Beach cruisers

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I’ve been looking at a lot of beach cruisers lately. And I have completely fallen in love with the entire beach cruiser esthetic.

The upright ride. The big fat tires. The awesome designs of the bikes.

I also got to thinking about the whole “speeds” thing. I was thinking about how on that last long ride of ours (before I hurt my foot, which is doing much much better by the way) I stayed in that one gear the whole time. I enjoyed that immensely but the idea of getting a bike with only one gear gave me pause because I was worried that I might not like whatever gear the manufacturer chose to put on. Then I realized that it is very easy and inexpensive (better than installing a 3-speed hub anyway) to swap out cogs on those kinds of bikes. So if I got a bike and decided I didn’t like the gearing it was built with, it would be a simple matter to change the gears.

So I am very excited about getting a single speed beach cruiser bicycle. There are lots of options available to me now that I’ve discarded the three-speed requirement. Torker makes very nice looking bikes. But I’ve really been falling in love with the designs from Nirve. (Addendum: I’ve just now discovered Felt Beach Cruisers, very nice bikes, very nice prices) The only problem is that they are just out of my budget right now. I’m thinking that one of those bikes may be my Christmas gift to myself.

But for now, I’ve decided that I’m going to perform a little experiment. I’m going to take a very close look at the Huffy Cranbrook’s for sale locally. If I find one without flaws in the welding, I’m going to purchase it just to see how it stands up to my style of riding. Obviously, I’ll blog about my observations here.

The reason that I’m going to do this is because I believe in value. Yes, I know that the $300-plus bikes are substantially better. The question is, “Do I need better?” It’s much the same with cameras, in my career I’ve used everything from 30-year-old Pentax K1000s, to brand new $5,000 digital SLRs. But lately I’m pleased as punch grabbing the Fuji point-and-shoot I bought 3 years ago for $80. The more expensive cameras are better, it’s just that the cheap one fills my need perfectly.

I’m interested to see how the cheap bike holds up. It’s not like I’ll be riding across the country on the thing. I’m talking about riding the loop around Milo (which is only a square block) in the evenings, and the occasional 5-10 mile jaunt down the dirt road. Oh, and throwing them in the back when we visit Noel’s sister in KC. It’ll be a fun trial.

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Bikes bikes and more bikes

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Aug 6 bike ride - 04

The past couple weeks, I’ve been looking at a lot of bicycles.

I’ve come to a couple of conclusions that I thought I’d put into writing.

Number one is that I have to have an upright riding stance. The Huffy Sea Trails I’ve been riding (pictured above) is better than the hybrid Trek 7000 I rode before, but I feel as though I want to sit up even higher. Last time I visited my Grandmother, Noel and I took her beach cruisers for a spin down to Walgreens about a mile away. I loved it, very upright no stress in my back or shoulders. That’s what I want.

Second observation is that I do not need — or want — more than three speeds. During our entire 8.5 mile ride last night, I did not leave the lowest gear. I’m not sure if it’s first or second because something in my shifting system is out of whack. But I thoroughly enjoyed tooling along at our slow pace. Which it turns out wasn’t all that slow since we covered the distance in about an hour including many many picture stops.

None of the hills that we hit last night were terribly steep. But we never really felt them. We just pedaled. Sometimes we pedaled a bit slower and more forcefully, and sometimes we coasted a bit. It was immense fun not worrying about it.

Not to mention that 3-speed internal hubs are extremely simple and reliable.

I had been thinking that I wanted a really fast road bike or a goat-like mountain bike. But that’s just not how I ride. I’m not into the adrenaline thing. And while I think long cross-country tours are really cool, I don’t see myself ever doing such a thing. I want to explore the back roads close to home. I want bikes to strap on the back of the camper or throw in the pickup to ride when we get where we’re going.

My thrill comes from poking along with my Beloved seeing the sights, or getting the groceries.

Thirdly, I still believe I want fatter tires. Last night our 26×1-3/8’s did okay. But I feel the balloon tires of a beach cruiser would add a bit more comfort and a lot more sure-footedness.

Finally, I want something that looks good! Something with some style! Know what I mean?

So to this end I spent last night trying to find all the beach cruiser style bikes with three-speed internal hubs that I can. And I have to say that I’m rather discouraged at what our options are, there just aren’t many good quality cruisers (that I can find).

The Trek Drift looks okay, especially in the “driftwood brown” scheme. But it has an aluminum frame and I prefer the steel and it also has no matching women’s frame. And I would really love it if Noel and I could get matching bikes.

I’d buy a Trek Calypso. I love the paint scheme, and the women’s frame is a perfect match. But it’s aluminum and it has a derailleur shifting system.

The Torker Boardwalk 3 is a strong possibility. Steel frame, internal 3-speed, matching women’s bike. My only caveat is that bright red paint, but it’s not necessarily a deal breaker.

My strongest candidate however may come as a shock to any “serious bicyclist” who finds their way to my humble blog. It is the Huffy Cranbrook. It has a steel frame, fat tires. Comes with metal fenders. I absolutely love the looks of it, and there is a (somewhat) matching women’s model. And it sells for only $75 at my local Wal-Mart.

I would ordinarily be pretty wary of such a cheap bicycle. But shortly after Noel and I were married I sold our car and bought us two Huffy mountain bikes to get around town on. One summer I commuted every day to work from Niceville, FL, to Destin, FL, on that $100 bike. The one way trip was about 15 miles. And it held up to that abuse without a single complaint. So Huffy bikes hold a place of respect in my heart.

The only problem is that it’s not a three-speed. I figured I could buy the appropriate hub and rebuild the wheel. Then I found these folks on Amazon who have done just that. They sell a 26-inch wheel with three-speed hub and all the necessary levers and cables, etc. All I have to do is swap the wheels out. Before going through all that trouble though, I intend to just ride it. I might find that I don’t even need the three speeds!

So it looks like there’s a nice, comfy beach cruiser in my bicycling future.

Though I feel a little funny, buying a $75 bike and throwing a $175 rear wheel on it. Oh … and let’s not forget my $100 saddle!

PS – Oh yeah, can’t forget, we have to get wicker baskets for them!

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