Not only did my husband re-introduce me to the joys of biking – oh, years ago now – but this weekend . . .
This weekend we took a quick breakaway to Portland to pick up books at the library (Julia Child’s My Life in France finally in after months of waiting). Multnomah County Central is my idea of a kind of paradise – all the world’s wealth of words and where else can you leave with more than you came in with and not a penny poorer?
But you know already from the picture and title above that books were not the sum of the story. We dropped off our loaded library bag. “Why don’t we walk?” said my husband. And down the street from the library is this place:Portland’s downtown Bike Gallery with its intricately hinged-and-hardwared oaken doors, including the heavy but beautifully windowed rotating door, and old-style gold stenciled letters picked out on the windows. “They have the Electra Ticino you’ve been admiring. It’s on sale.”
Though what caught my eye once we were inside were a mermaid green Gary Fisher, a cherry red Electra Sport and the Electra Classic in classic black which I had written off as boring from its on-line pictures.
But in real life the black Classic is classy.
And the Ticino (which has lovely lines but no chain guard – derailleur instead of internal hub gearing) won’t do for my need for two-wheeled transportation that allows me to wear skirts and other regular clothes without reverse skunk-stripes and the risk of gears chewing my hems.
However, the Classic with its glossy black finish and subtle detailing and a dress guard as well as a full chain-case . . .
Within five minutes I was seated on the Electra Classic in my boots and wool wide-legs and a long black coat and paisley scarf (i.e. – real clothes) coasting down the bike lane in the rainy early dark with headlamp beaming and the soft hiss of the rim-generator. The people of Portland smiled at me as I rolled along beneath the bright yellow Test Drive Bike Gallery helmet.
I don’t know, maybe it wasn’t the helmet – maybe it was the uncontainable grin on my face.
I loved the upright ride and the smoothness of the roll. I loved how much more I could see, the ease of the hand position, my reflection in shop windows coasting by with coattails flapping.
But 3 speeds? Because I have an unavoidable monster hill to climb each time I come home, I don’t think I can get by with so few gear options. Though the Classic’s low gear did feel nice and easy on the slight hill on Harrison and down along the Park Blocks. Electra also makes a similarly styled (chain case, dress guard, full fender, mud flaps) 8-speed. But the Royal is aluminum.
I need to know: what is the difference between aluminum and steel? Steel flexes. Aluminum is stiff. Does it matter that much? Aluminum is what I have now in my basic Specialized hybrid and I’ve ridden it with pleasure for more than a decade. Is there really that much difference in the smoothness of the ride? Would the difference in weight make the aluminum a better choice anyway for me and my unavoidable hill?
Next weekend they’ll have both the Royal and the Classic in the shop for me to ride and compare.
“But you should try the best of the best, too. So you know what you’re choosing.” Says he who is a bit of a fetishist about his own bike/s and their componetry.
Which I’ve never understood before. Bikes being practical fresh-air transportation and as long as they roll, who needs anything more?
But of late I’ve been contaminated with a new created need for the sweeping, curving lines of a dignified upright ride.
We walked back in a light smattering of rain to our parked car. My husband laughed whenever my excitement bubbled up again over the smoothness, the comfort, the stateliness . . . “You weren’t nearly so enthusiastic when I dragged you in to get the Specialized – what was that? – ten years ago? twelve?”
“But I’m very fond of her now.”
“Not that you’d mind replacing her?” I believe you’d use the word fond also to describe the smiling head-shake he gives me.
Test-riding the best for me would mean a trip here: Clever Cycles across the river on Hawthorne Blvd. Clever Cycles carries Electra but also Retrovelo, Gazelle and WorkCycle – among others less enticing to me. (Also, the Brompton folding bike my husband, who has been a Bike Friday faithful, has lately been eyeing.)
And what would be the best of the best for me?
Probably the WorkCycle Secret Service – a lighter, faster and more subtle member of Oma’s family. Isn’t she lovely and useful looking all at once?
Ah, the joys of dreaming . . . I’m afraid I’ll miss the fun when I finally have to settle and make a choice.