Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Perfect City Bike

I purposefully try not and post pictures of my bikes or talk about my latest bike ride. I hate blogs that do. Really, who the fuck cares about how fast you biked on what bike but you? But for educational reasons--people really do ask me more than you think about what city bike to buy--I'll make an exception for my Amsterdam bike. Go on, click and zoom. She's a beaut. Also the ideal city bike. At least if you live in a flat city. Here's why:

•One speed.

•Upright handle bars (I like a little bend in my back to give me more power. For softer peddlers, go for the completely upright omafiets.)

•Huge saddle bags (what use is a bike if you can't carry thing? These bags are large enough to carry 10-liter jerry cans of diesel fuel. They often do).

•Dynamo-powered lights (I often don't use them because I don't like the drag or the sound. And unlike New York, I don't think lights are always needed in Amsterdam).

•Steel frame (to last... and to soften bumps in the road).

•Light enough (to lift up or down stairs every now and then).

•Nice paint job (that at one time matched the paint job of Athena)

•Beaded decorative pimp work (from Syria).

(The last two items may not be absolutely necessary, but they can't hurt.)

And the seemingly silly but actually essential aspects of city bikes:

•At least one rain-proof brakes (here they both are: front drum, rear coaster).


•Chainguard (both good for the pants and good for the chain).

•Bell (from Egypt).

•Kickstand (because what you gonna do when you get off your bike?)

Not that you asked, but the make is Batavus and the model is Barcelona.

Man, she's been good to me. I think I've had this bike for about 12 years. I bought her used for, I don't remember, probable about 225 guilders or $150. At the time I was lot poorer. But I won't buy a stolen bike. Even when junkies are selling stolen bikes for 50 guilders. Or free if you just jack one from a junkie trying to sell a bike he just stole (now there's some complicated ethics there).

Luckily, I can keep this bike at my brother's place when I'm gone. When I show up, I put air in tires and she's good to go. I haven't given the bike any maintenance in years. I enjoy working on bikes. But not if I'm on vacation for a few weeks in Amsterdam and have no tools.

Notice the lock. By NYC standards, it sucks. For Amsterdam, though, it's good enough. Thieves in Amsterdam are junkies, not professional thieves. They're not looking for expensive bikes or components to sell to chop shops. They're opportunistic bastards, looking for any ridable bike to sell quickly for their next hit.

On this bike there's also the standard Amsterdam rear-wheel lock. I love these locks. So does everybody I've ever given one to. Talk about the perfect stocking stuffer! The rear wheel lock not only protects your rear wheel, it's a great way to make sure you never leave you bike unlocked, not ever for a second. Not because you think you need to lock your bike for that one second, but because you wouldn't dare leave your keys behind while you run in to buy a newspaper. See the keys can't come out of the lock if it's unlocked. Brilliant.

In Amsterdam, they're considered standard but second-rate locks. In the U.S., these Amsterdam rear-wheel locks have better deterrence value because thieves haven't seen them. And for my fancy road bike in NYC, this lock fits in the rear pocket of my pants. I don't leave home without it.

In Amsterdam, a chain lock is better than a Kryptonite u-lock there are more big objects you can lock to some of time.

But in Amsterdam, you can also lock a bike to itself and feel pretty secure. Often, because there are so many bikes, you have no choice.

My theory is that most stolen bikes everywhere simply aren't locked. Hey, I've forgotten more than once (though I never would have believed it had my bike been stolen). You go to 1,000 parked bikes, one will be unlocked.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks for making the exception!

Good to see it in NYC, some normalcy! :)

All you said, true.

Greetz from Amsterdam