Dr. Fixit; September 1984

(This is a column that was picked up by the League of American Wheelmen and reprinted in their magazine. One year at Thanksgiving my brother Pete asked me if I'd seen this great article.)

Dear Dr. Fixit

I have been considering getting involved in bicycling, mainly bicycle commuting. I had figured that I could start with my daughter's old ten speed until I read the article about city bikes in this month's Bicycling. Boy, am I glad I saw this article before I tried riding a standard ten speed! Here are some quotes in case you haven't read the article: "You're no longer hunched over a ten speed's dropped handlebars. ... No longer are you craning your neck around to the side or peering through your eyebrows. On a city bike ... your suntan glows, on your forehead, where it belongs, instead of your neck." You should share this with your readers to let them know what they are missing!


Dear J.B.

I couldn't believe it, so I checked this out for myself. Page 82 of "America's Leading Cycling Magazine" really does say these things about the sport they pretend to espouse. The listed author is "The Bicycling staff." Obviously the magazine has been taken over by General Motors and is being subverted to the purpose of discouraging rather than promoting cycling.

The article is primarily about a bunch of failed mountain bikes. They admit that the bikes lack the required sturdiness for rough terrain, but pretend that this makes them ideal for riding on city streets. You all know without doing any testing that these bikes have the sort of ultra stable geometry that leads to unresponsive handling. Here's what GM has to say: "What do you use to dodge potholes, ... slalom through vendor's carts, track stand motionlessly at stoplights and gain a panoramic view of all these proceedings?" Obviously, a failed mopuntain bike.

Slaloming through vendors' carts? Peering through your eyebrows? You know, in all the years I've been writing ridiculous things in this column, I've never writen anything quite this ridiculous. I can't imagine a professional writer who has actually ridden a bicycle writing such slanderous stuff about the sport. These guys must have not ridden since vendors' carts filled the streets and they must have hated it then.

Obviously the people who wrote it don't wear helmets, since they are more worried about the tan on their foreheads (which are probably sloping) than about comfort or speed. The publication of such anti-helmet prose in a cycling magazine is an obvious attempt by GM to lure cyclists to their doom.

Hunched over a ten speed's handlebars? The handlebars on a failed mountain bike are one of its biggest drawbacks. There is exactly one position for your hands, instead of four or five as on dropped bars. As you know, handlebars come in several widths and the width which corresponds to the width of your shoulders is the right one for you. All of the "city bikes" have bars that are wider than this and the one position for your hands puts them all the way out laterally. You ride in a crucifix position. The wider bars are the widest part of the bike, even with a briefcase or panniers. Not exactly a boon when you are "slaloming through vendors' carts."

The article glorifies the upright riding position, asserting that you can see over traffic. I think GM is pretending that on dropped bars you will always keep your hands on the drops. None of the real visibility problems (trucks, vans and buses) are helped by the few inches of extra height you might get on a failed mountain bike instead of riding with your hands on the tops of dropped bars. Perhaps the few extra inches are useful in seeing over vendors'carts.

J.B. take your daughter's ten speed into a bike shop and see if it fits you. If it does, get it tuned up and use it. You'll be a lot better off than if you let GM crucify you on a failed mountain bike.