That new bike (blog) smell

Hello. Long planned, but repeatedly delayed, this blog has begun. I’ll be using it to write about a variety of topics from a number of viewpoints. But a recurring theme will be bicycles, and I couldn’t think of a better way to begin than with a new bike.

HKSNew to me anyway. Few purchases are as fun as the new bike; learning the ride characteristics, figuring out the quirks…realizing what needs some work. Here is an HKS city bike. Made in Germany, sturdy, simple, and unglamorous. It will be my main means of transport while I am on an extended visit in Berlin.

It can’t rightly be called a classic. It has early Shimano Positron shifting (the first wide spread indexed shifting system) which probably dates it to around 1980. But it has all the design goals that really define what cycling in a city like Berlin is all about. The upright riding position that emphasizes comfort and visibility, simple gearing to handle moderate terrain at a reasonable speed, fenders and chain guard to make it a bike that is ridden in all weather wearing regular clothes, generator light and rack so it is transport for any time of day for most simple trips. And finally just a bit of flair. I love the just slightly rakish half chain guard.

This is the bike as “tool”. It is not ridden for its own sake, it serves as a means towards other ends. The bike as an integral part of one’s daily life rather than as a distinct activity. In many ways, that is the most obvious quality of bicycles in Berlin. While in America the bike is almost exclusively a hobby, sport, or lifestyle, here it is mainly a utilitarian object, simple effective transportation.

I hope to explore many of the issues behind and effects of this simple distinction. I’m pretty confident my new ride will help me explore the city as well. Now I just need to get my 20+ year-old drum brake to stop squealing.

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