Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bike the City #5 (A New Way to Ride)


    The bike was dragged out of a backyard and pulled from weeds that had grown through the frame and spokes.  It was being rewarded a second life in the most stylish way.  The summer bike project was a Hercules bike built in Aston, England in the early 1900's.  During World War I the Hercules Bicycle & Motor Co. produced bomb shells, but after the war Hercules acted on a strong demand for bikes by shipped most of the 10,000 produced annually to South Asia.  There the name became so synonymous with biking that a Hercules was thought to be a type of bike rather than just a manufacturer. 

The English ride, however, conjures images of cycling's glamorous Victorian past.  It seems most fitting to don a tweed jacket, a bowler cap and a magnificent handle bar mustache before tooling around with a crew of merry gentlemen.

     I revitalized the bike by replacing old components with modern ones while keeping it's historic look.  Antique levers and rusted wires were replaced with an internal coaster brake that requires none of those things.  On the first ride I skipped the top hat for flip flops, sat back and cruised.  Although not in period style or costume I found the uninhibited joy of riding a historic cruiser bike.  With my hands wide on the bars, wrapped gently on the cork grips and pedaling only once in a while I rolled through Center City, Philadelphia.  The bike was new once again and I imagined the first ride taken on the bike nearly 90 years early.  Surely the feeling of a fresh new ride was similar.

Cars stacked up behind me honking as I rode through the congested and towering city.  They were as oblivious to the history of the little bike as I was to them.

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