Monday, March 15, 2010

The Bicycles of Craigslist

I've mentioned before that I have a rather ugly old aluminum mountain bike. I can't really talk badly about it, since I rode it happily for years and took it to work, on the train or bus, to the store, on vacation, and everywhere else. It is a simple, sturdy bicycle.

But now that I have discovered the joys of the roadster bicycle, I just can't enjoy riding the mountain bike anymore. Ergonomically, it feels all wrong - the seat feels like it's too far forward, the frame seems short, and the steering and suspension feel totally different on that rigid aluminum. Plus it looks so...sporty. I hate riding it.
Yet, it can be so handy. It can fit in or on a car, unlike my 2 step-throughs. It can be used on more rugged terrain. Plus, I have been leaving it at a friend's house across town for unexpected excursions.

Finally, I realized that I need a new bicycle! Something different than my usual city bikes. Something I can make short trips around town on, then load onto a trunk-mounted rack to take on vacation to the mountains, beach, etc. or even something I can take vacations on (e.g. bicycle touring). Such a bicycle should be multi-terrain: a mountain bike. It should still be steel and look decent riding around town: an older mountain bike. It should be extra sturdy and able to carry gear: long chainstays and either a diamond-frame (a.k.a. "men's frame") or a mixte. It should be able to fit on a standard trunk-mounted rack: not a mixte. It should be super easy to repair, even on the road: standard parts and sizes. Of course, it should be good quality.

This led me to the inevitable Craigslist search. After sifting through the mess of poor quality mass-produced beaters, sloppy descriptions and bad photos, weird full-suspension mountain bikes, and back-of-the-garage vintage junkers, I've found a couple of contenders. And in the process, I have been drooling over the steady stream of pretty city step-through bicycles. Right now, there is an early-80s Takara in bright red, a sleek Panasonic, an assortment of old Schwinns, and several older Raleighs including a lovely Raleigh Sprite mixte. I can only hope that someone will take them home and love them.


  1. aha! i knew it. you've been hit with the bike bug. you are realizing that there is no "one bike does all". you need one for every different purpose. as the ads say, you need to collect them all!

    here's my rundown of "essential" bikes (others may have different lists):

    - urban upright bike: with baskets/racks/chainguard/chaincase, internally geared hub. this is for day-to-day comfortable, leisurely rides around town, with enough practicality to run errands.

    - touring bike: lightweight, with fenders and racks for touring bags, and wide-range gearing for day-long or week-long touring.

    - sport-touring bike: like a touring bike, but even lighter, without all the racks, and with sportier gearing, slightly more aggressive geometry, and narrower tires. this is for short day trips out of the city, and brisk rides.

    - "beater" bike: this can be any bike that you don't care for (in my case, an old ugly aluminum mountain bike) that you use when you are too protective of your other bikes: like when you can't bear the thought of taking your lovely vintage 3-speed out on the salty slushy streets, or when you have the need to leave another bike locked up outdoors at another location.

  2. I just came across your blog via my Google alert since you listed Velo Vogue on your blog roll where I'm featured. I wholeheartedly agree with somervillain that you will end up having multiple bikes for different purposes once you start riding more often.

    I like having a folding bike for short rides that you can throw in the back of a car trunk without needing a rack. I also like cargo bikes, like an Xtracycle or Mundo, for transporting people and cargo. And if you're shopping for an upright urban bike, check out one of our new PUBLIC bikes at

  3. Now I agree that one needs more than one bicycle, so you will have something to ride if the other needs repairs. But beyond that is perhaps more a question of leisure? Case in point - my two city bikes (late 70s Takara and 73 Raleigh Sports) have gotten me to work, social events, etc. since 2007. The only time I've felt a need for something different was on vacation since I really can't carry them with me. But that's different, it's not daily transportation... It's (gasp!) recreational. And I honestly have a fear that trying to bicycle for its own sake - as touring or something - might take all the fun out of it for me! I guess I like multi-tasking. :)

    Nonetheless, I do want something for stashing and scooting around and taking along. We'll see how it goes.

    @D - the Public bicycles are very nice looking. I'm so happy to see the new roadster-style offerings being produced. I think it's a very practical design for US cities (more on that some other day). I also love the resurgence of mixtes. I do hope they will also introduce a true step-through design, and maybe some integrated lighting (or at least light mounts...) Thanks for sharing the link!

  4. I knew you had the hunger and were trolling for bikes when you tipped me off to that sweet, sweet Raleigh. The Law of Bicycle Need beckons! I saw that Sprite, too, but the person never responded to my inquiry.

    Keep it on the q.t. (shhh!) but I am building a bike for my sweetheart from a Peugeot mixte frame. It has great lugs. B is helping me out: what a resource.

  5. Supposedly you can never have too many bikes or too much money. The bikes I am positive about the money angle, not so sure. ;-)

    Have you considered building up a semi-custom bike? There are some awesome frames and bikes available from US builders like Mike Flannigan from A.N.T. But then again that might fall into the too much money category.

    Aaron (who really needs to part with some bikes)

  6. I am taking the build-a-bike route, for those who are interested! I have just acquired an old Maruishi diamond frame. Most of my parts should transfer right over; I may need new handlebars. It will be a true old-fashioned roadster (aside from the allegedly cro-moly steel), as in something that can navigate around town or carry luggage down dirt lanes and across fields... I'll post about it as soon as I have time to take some photos.