Interesting Stuff

Your Ride Tells All, Even With Bikes

After a recent movie at the Flicks Theater a friend remarked as we came outside, “Look at all the Northender Bikes.”

We never thought of bicycles as having a demographic origin, but sure enough–most of the bikes looked perfectly at home in the North End.

You all know what we are talking about. Those fat wheeled retro–or just plain old–bikes with no gear shift, coaster brakes and big wide handlebars. No easy peddle 21 speed models with center pull hand brakes for this crowd.
Who wudda thunk it? Even with two wheelers, your ride identifies your politics and maybe even the part of town where you live. Sure, there is some crossover with Northenders using those disdainful multi-gear mountain bikes which are the Hummer of two wheelers. And once in a while you will see someone on the bench–especially among the Kootenai and Cassia crowd–astride a retro Schwinn.

No two ways about it, your ride says a lot about your politics, especially when Team Dave manages to mention Dave Bieter’s old Schwinn cruiser in most profiles and press releases.

For the record the GUARDIAN stopped the salesman at George’s bike shop dead in his tracks when he inquired about tight ass Lycra bike shorts…in size 48! We peddle a 21 speed “comfort bike” with a cushy seat that is easy on the bum and high handle bars that are easy on the old back–just like our politics with some old and some new.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. My collection of bikes does not follow my politics. I own certain bike because the pleasure I get out of riding them. Some for cruising around the Northend, a couple for commuting/car replacement(Xtracycle) and then there is the wooden bike that I built.

    My truck tells about my politics but not the bikes or where I live(Northend). I am not generally a Team Dave fan, but I think it is great he still has his childhood bike.

  2. BoiseCitizen
    Jun 20, 2007, 7:35 am

    LOL, “Disdainful multi gear mountain bikes…” I ride over a 100 miles a week in the foothills, and to and from work, and you say that it is like a gas guzzling, earth polluting,status symbol,tax writeoff, Hummer? Well, maybe status symbol, my Santa Cruz Blur, does have 27 speeds,has a full suspension,is disc brake equipped and the bike is a sweet ride. It gives me great exercise. But like a Hummer? NO way! Geeez Dave, it a country full of overweight non exercising people, shouldn’t we be celebrating the fact that some choose to use alternative transportation?

  3. Dave… BIKES RULE!!! Cars are for the weak!

    What would you expect at the local artsy-fartsy movie house? Flicks, indeed! The 27-speed crowd is checking out the latest installment of Spiderman or Fantastic Four!

    But seriously (?), the riders who are fueling the retro-cruiser craze cross political and geographic boundaries. I’m no expert (ahem), but some like the nostalgia, some like the simplicity, and some are “posers” – they are most concerned about how awesome they’ll look as they pedal from place to place. (We can all agree – some of those whitewall-tire curved-tube cruiser bikes are gorgeous!)

    Nothing wrong with “posing,” I s’pose – the ultimate bike-posers are the guys (almost always guys) who ride up and down the Greenbelt, or to the bar on North 13th Street, on their $4000 full-suspension 27-speed mountain bikes, or 15-pound Italian road bikes (in the tight-ass Lycra shorts and team jerseys, of course).

    Bike riders’ image-consciousness pales by comparison to motorists’, though… don’t you agree? Criminy! Watch the car and truck ads on TV. Clay Aiken can get into his F350 Super-Duty and pretend he’s Joe Macho Lunchbox. Zoom-zoom! Look at the NAMES of vehicles… Chrysler is the leader with Durango… Caliber… NITRO! (Remember back in the Pinto days, when it was BAD when cars exploded?)

    I pity the kids nowadays. Back when I was a youth (giving away my age, a bit), the “coolest” kids drove ’57 Chevys, 289 Mustangs, Road Runners, Corvettes. Nowadays it’s a gutless rice-burner Neon with a bolt-on wing on the back (or is that thing a carrying handle?) and an aftermarket exhaust pipe that’s so fat you could stuff CDs into it… and makes the car sound like it has a REALLY bad case of flatulence! (I guess it has to be loud, though, or the kid can’t hear it over the 6000-watt Rolling Ghetto Blaster stereo.)

    Okay… I’ve vented. (Speaking of flatulence…)

  4. I like those retro-cruiser bikes, so I guess you know my politics now. I’m a “Northender” type who can’t yet afford to get into the North End.

  5. I always cringe when I see people riding department store “mountain bikes.” These are the people, generally, who wanted a recreational bike that might, on a tough day, see a couple miles on the Greenbelt. Those bikes are crap.

    These single sprocket cruiser bikes are perfect for dinking around like that–they are good bikes that serve the purpose they were designed to serve without all the phony, worthless gizmos that are put on department store “mountain bikes.”

    Still, I can’t help but see a certain signature “smugness” that comes with people that ride these bikes around. Actually, they don’t ride them; they just park them and then sit nearby sipping a soy latte and smugly looking around to see if anyone notices their coolness. Basically, these are Toyota Pious people, except without motors.

  6. Say,does anybody remember the English Racers all us easterner kids had back in the fifties? You know light frame ,3 gears with hand brakes and the carry bag behind yuor seat. I’d put my two gun holster on, my favorite cowboy hat ,hop on my flashy white and blue racer and go to the head of Briarcliff road. It was steep and a half mile down . By the time I got to the bottom I was either doing 50 MPH or singing the Cowboy blues.

  7. BoiseCitizen, how many of those 27 “speeds” (actually, BC, it has 27 gear combinations; speeds with any of them depend on how fast you pedal) do you actually use?
    I rode a “10-speed” road bike in Boise and nearby for years, but hated those skinny tires, especially on some of the city’s goat-trail streets and landmine sides of the roads (I grew up with a fat-tire Schwinn indestructible bike), so when the cheap “mountain bikes” came out, I got a “12-speed” job. The wider tires made riding the rough stuff a whole lot easier.

    But on both bikes, I found I generally used only three gear combinations — a fairly low one for going up steep hills, a medium for cruising fairly level routes at a comfortable speed, and a high one for when I wanted to really zoom down the highway (to try to keep from getting run over).
    Seems to me if anyone ever actually shifted through all 27 combos, he or she would spend all his or her time shifting gears, rather than enjoying the ride or actually getting somewhere.

    Kind of like the Hummers and the pickups with the huge lights on the roof that never go anywhere steeper than Eighth Street Extension or rougher than the average ACHD paving job — that is, lots of capability that’s never used but is intended only to impress the neighbors or somebody (and enrich the vehicle and bicycle sales people).

    Anyway, just curious about whether you (or others) have really found a use for all 27 gear combos.

  8. curious george
    Jun 20, 2007, 6:52 pm


    I’ve often wondered what a Roman infantryman’s bike would have looked like – problem solved!

    Mine’s an old Fuji chro-moly framed wonder, the peak of technology – 20 years ago (updated with a wide comfy seat, book rack, lights, and mud guards). $50 at a yard sale (with a $100 extra in parts & fix-its, and a helmet). Best investment I’ve made, not counting the northender I bought in ’92. Since I live in the “northend” but I don’t ride a 50’s retro (and my bike has caliper breaks), I must be the exception that proves the rule 😉

  9. Of course, those of us on the Bench need multispeed bikes (though I make do with 10). How the heck would you climb Protest Hill, Capitol, or Americana on a Schwinn Cruiser?

  10. I don’t like this stereotyping nonsense. I know it’s tongue-and-cheek (it better be), but hey, it’s L A M E. S U P E R L A M E. like me. I’m the lamest.

    I ride this L A M E old Schwinn RACER and I’m all rich and fancy and live in the NORTH END FOOTHILLS. I actually HATE MOUNTAIN BIKES.

    But generally, I don’t web-publish my own biases.

  11. As much as Guardian and most of the others who post here hate traffic and growth and all that comes with it, it astonishes me that you’d actually complain about someone’s choice of bike. So what if they bought a “crappy department store” bike or are just a “poser” with their “northender” bike more concerned about image than biking? It seems to me, if you truly hate the traffic and smog and pollution, anyone riding any bike anywhere for any reason is a Good Thing.

    I know it’s not much, but if someone’s crappy bike gets them off the road one day a month, isn’t that a start? If some wannabe rides his cruiser to alive after five to try and pick up chicks, isn’t that better than him driving down there? Hell, the fact that bikes (or at least certain types of bikes) can be seen as desirous status symbols should elate everyone here. Bikes are cool! The young kids want to own one and be seen on it!

    I am actually shocked that, given the nature of this website, any of you would be so hypocritical as to cast aspersions upon someone riding a bike.

  12. Naz, You make the best point on this page. A person on a bike is one less 1.5 ton lead sled on the road. So cruise around or pedal your tail off to work or fun.

  13. BoiseCitizen
    Jun 22, 2007, 7:04 am

    The number of gears I use depends on where I am riding. If I am riding up to the Boise Ridge road on the Hard Guy trail, I may only use one gear for the climbs. However, when I race at mountain bike races around the region I am continually working to maintain a steady pace. I will use various gears to acheive that. Having the choice sure makes it easier for me. Of course for those sado-masochists out there, you have the option of owning a single speed bike. My preferences are for multiple gears. As for being too busy to enjoy the ride because I am shifting all the time. Well, no. It is part of the experience. I can stop any time and enjoy the view. It is all about being on the bike. Good for you that you are out on yours.

  14. Wow!!!! I have to agree with Naznarreb! I think people all pick/build the bikes they do for a good reason: cost, functionality, pleasure, ego, etc…..

    I would love to go against my politics and “build” a ratrod bike or have a cruiser. I live up in the Foothills, so a single speed did not make sense for commuting as I have a few “big” hills to get up.

    I ended up with a 21 speed, with the latest gadget for gearing, DualDrive. It has a seven speed rear derailer with a 3-speed internal hub. I can use all 21-gears 🙂

  15. Guardian, now you see why you should never try to be “light-hearted” here. Most of the people who blog here take this site very seriously and can’t handle levity of any kind. Just the thought of the Guardian on his bike with lycra shorts and an Eagles tour t-shirt on kinda’ gives me the willy’s. Some of us need to lighten up just a tad. After all, it’s a great day to bike in a great city. ( Mine’s a speedster recumbant that is just plain fun to ride)

  16. Well, put, Nazarreb! (And I sincerely hope my snide remarks weren’t construed as anti-bike! One more bike frequently means one less car. And the Boise area is a great place to be a cyclist.)

    Comment on department-store bikes… they ARE crap. Most of the components are not rebuildable, so when something breaks you throw the whole bike away and head back to Wal-Mart. (What would Algore say?) If you spend $300 instead of $59.95, you can get a bike that will last a lifetime instead of 500 miles. (Of course, if you only plan to ride 500 miles in your lifetime, the Huffy Special might be just the ticket. But PLEASE – oil that chain from time to time… a pet peeve.)

    Comment on “27 speeds” – typically I only use 4 or 5 of my available 24. (Touring bicycle – 8×3) And I’d guess that there’s a lot of redundancy. But now and then, the “granny gear” comes in handy to climb Cartwright Road or Bogus… and it’s a heady experience to ride back down using the BIG ring.

    (I cordially invite GUARDIAN readers who are interested in transportation-cycling to visit my “Bike Nazi” blog – . I’ve been trying to post stuff regularly. Thanks.)

  17. My daily ride has one gear and does not coast. Both me and my bike are fixed. I regularly blow the doors of lycra/spandex clad bike ninnies on their $4000.00 road speed racer specials up the Bench hill roads. I do get stomped by them in the foot hills. If you ever want to truly be one with your bike try a fixie. Be prepared to give blood when you crash one.

  18. Naznarreb: You nailed it! Department store crap, umpteen dollar racer, retro, whatever, a bike is a bike is a bike, and if it fits you and serves your purpose, it is exactly the right ride for you (no matter what some of the bike snobs may think).
    And it keeps a four-wheel cage off the road for a bit, doesn’t pollute the air so much (if you exhale while riding, of course, that’s a bit of pollution, but a tiny one compared to the gas burners) and gives you some good exercise.
    BC and others who responded re the gears: Thanks for the explanations. With the wide variety of riding conditions, I can see where more choices for gear ranges might be worthwhile.
    Now if I could just figure out how to get more than a mile without getting a flat tire from the goatheads …
    Yeah, I’ve tried Kevlar liners and various goops, but with not much success. Has anybody tried those “solid” tires — apparently regular tire rubber outside and foam rubber or some such inside? I realize they’d be a bit heavier, but since I loved my old Schwin full-dress cruiser years ago, I don’t guess a few extra pounds on my cheap-crap mountain bike (and on me) would bother me any. Would like to know what any who have tried them think of them.
    And my cheap-crap mountain bike served well for quite a few miles before someone stole it. Wanna get a new one, and will look for the best cheap-crap one I can find. If I have to replace it in a few years (which I doubt, if I oil the chain regularly and lube it once in a while), I’ll do so, rather than shell out hundreds for one that might or might not be better … and would be a major blow in the wallet if it got stolen.

  19. sam the sham
    Jun 23, 2007, 12:25 am

    OH – bikes and Lucky 13!!! What fun it was the day I was strolling around on 16th street. An SUV pulled up, the coulple’s bikes were on top and I made note of them as they took their bikes down and peddled off.

    Imagine my surprise when, less than ten minutes later I was walking past Lucky 13…there were the bikes and the couple sitting with other healthy bike “riders” cooling down with a few beers. I did make note of their “sweat” certainly made by the water from their water bottles.

    So much for North End biking. At least the bikes got out of the garage.

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