IT'S NO HONDA ACTIVA...
....and it's as slow as molasses.
But my new 2007 Raleigh Passage 3.0 is one of the most comfortable bicycles I've ever ridden.
Not to mention the heaviest.
Before committing, I visited Urban Bikes and Performance and On the Route and looked at Schwinns and Fujis and KHS's and test drove a Trek and a Marin Kentfield and a higher-end Marin San Anselmo. The Trek is, well, a Trek. I could never buy a Trek. T-wreck, I say. The Marins are beautifully designed and pleasing to the eye and feature great components for the price... but aren't all that comfortable. It feels so weird riding that high and sitting upright, although that's the whole point (After coming back from India, where I'd sat upright on the Activa for two months, I got back on the Cinelli racing bike and immediately had pain shooting down my neck. It was then that this former triathlete and mountainbiker decided it was high time to purchase an Old Maidy bike. Can't have our bicycle ruining our yoga practice, can we?).
Perhaps the shock of riding such a tall and dorky bike had worn off by the time I stopped on a whim at At Play it Again Sports, which is a block from my house. There I test drove a (new) $250 grey Diamondback 7-speed something-or-other. It felt far better than the more expensive Treks and Marins. The owner said that Diamondback is owned by Raleigh, and that I should try try the (new) Passage. It felt solid and good and right plus it had front and back shocks. I decided to go with my gut and get it -- even though it's low-end and bright Brahmin orange.
Between Play it Again and Easy Rider (yes, I'm a bike store whore) I had it outfitted with fenders, a removable front basket and a bell, and added the rack and rear basket from the Cinelli. I also removed the quick release on the seat and rear wheel, so that The Bad Men can't steal them.
It takes a lot of pedaling to get from place to place, but it's *so* comfortable. And because of the front shocks there are fewer vibrations shooting up the arms and through the shoulders.
I've taken it grocery shopping a couple of times. The front basket comes off and can be taken inside and used as a shopping basket. After paying, it all goes back into the basket, which clicks into place. At Jewel*, everyone (including the homeless guy outside selling Streetwise) marveled at how cool it is, and wanted to know where I got it.
Of course now I'm worried that someone will steal it.
*I went to Jewel after stopping first at the Osco down the street. Until recently Jewel (groceries) and Osco (drug store) were joined at the hip. I grew up with Osco Drugs, which is far more coherent and orderly than Chicago-based Walgreen's, its main local competitor. Osco is to Walgreen's as White Hen is to the more haphazard 7-Eleven. But apparently the East Coast chain CVS bought all the Osco stores when I was in India. It also seems that they fired all the old staff. Anyway I keep forgetting this, and after getting the work done at Easy Rider I rode up the street to Osco to buy blue bags for recycling.** Only they didn't have blue bags. I was aghast. I made the poor clerk take me up to the front of the store, where we confirmed this. And I said, loudly, "NO BLUE BAGS? THIS IS WHY I'M SHOPPING AT WALGREENS FROM NOW ON" and made a big show of putting away the groceries I was carrying and storming out. C-suckers! How dare those carpetbaggers come here and fire everyone and be civic bad sports on top of it. C--king van Suckers -- that's what CVS stands for.
**Chicago's Blue Bag recycling system consists of making residents buy blue bags, fill them with recyclables and toss them in the trash with all their other garbage --- which is collected in trucks, smashed down, and dumped at Goose Island or wherever. There, workers allegedly pick through the garbage and pull out the blue bags and separate the glass, plastic, aluminum and paper and allegedly send it off to be recycled. Although it's been proven that most of it winds up in landfills (thanks, Waste Management!), we still go through the motions -- kind of like how we vote for mayor even though we know Dick Daley The Second will always win. Anyway my building is too big for city garbage pickup so we pay the nonprofit Resource Center -- which really does recycle everything -- to pick up our recyclables. But they don't take plastic, so I put mine in blue bags and throw it in the church garbage can across the alley. Technically illegal, but what else am I supposed to do with it?