Oooooh, that’s a nice bike…pretty color, wide handle bars and a basket for your stuff, shiny fenders, coaster brakes, cushy seat, one gear, and you can easily stand with it between your legs at a stop light. That was my wife’s reaction when she saw this bike parked in a rack at William & Mary. She grew up with a cruiser, before they were called cruisers. When she started out, this bike was called a girl’s single speed bike with coaster brakes. OK, maybe not the marketing punch of simplicity like cruiser, but accurately descriptive.
In the late 1980’s, we built a house on Little Creek Reservoir, also known as Lake Toano. Since we lived in the county I thought it would be great to buy some bikes to ride around the area on the country roads. We could get up for an early morning ride and breathe in the fresh air during the fall. And we could ride down to the little grocery store at the bottom of the hill. And the exercise, that would be great, too. And we could spend quality time riding side by side, talking about life. We NEEDED bikes. I was convinced.
The spring after we moved in I bought two bikes, mountain bikes, as a surprise. I thought these would be perfect – flashy color, flat handle bars, no fenders, heavy duty hand brakes, moderately thin seat, plenty o’ gears, and relatively wide tires compared to a road bike. And, they were unisex. We could ride on the street, or head off road and check out some trails. This was going to be great! Well I am sure you can just about guess how surprised my buddy was when she walked into the living room, and there were two identical, blue mountain bikes. Oh yeah, she was surprised.
As always, she was appreciative that I not only had thought about the bikes, but taken it upon myself to get them, and keep it a secret. She said she looked forward to our first ride and could not wait. Funny thing, if you were reared on 10-speed bikes, hand brakes, low slung handle bars, and the occasional wet tire, hopping aboard a new mountain bike and taking off required very little investment of thought on how to make it all work. On the other hand, if your experience with bikes were limited to a simpler form, then the first ride down the driveway was a thrill of anticipation. She stepped over the cross bar, proceeded to peddle and tried to brake at the end of the driveway. She kept going into the street because, while she knew she had to use the handbrake, her experience told her to counter rotate the peddles. While trying to figure out the brakes, the gears were a whole new level of complexity – three sprockets in the front and seven in the rear. The seat was slightly hard and learning to angle the bike frame at stops took a little getting used to.
She was a gamer. We kept at it. She adapted to the brakes, became a friendly acquaintance of the gears, but never really liked the seat or leaning the bike frame at stops. After some months, we had to admit that what she truly enjoyed about riding was stepping through the bike, sitting on the seat, and peddling down the road. If she had to brake, all she had to do was reverse her peddling. We did not ride as much as I had hoped. When we moved into our present house, children, a dog named George Bailey, and other things took our attention. We did not ride very much.
As long as I have known her, she has always liked cruisers. I have been thinking about bikes again and what fun it would be to ride around. I could go take pictures and she could see the sights. We could get in a little exercise that is different from the gym. Here is an idea. Maybe I should buy her a cruiser so that I have someone to ride with? I could get her a really nice colorful one with wide handle bars and a basket. Maybe a few gears and easy to use hand brakes, and a comfortable seat. Or maybe, I could take her to the bike shop and let her pick whatever she wants – you know something like a girl’s single speed bike with coaster brakes. That is probably a better idea.