Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Time Capsule on Two Wheels

No, I'm actually not talking about one of my bicycles, although one could make the case that they are, in fact, snapshots of a bygone era.

Actually, today I'm going to write about a cyclist I saw yesterday on my commute to work, and the bike and equipment he had.

The first thing I noticed was his helmet, because it was one of the original Bell Biker helmets, from the 70s:

(Shown is a photo from the Smithsonian's "America on the Move" collection online at:


A very cool exhibit, both online and in person. Alas, the American History Museum is closed for renovation.)

As I got closer, I saw that he was riding an old Lotus (no relation to the cars, it was one of many Japanese brands introduced in the 70s and 80s in the US), with old school toe clips and straps. On top of it all... or rather, on the bottom... he was wearing an old pair of "touring shoes" from Cannondale. These shoes haven't been made in a couple of decades... my best friend bought a pair back in the early 80s. All in all, it was like seeing a bit of living history on the wheel.

The best part was, the gentleman looked to be a few years older than me... probably in his fifties (Where did the years go? That used to seem so old!), and he was tooling right along at a decent pace and clearly enjoying himself, out on a morning ride. If I hadn't had to go to work, i might have asked to join him.

I wonder what his story is... did he recently decide to start exercising again, and pulled the old bike from storage, dusting it off and riding? Or has he ridden and cherished it all these years, as I have with my Trek? Or does he have a collection of old bikes that he appreciates in much the same way I do, my own rolling time capsules... 78 Centurion, 78 Raleigh Pro, and now 73 Scwhinn Paramount? My hunch is it's either the first or second. Most likely, the first, given the ancient helmet and shoes. The shoes looked to be in very good shape for their age, and I can't imagine too many folks using the old Biker helmet steadily for 30 years or so, while watching other folks get lighter, better ventilated helmets. Then again, maybe he's frugal, and just sees no point to "upgrading" such a utilitarian item.

Who knows? I hope one of these days to see him out there again, and perhaps chat a bit. It might be fun.


Tarik Saleh said...

Dollars to donuts he is some sort of scientist. I have worked with numerous terrifyingly obstinate cyclist/scientists who never ever ever ever upgrade their bell biker helmet.

I have no idea what the deal is, other than the "no need to upgrade it works fine" thing. They also rarely change their drive train. Then they get really mad at you for suggesting a whole new drive train. Then they fix it themselves. Then they come in because their shifting does not work. Then you suggest they need to replace the WHOLE drive train again. Then they get mad. Then you figure you already have permanantly lost them as a customer, so you try to show them a new helmet. Then they tell you how the only reason that they still are walking around is because the bell biker helmet saved them when they were a. hit by a truck, or b. set upon by bat wielding youth, and if it was good enough then, it is still good enough now. Besides it is much more structural than those flimsy modern helmet, and why should I spend 40 dollars replacing something that works. Then you see them again on the bike path 5 years later still wearing the bell biker and still riding with a wildly skipping chain.

The bell biker scientist on the similar vintage roadbike with original drivetrain is one of my least favorite dedicated cyclist. E

scott clark said...

tarik said:
"The bell biker scientist on the similar vintage roadbike with original drivetrain "

Hey--I passed him yesterday! Really--he was on a Raleigh.