Quick. Imagine a bicycle.
Is your bicycle the same as the one I dreamed up?
Maybe. Maybe not.
If your idea of a bicycle includes a carbon-fiber frame, electronic derailleurs and the latest in ridiculous bottom-bracket standards, rest assured that wasn’t the one I had in mind. Neither was I thinking about this upright, back-to-back tandem.
Nonetheless, it’s your imaginary bike. Enjoy.
But why stop at just one? Liberally applied, the term bicycle covers a number of human-propelled ideas, and all of your favorites will fit on a piece of paper. It’s not like you’re spending money.
So, what’s on your wish list? Here’s my take-five memo in no particular order:
Brompton. Made in London for around 30 years, this folding bicycle with 16-inch wheels offers one of the best combinations of rideability and compact storage. The interesting thing about the company isn’t that it continues to grow from its high-labor, high-rent base; it’s that its competitors never really intruded on its design brief. I’ll take the original M-style handlebar for an upright riding position, but I’d be happy with a 2-speed, 3-speed or 6-speed drivetrain. (Something a bit larger and less expensive? Okay. How about a Tern with 20-inch wheels?)
Volae Expedition recumbent. Comfortable, reduced wind resistance and an elegantly simple frame that accommodates a variety of tire widths. Good visibility in town. Brand originated by the Hostel Shoppe folks in Wisconsin. Steel backbone frame by Waterford.
650B-wheeled bicycle. The beauty of a high-end wish list is that the sky’s the limit. You don’t spend money to create it. It’s just a list. However, the more reasonable the price of the bicycle I’m not buying (yet), the more attainable it seems to be. That’s why I’m not specifying a chrome finish. The only problem with this bike–featuring generator lights, fenders, rack and less all-up weight than my Fisher–is that I’m particular about the seat-tube angle. I know I’m 5-foot-7, but something in 72, 73 degrees, somebody. Otherwise, I’ll have to think custom. And that’s even more money I’m not spending any time soon.
Greenspeed GT-3 recumbent tricycle. Comfort, stability, conservative steel frame, and I don’t currently own anything from an Australian company (frame built in Taiwan). There’s nothing like coming up to a stop sign without putting a foot down. This is civilization for those in a reclining frame of mind. It’s not the fastest recumbent in the world, but I’m not the fastest rider, either. (I would also consider a Florida-made Catrike or UK-based ICE. Talk me into it.)
Victory ordinary. I used to own an 1880s-style bicycle. It was made for me by a gentleman in Indiana named Kennedy, who also sold tiring based on the original formula. (During one visit, he showed me you really can balance a quarter on the antique hood of an idling Rolls-Royce. Good times.)
I love the simplicity of this design. No chains, no freewheel, no chainring, no air-filled tires. The front brake is a curved piece of metal that slaps down on the smooth red tread. It’s the right brake for the job. A more powerful one would cause you to pivot around the front hub and land on your face.
You don’t know riding a bicycle in the rain until you pedal a 50-inch front wheel across Peoria’s Franklin Street Bridge. However, since that bridge is no more, I suppose you could recreate the feel by pedaling across a stretch of mirror-smooth ice on a breezy day. Just be sure to take your lane and prepare for a left-hand turn before you return to dry pavement.
I sold the Kennedy years ago to buy a tandem. The Florida-built Victory looks to be of high quality, true to both 19th-century design and 21st-century metallurgy. (Alternative in a pinch: a homemade tall bike.)
Final note: I didn’t get carried away here. No mention of an electric bike, a fat bike, a cargo bike, an electric fat cargo bike or a unicycle. Those are entries for the Next Five list (though the unicycle is seductively affordable).
Hey, you have to draw the line somewhere.