The Bicycle as a Vehicle of Self Expression

Civia Bryant

I have a friend who rides only the most exquisite and rarefied handmade bicycles. His bikes are always perfectly appointed to match the style and era from which they came. He’s a true aficionado. I have another friend who rides a big box mountain bike for transportation. He’s only concerned with basic functionality and as long as his bike gets him to where he needs to go, he could care less how it looks or where it came from. He’s a user of bicycles, but he’s anything but what most people think of as a “cyclist”. In both cases, their approaches to bicycling are clear and obvious expressions of their differing personalities.

Most of us fall somewhere between these two extremes. Within the broad spectrum between fetishism and pure practicality exists a myriad of niches to which we can knowingly or unknowingly assign ourselves. Some of us outfit our bikes with leather, cotton, and cork while only using retro parts such as friction shifters, freewheels, and cottered cranks; others insist upon the latest in high tech gadgetry such as carbon belts, internal gear hubs, and STI shifters; while others choose to ride only fixed gear bikes tricked out with matching anodized components. Wherever each of us falls in the spectrum, the bike we choose to ride (and the way we outfit it) often says something about who we are and how we want the world to see us.

Rivendell Sam Hillborne

Personally, I’m a bit of a chameleon. I certainly lean toward preferring the classic look of lugged frames, gently curved handlebars, and level top tubes, but, I can also get excited about modern, high-tech bikes, particularly when the technology makes sense and provides real advantages in functionality. Probably more important to me than the particular style of a bike is that the parts and accessories installed on it are a good aesthetic match for the bike. For example, to my eye, many modern bikes don’t pair well with Brooks saddles, hammered fenders, and shellaced bar tape, while rubber hand grips, synthetic racing saddles, and STI shifters look out of place on a vintage frame.

I still haven’t decided who’s the more evolved bicyclist; my friend who rides the handmade bikes or my friend who rides the department store bikes. I suppose it doesn’t matter; what really counts is that they’re both out there on the road enjoying bicycles in their own unique way.

How Old is Your Commuter?

1993 Bridgestone XO-1

The great response to our “Refurbs” post from the other day has me wondering how many of our readers are riding older bikes as their primary commuter. This calls for a poll… :-)

How old is your commuter bike?

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Bryant/LHT Overlay

Bryant/LHT Overlay

Here’s the 58cm Civia Bryant superimposed over the 56cm Surly Long Haul Trucker. This is really interesting. Notice how similar these bikes are. Even though the Bryant is the “larger” bike, the wheelbase and seat tube are slightly shorter than the LHT’s. The Bryant’s head tube is slightly taller and the standover height is essentially identical on both bikes. The difference in the position of the contact points is due almost solely to the stem length and handlebar design. This is quite a contrast to the overlay in the prior post.

Overlay Fun, Sizing, and Sloping Top Tubes

Bryant-Hillborne Overlay

Here’s a new overlay showing a 58cm Civia Bryant superimposed over a 60cm Rivendell Sam Hillborne. The Civia has a “downsloping” top tube, meaning the size is measured along the seat tube from the bottom bracket to a theoretical top tube above the actual top tube. The Rivendell, on the other hand, has an “upsloping” top tube, meaning the size is a true measurement to the top tube, with the top tube sloping uphill from there. That difference in measuring methods explains the greater than 2cm difference in size between these frames even though they list as 2cm apart on a spec sheet. It’s also interesting to note that because of the difference in handlebar set-ups, the smaller bike has a slightly longer reach to the bars. The moral of the story? There’s the numbers, then there’s the actual bikes and how they fit; don’t confuse the two.

LAB Bicycle Friendly Universities


With two kids already enrolled in college and another headed that way in the not too distant future, the recent release of the first-ever League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Universities list is timely for our family. From the LAB website:

The Bicycle Friendly University (BFU) program recognizes institutions of higher education for promoting and providing a more bicycle-friendly campus for students, staff and visitors. The BFU program provides the roadmap and technical assistance to create great campuses for cycling. The first round of Bicycle Friendly Universities were announced at the National Bike Summit.

View the BFU Master Award List

Denver’s B-cycle Opens for Second Season

Denver B-cycle

Denver’s B-cycle bike sharing system opened for its second season this week. Last year, B-Cycle members took 102,981 rides totaling 211,111 miles on the system’s 500 bicycles. Approximately 20% of those rides were multi-modal, combining bike trips with bus and light rail.

More at the Denver Post

[via Cyclelicious]


1993 Bridgestone XO-1

There’s a time-honored tradition of hunting down old, but good quality bicycles and re-purposing them for commuting and utility use. Japanese-made, lugged-steel touring and mountain bikes from the late 1980s and early ‘90s seem to be particularly popular candidates for resurrection, probably because of their high quality frames and relatively low prices. This activity seems to be growing in popularity, most likely driven by the SS/fixie craze as well as our poor economy. As you’d expect, these old bikes are starting to fetch higher prices as the demand has increased and the finite supply has inevitably dwindled.

There’s a time-honored tradition of hunting down old, but good quality bicycles and re-purposing them for commuting and utility use.

Of course, refurbs aren’t limited to bikes from a particular era or of a particular quality. A friend who works at a bike kitchen does a ton of rebuilds based upon no-name frames from various countries and eras. He also happens to have an interest in old Schwinns and he’s restored a number of nice ones to near original condition. Then there’s the cult of the Raleigh 3-speed, which is a whole world unto itself.

Probably because I cut my biking teeth during that era, the lugged steel bikes mentioned above hold a particular fascination for me. I’ve yet to do a refurb, but if I did, I’d probably be looking at a lugged-steel Trek touring bike, a Specialized Stumpjumper, or perhaps even a Bridgestone XO-1, though it’s my understanding that the Bridgestone and the Treks (particularly the 720) have been fetching high prices for some time now.

I’d be curious to hear from those who are riding refurbed bikes that are at least 20 years old. What are you riding and what type of modifications were required? What was your motivation for refurbing an old bike: cost savings, the vintage vibe, the green aspect, or something else?

© 2011 EcoVelo™