Monthly Archive for November, 2009

Rosie’s bike has changed with age

The Davis Enterprise: November 6, 2009

Davis Bicycles! column #31
Author: Jay Johnstone

photo caption:
JOHNSTONE: Librarian and cyclist

Our bikes have taken the long journey with us over the course of our marriage, changing as we have over the years, reflecting in each decade their respective riders. This is the story of Rosie’s bike.

Rosie is even a bigger gear-head than I am. She insists on using the best equipment whatever the activity. She expects her things to fit and perform very well. When her bike was stolen in 1985, she bought a very special bike to replace it.

Terry bikes are made just for women. In particular, she got a model designed for women with short arms. To reduce the distance from the seat to the handlebars, Terry shortened the frame. This brought the front wheel so close to the pedals that to allow the wheel to turn without being hit by the pedals, the bike has a smaller-diameter front wheel than the back one.

She got a 10-speed road model with toe clips, narrow seat and skinny tires. We were in our early 40s and rode our bikes on long, hard day trips, notably in the Sandia Mountains of New Mexico, Arches National Monument in Utah and Yosemite Valley. She was a fast rider with lots of stamina. That little Terry was just like her: small, fast and a little odd.

Ten years and a lot of miles later, Rosie mentioned one night that crouching over the handlebars was making her back and neck sore. As a birthday present, I secretly took her bike to Ken’s Bike & Ski and had them replace the dropped bars with swept-back uprights. We also replaced the toe clips with simple pedals.

She was delighted. The bike had begun to change with her. The upright position also worked better with her custom-made tri-focal goggles. She got a new multi-sport helmet to go with the goggles, along with new padded bike shorts.

One afternoon in 2008, Rosie got ready to ride to the store. She put on her very special bike shorts and top, goggles, gloves, hydration pack and multi-sport helmet and mounted her specially modified Terry short-lady’s bike. She rolled around the corner next to our house and started through the gears. The original shifters were mounted on the tube that runs between the front forks and the crank.

She reached down low to up-shift. When she lowered her head, her very special helmet fell over her very special goggles and she blindly veered into the back of a parked truck, crashing to the ground. She was painfully bruised, and the bike’s wheel was bent. In mild shock, she moaned, “I wrecked my bike.”

I took her old friend back to Ken’s and told them the whole story of my very special person and her wreck. The mechanic said it looked like the bike needed only a new wheel. He thought a moment and said, “You know, we can put the shifters on the ends of the handlebars so she won’t do that again.”

I saw the beauty of it immediately. She loves her strange old bike with the little front wheel. We could make it even lovelier. It turned out to be not so simple because of the age of the derailleurs and sprockets. When I eventually rolled the Terry into our living room, it not only had shifters on the handgrips, but more gears. Like Rosie herself, the bike is now absolutely one-of-a-kind.

More than 20 years have passed and we’re still rolling down the road. Last September we cranked around the Marin Headlands on our old familiar rigs that, like ourselves, have become uniquely fitted to each other.

— Jay Johnstone has been the regional librarian in charge of the Stephens Branch Library in Davis since 1994. When he isn’t reading, hiking or kayaking, he and his family ride their bikes around town and while camping in the national and state parks.