to repaint the headtube and do something about protecting it for the future.

      • front racks are particularly great when the rear rack area is taken up by a child and his or her seat. if you’re not hauling a child, grocery panniers for the sturdy rear rack are an obvious, cost-effective first direction. we’ve got some patterned on US paper grocery sacks so you know that no matter how stuffed, you can carry 2 bags without repacking.

  7. Pingback: . . . don’t need a horse « Blog Archive « why eye . . .

  8. Pingback: . . . and the Oma? | imaginary bicycle

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