This morning was perfect to roll out the tuned-up up Bianchi mixte. Cleaned and tweaked by my friends at Salem Cycle–they do a fantastic job with all bicycles I drag in for rehab. They also put up with my bicycle obsessions without making me feel unbalanced therefore I love them.
My mixte is small 10 speed, a garage rescue that was probably manufactured in the 1970’s. It has beautiful sparkly blue paint with white “Bianchi Astrale” lettering. The shifters are on the head tube which will make it easy to swap out the tiny it drop handle bars (when I can afford it) and it sported an old, cracked vinyl seat.
This bike was ridable when I found it. The most it needed was dusting off and new tires because the rubber dried and cracked after nearly forty years in a garage or basement. It now has a new saddle, bright blue handle bar tape and shorter black brake and shifter cables. I really liked the original white cables but they were huge, HUGE looping lengths of cable sprouting off the handle bars. It must have been the style of the 1970’s but it looked like the bike was sporting insect antennae and posed as something that would hit my chest or face if I leaned over the handlebars to crank.
Here’s the wikipedia definition of the mixte:
One particular type of step-through frame is called a mixte. In a mixte frame, the top tube of the traditional diamond frame is replaced with a pair of smaller tubes running from the top of the head tube all the way back to the rear axle, connecting at the seat tube on the way. The normal seat stays and chain stays are retained. This provides the greater stand over height of a step-through frame bicycle while avoiding some of the additional stresses the step-through frame bicycle places on the seat tube.
A direct appropriation of the French word meaning “mixed” or “unisex”, “mixte” is pronounced “MEExt”, although the usual North American bicycle industry pronunciation of this loan word is “MIX-ty”. Both pronunciations are widely used.
I remember first seeing these bikes when I was eight or ten years old. Most cyclists on mixtes were older, cool teen girls with their bell bottoms strapped on the right leg. I don’t remember any Bianchi mixte’s, mostly Peugeot and Panasonic. I wanted a mixte, not because it was a girl’s bike but because I also wanted long blonde hair, a macrame belt and huge bell bottoms that the mixte girls all sported. They were just so cool.
This morning was sunny and warmer. Snow receded enough from the sides of the road to make it barely safe to ride and there aren’t too many cars on the roads on Saturday morning before ten. I wore winter cycling gear and stuffed my hair into a hat and under my helmet, looking like a run-of-the-mill insane winter cyclist. In my mind, however, I had long, flowing “Marcia Brady hair” and the beads on my macrame belt were clacking away as they trailed behind in the summer breeze.
I got a couple of nods from the hard-core cyclists guys who barely ever acknowledge me because I don’t roll in crushed glass after a fifty mile ride (how do they know that??). As their little group passed by me, one of older guys yelled out, “Hey, nice mixte!”. This bike is so cool.