August 16, 2010

My Summer Bicycle Project.

Bringing Back the New.

The bike was dragged out of a backyard and pulled from weeds that had grown through the frame and spokes.  It was about to be rewarded with a second life in the most stylish way.

The summer bike project was a Hercules bike built in Aston, England in the early 1900’s.

During World War I the Hercules Bicycle & Motor Co. produced bomb shells, but after the war Hercules acted on a strong demand for bikes by shipping most of the 10,000 produced annually to South Asia.  There the name became so synonymous with biking that a Hercules was thought to be a type of bike rather than just a manufacturer.

The English ride, however, conjures images of cycling’s glamorous Victorian past.  It seems most fitting to don a tweed jacket, a bowler cap and a magnificent handle bar mustache before tooling around with a crew of merry gentlemen.

I revitalized the bike by replacing old components with modern ones while keeping its historic look. Antique levers and rusted wires were replaced with an internal coaster brake that required none of those things.  On the first ride I skipped the top hat for flip flops, and sat back and cruised.  Although not in period dress, I reveled in the uninhibited joy of riding a historic cruiser bike. With my hands wide on the bars, gently gripping  the cork grips, I pedaled only once in a while as I rolled through Center City, Philadelphia.

The bike was new, once again, and I imagined the first ride taken on the bike nearly 90 years earlier.

This time however, cars stacked up behind me, honking, as I rode through the streets and bike lanes of the congested and towering city.  The drivers seemed to be oblivious to the history of the little bike—just as I was to them and their speedy anxiety.

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