Dream Machine

For the last several months, I have been hunting for a new bicycle – one to replace a very worn out and decrepit Jamis Earth Cruiser.

Criteria for my perfect bike are comfort, ease of operation, low maintenance, and general practicality with the ability to carry loads on any kind of surface over any kind of terrain in any kind of weather. Weight and speed are not big issues with me, but I am looking to go a little faster, i.e., cruising comfortably at about 15 mph as compared to 12 mph on the Shimano 8-speed coaster brake-equipped Jamis.

Another major criterion is a frame design consistent with the geometry of the code’s transport template, or at least as close as possible. The first such bike to catch my attention was that used by the Bixi Bicycle sharing system which is deployed in a growing number of big cities. After much digging I learned these bikes were not for individual purchase, but during my search I obtained a link from a forum to a bike that was supposedly similar. My first impression of the Biria step thru was of a huge black glistening metal arachnid and I immediately dismissed it.

Meanwhile, I had another Jamis in mind, one spotted on their website. The “Hudson” was what I was looking for – a leaner faster combination of cruiser and hybrid comfort bike. However, special ordering was required from a dealer who seemed averse to doing so. Aside from this problem, my Jamis Earth Cruiser had given me much grief over 5 years. But it was the devil I knew, and I realized that succeeding the steel Pan Am made by Caloi (which discontinued North American operations) was a hard act to follow. At least the Jamis got me through years of long distance commuting and supported largely successful experiments with a hub dynamo and an AA /AAA USB battery charger.

As I pondered the plusses and minuses of another Jamis, I stumbled on a real life Biria in a bike shop, where it looked much better in white. After requesting a test ride, I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it rode, and despite a slightly odd feel to the sharply swept back handlebars, the bike became a solid candidate.

After more searching, the Electra Townie was the only other bike I seriously considered. There was a shiny copper specimen at one bike shop, and upon a test ride, my doubts about it being too laid back, and therefore slower than a conventional cruiser, were allayed.

Compared to the roundedness of Earth Cruiser and the linearity of the Caloi Pan Am before it, the 3 candidates exhibited a combination of  straight lines and curvature. To help my decision, I downloaded photos of each bike and superimposed lines angled according to the transport template. Beyond horizontal and vertical, those lines slope both ways at 30° and 60° angles. For fun I also marked 45° lines.

Jamis Hudson - Template Geometry Comparison

As much as I liked the color, simple elegance, 3-arm chain ring, and dolphin-like hump of the Jamis Hudson (above), it was a little off on scant template geometry matchups.

Electra Townie - Template Geometry Comparison

The Townie was a little closer with more matchups, enough for me to take a test ride which proved the semi-recumbent posture was not as weird as anticipated.

I found the Biria the most code attuned and also available in a color that was close to the most beautiful car I have ever seen – a retro Thunderbird circa 2004-06.

Biria Easy Boarding - Template Geometry Comparison

As the color matched that of the car,  so the bike’s step through design evoked stepping into a car – instead of lifting your leg like a dog at a fire hydrant – a sensible approach that I think will help make the bike more acceptable as a mode of transportation.

To me, the unconventional arc of the bottom section is reminiscent of the bulb on modern ship design plowing easily through the water, or skimming over the air like a magic carpet. I probably won’t reach the 15 mph goal until I am able to upgrade to more gears from the 3-speed coaster brake, but as pleasant as the ride is for now, I am in no hurry.


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