My thoughts turn to possibly the best bicycle I ever had, a 1980s Peugeot Orient Express.
The Orient Express was that oddball, a Peugeot bicycle designed in France and built in Japan.
It had standard (non-French threading throughout, a very decent selection of Suntour parts, and a fork crown that was so overbuilt it bordered on medieval. The thing weighed a ton and with its slung-back geometry was not a speedster by any means; but it just looked so cool that I dreamed of owning one. When a frameset came my way via Citybikes, I built it up into what became the perfect 26"-wheeled city bike.
I had to sell the Peugeot, sadly, when I decided to rebuild it with an Xtracycle kit and discovered that an already-too-big frame was impossibly big when I added the kit on the back. I couldn't reach the ground while seated unless I lowered the saddle to an uncomfortably low riding position. And so, after agonizing over my options, I stripped the frameset and sold it back to the shop, and chose a smaller mountain frame for my Xtracycle project.
I've kicked myself ever since.
Subsequent bikes and over a decade later, I've built up these bikes, and discovered that they are all basically in the image of that Peugeot city bike:
1. Rivendell All-Rounder, ca. 1999: This bike came to me after I'd sold the Peugeot frameset, and then built and test-rode a prototype Kogswell Pourteur. I first rode this bike with drops, but eventually, I sold the blue Rivendell (which, though made "custom" for me in the 1990's, had never fit me quite right) and refashioned the All-Rounder as an upright city bike. This remains the go-to bike today.
Even though the bike is basically a POS, I've grown rather fond of it and its backstory.
3. My most recent city bike buildup is this 1989 Bridgestone MB-4, which I got in trade a few years back for a Thomson seatpost that never made it onto a bicycle. (The seatpost had been a gift from a dealer rep when I was still racing, so I didn't pay for that, either; making the bicycle basically free.)
I retro-fitted with with modern racing bits, and raced it for most of a season before deciding it was time to hang up the lycra for good. (I enjoyed racing, but my gut did not.)
It sat for over a year while I focused on other projects, Then, last year, when I decided to overhaul the Rivendell, I re-built the B'stone as a replacement city bike. By now, you'll note that a strong pattern has emerged...
I no longer own or ride bikes with anything other than 26" (ERD 559) wheels. This does two things for me: first, it simplifies -- and reduces -- the number of spare wheels, tires and tubes I need to keep on hand; and secondly, it reduces the need -- or, frankly, the desire -- for more than two or three bikes in my stable.
This pattern has even made itself apparent elsewhere, a common thread running through my life.
I made this quilt (all by hand) in 2000, and used pieces of old curtains, shirts, and other things.
And the handlebars? Look closely.
Upright, with a nice tall stem -- not unlike the stem used on the Peugeot and the Bridgestone (that's the same stem, by the way, used on both builds).
I do have one bike left with drop bars, but as times goes by I have to admit that it is less and less satisfying to ride. In the end, I may strip it down and sell off the parts I don't need, and transfer the nicer bits to existing bikes. There is something about braking from the hoods that, even with shorter-reach levers, is no longer so comfortable for my hands. So I am riding upright bikes basically all the time anymore, and enjoying it.
What patterns have emerged in your bicycle preferences over the years? It's good to check in now and then, I think, and see what's no longer needed.
Food for thought.
(Left: Slug Velo Fall Colors Ride, October 2003, on the Peugeot. Twelve years later I still have that green Carradice bag, those wool tights and the cotton sweater-vest.)