Revenge of the Hybrids

Revenge of the Hybrids

We waited. Patience is one of the elements of our value proposition that seldom gets mentioned on the shop floor, when the salesperson is saying words like ‘versatile,’ ‘fun,’ and ‘affordable.’ We waited, hung in the rafters of your garage or leaned against the wheelbarrow, knowing our day would come.

The sport/fitness category is traditionally the strongest single category in any shop’s lineup, the daily mover, the bikes people think of when they think of getting a bike. Mechanics turn us out by the dozen. Ask one how fast they can assemble your standard fitness hybrid. The answer is likely less than an hour. We show up stacked on pallets. We come in colors like blue, red, and black. It has been a long time since the British called us utility roadsters. We have been “bike” since most of you were born.

The thing is, most of us leave the shop on the wings of people’s best intentions. “I’m going to get a bike, and I’m going to ride it on weekends,” they think. Or, “We can go on family bike rides together.”

Yeah. How did that turn out? You don’t get too far with most kids, say three generous blocks, before the effort of keeping them moving forward and out from under the wheels of passing cars begins to tell on the patience. And solo rides? Miles are longer than you think. They pass so quickly on the highway, less so in town. And anyway the lawn needs mowing. Who has time to ride a bike?

So off we go to the garage or the basement or the back porch to wait.

It escapes notice that our chains are slowly oxidizing in the ambient moisture of our storage spots. We gather dust, but dust isn’t a real problem. It’s the fraying of our cables, their slackening, and the passive rust of our chains that really hurts. At some point we tip over from simply disused to more like dangerous. But no one pays for a tune-up on a bike that cost a little more than three tune-ups when we were jammed in the back of the car and driven home.

Well, we’re out now. It took a pandemic. What’s it going to take, we thought, to get out of this garage, back into the sunlight, to feel the air rush back into our dry rotted tires and to roll back down the driveway to adventure? Apparently it takes a ravenously infectious disease, a once-in-a-lifetime stay home order, and the unavoidable truth that humanity can’t tolerate quite so much home-baked bread in its diet. People need sport. People need fitness. People need SOMETHING to do with their kids, now mercifully older, that doesn’t include logging into an entertainment app.

We’re out and our promise is being fulfilled.

When the sun mellows, the time of day that used to be called “the commute,” laptops snap shut, kids wriggle free of their own digital glare, and we wobble away down the street. Is this what people envisioned when they thought of “bike riding?” Probably not. Does it matter? Probably not. Any scenario in which we’re ridden is a good one, even if our chains chirp like crickets as they thread through frozen derailleur cages. Even if our tire pressure is less than adequate and our saddles are losing their padding.

We are back, and we are rolling, and we will make cyclists of you all yet.

 

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8 comments

  1. TominAlbany

    Last week, I helped my 57 year old sister find a used bike. I brought it over. Tweaked it for her. She can still do it even though it’s been over 40 years since she’s ridden – a far as she can remember anyway. She didn’t use the handbrakes to stop. Just dropped her feet – like my 9 year old daughter. I suggested she frequent an empty parking lot a few times before she gets too brave. She’s got no instinct for riding, aside from balancing and pedaling. That much stuck. The rest will have to be relearned. It may also be her first geared bike, ever! I can still remember her blue, Schwinn with a girls bar and basket on the front handlebar. I learned to ride on that bike, even though it was too big. And I didn’t really learn how to ride so much as hop on and off and dump it, before my parents bought me my own to abuse.

    She has physical and mental health issues. I’m so hoping this will be some good therapy for her!

    Great story, Robot! You know the song. Cue the music!!!

  2. Lyford

    Ah, the chirping chain! It makes me want to run over to those folks and give their bikes a quick shot of chain lube. It’s great that you’re out riding! But you don’t have to hear that noise!

    1. Lucien Walsh

      You’re so right. I wish I could strap a full size pump and a bottle of lube to my Allied right now, I see SO MANY new riders on neglected gear that just needs 3-5 min of love to be dramatically better.

  3. Emil

    On Monday afternoon, I saw a hybrid bike at the end of a driveway with a “Free” sign on it. On Wednesday morning, I saw a guy walking it down that same road. Today, I saw him out riding.

    Last weekend, I found an old hybrid in my parents’ shed. Can’t wait to tune it up and put it outside with a “Free” sign on it.

    1. Alanm9

      On my commute home the other day I saw two new empty Roadmaster bike boxes at the end of a driveway. Mixed emotions…

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