Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Short on Comfort

1961 Jaguar MK IV

The weather is embarrassingly good again today. Nonetheless, morning found me cranky. One of those days where everything sounds off key, and all things annoying seem to congregate beneath my window. Like fragmented sentences. Like Blogger jumping back to the 'Times' font after I repeatedly change it to Verdana. I have to look at the keys when I type, and I still type with some two to four fingers, but mostly with two. Every time I looked up at the screen the damn thing had changed font again. So I closed Firefox, and opened IE. Font remains the same. Good. Except I lost about half of what I had written.

So where was I? Oh, yeah. Like I said I just woke up with fingernails on my inner blackboard. So I got out the bicycle, pumped some air into the tires, and went out to burn off some of the toxins. Good thing to have done. I made a short loop- maybe five or six miles with easy hills, and it felt good.

I got the bike last year. Here's an example of the subtle PC of marketing. They politely call it a Comfort Bike, which is like a beach cruiser stripped of any pretense of cool. It's an old guy's bike, a 'socks and sandals set' bike. Upright riding position, telescopic front forks, shock under the seat. Low gears. Slow. I like it a lot.

It's funny- through the mid seventies, and early eighties I bought and sold quite a few Schwinns, both to obtain parts for the Classics I was restoring, and just to ride around. It never occurred to me that those old Chicago built Spitfires would one day be extinct like the Jaguar, The Starlet, and the B-6. Schwinn is now just a badge on bicycles imported from China. They're fine bikes, and all, but the Spitfire was American steel. (although the Bendix coaster brake came from Mexico)

The size, the weight, the easy handling of that cruiser made it the mechanical equivalent of a tennis shoe. One of my favorite ways to spend a Saturday was to take the old one speed out for an all day ride. Some times I'd pick off over fifty miles, riding out to the Santa Ana River trail, and following it down to Newport Beach at River Jetties, then Back down to Huntington, and then twenty some odd miles back up Beach Boulevard to LaHabra. Or the San Gabriel River trail, west of here. That one was fun because the San Gabriel riverbed is entirely paved, and the banks are smooth concrete slopes, some fifteen to twenty feet high. The Spitfire held those walls like a gecko. You could surf up and down those banks for miles. But the Spitfire just wasn't fast. A loop to the river beds was an all day proposition no matter how hard you worked at it. Just for the record, I actually made two or three such rides with the bike in the picture, but it wasn't easy. I haven't tried to do any serious distance on the comfort bike. I'm sure I could make it down to the beach on the thing. Getting home- I'd want a ride. But today was just a short loop. Enough to feel the workout. Enough to pick up a thorn and get a flat, despite the thorn proof tire liner thing. But the machine likes me. It didn't go flat until after I got home. No small thing to be grateful for.



Joan of Argghh! said...

Oooooh! What a lovely heartache you've posted here. I miss my old Schwinn, beast that it was. I rode everywhere on it, miles and miles of everywhere.


julie said...

I never had a bike with that coolness factor, but I did love to ride. Reminds me, I wrote about biking once, a couple years back. I'd like to say I stuck with it, but alas, no. The trouble with buying a cheap bike is that it's too uncomfortable to ride.

I like those old cruisers, though. They may be slow, but at least your butt doesn't get bruised. Also, I bet it's more of a workout than the lightweight, flashy multi-speed type.

mushroom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mushroom said...

Flats are a problem for me on the skinny tires. I am just too heavy for them to hold up. I never had that problem on my old cruiser.

It's kind of a funny thing about the workout aspect isn't it? Most people seem to want the fastest bike and the lightest shoes and all the stuff to make the workout easier. So -- you have to go longer and harder to burn the same amount of calories?

Robin Starfish said...

The old girl is serious competition to man's best friend.