The Red Bicycle Fleet

My husband is a lucky man. A very, very lucky man. He’s lucky I don’t have an obsession with high-end sports cars or mink coats or fine art. We’d be bankrupt and homeless if I did because every time the garage door is opened, it is quite obvious I act upon my obsession.

My obsession is bicycles. I love bicycles. I collect bicycles. Fortunately the collection is mainly discarded old bikes so it’s a fairly cheap obsession.

Why bikes? I have no idea. I’ve always loved bikes. Smashing my nose on a parked car on my first independent ride did nothing to deter this obsession. My first bike was a purple sting-ray with a sparkly banana seat. A gift for my 6th birthday, stolen–alas from our garage in Detroit, Michigan. Perhaps my bike collection has been a childhood quest to regain my treasured purple bike? Who knows, who cares.

These are my bikes:

This is the one that started it all. Single speed, Phat Coach Chopper in black and orange. It's huge.

This is the bike that started my collection. I found it on e-bay back in 2000 for a steal. It was a demo bike for a magazine reviewer who rode it once. It’s a blast to ride but honestly, I look kind of ridiculous on it now as I’m not a tattooed, leather clad biker chick. You need strong legs and really good balance for this bad boy. It is single speed, HUGE and has a very odd center of gravity. It’s for rolling around boardwalks and catching the eyes of biker dudes–something I’ve never been able to pull off because the biker dudes kind of scare me.

Armstrong 3-speed outfitted for lugging around the cowardly bad dog

This is my work horse, a the Armstrong 3-speed, found on craigslist. It usually has a milk crate on the back for riding around with my dog Artie. I get a ton of the “Wicked Witch of the West” theme sung to me when I ride with him in the crate. It’s also nicknamed the Red Rocket by my co-workers who thought it was hilarious to see me ride it to work. Steel frame, weighs around 40 pounds without the dog–tooling around town on this is a good workout.

Schwinn 3-speed dog-mobile. Good dog in the crate, bad dog on the ground waiting for revenge

Two dogs=two bikes with milk crates. This is a beautiful Schwinn 3-speed. Word-of-mouth brought this to my garage. Who could ever part with it? It’s perfect! Chrome fenders, original everything, working Shimano shifter. All it really needed was air in the tires. It’s huge–way too big for me, so my husband rides it with the other dog (who isn’t as good as Artie on a bike). She wouldn’t sit still so Artie’s the model which caused a lot of grief for him once he was back on the ground.

Phillips Ladie's 3-speed. Beautiful garbage find, I adore this bike.

This was a garbage bike, can you believe it??? Therefore it is an absolute treasure to me. It needed a bit of tuning to get it riding well which was worth every cent. It’s got a steel frame but feels so light and responsive. This is the bike I ride most often.

And here’s the rest of the present-day fleet:

This little bike is probably the answer to my long lost purple sting-ray. It’s my son’s bike and he prefers riding it over his mountain bike. It’s comfortable and easy to ride despite how heavy it feels. He gets a bit of attention on it–mostly, “Hey! Cool bike!”

My youngest son's Hot Rod sting ray

This was a Columbia 3-speed but is now a single-speed with a coaster brake. It’s so much fun to ride.

Another freebie. It's good to let people know your obsessions. It's now a single speed with a coaster brake. It's light, fast and a blast to ride.

This bike makes me think of a 1950’s paperboy bicycle. It’s got both hand and coaster brakes which is a good thing because neither work well alone.

This is a beauty--another craigslist find, it was owned by someone who knows bikes. Check out the bend in the top tube.

Here’s a picture of my Bianchi Astrale Mixte. I waxed nearly poetic about my mixte in previous posts that are still getting a lot of hits. I think there’s a thriving mixte subculture out there which is fantastic.

1970's Bianchi Astrale mixte

I love simple, basic road bikes and I think Specialized makes some beauties–I especially love models with a bare minimum of gadgets. For me the beauty of riding is the ability to get around on two wheels. It’s not keeping track of how fast or far I go.

Specialized Langster single/fixie. This is a fun bicycle but no longer part of the fleet.

I traded in my Specialized Langster last April. I absolutely loved that bike but I was terrified riding fixed-gear thanks to a near-miss on the road. I debated keeping it with great hopes that I could conquer my dread but the reality is I’m getting more cautious as I get older. I started riding fixed too late.

Specialized Allez. It's light, fast, simple and awesome.

The Specialized Allez is the trade-off bike and I love it. It’s my Breaking Away bicycle. Breaking Away is one of my favorite movies–did I even need to say that?

Breaking Away

About EF Sweetman

writing, reading, pretty much everything noir
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4 Responses to The Red Bicycle Fleet

  1. redriverpak says:

    I’ll bet you loved “American Flyers” then too didn’t you? Great flick!

  2. sweetman says:

    Wow! I did but forgot until just now!

  3. very cool post! some good reading and brought back memories!

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