Research takes center stage in the last few weeks of leave, and where better to get the President’s House chapter’s ducks all rowed up, than in Philadelphia, where the President’s House was in the first place. I was here last year for a talk, but this was a longer stay with a full schedule. I won’t go into my emotional baggage with this city, but I am settling some long standing issues–it feels good. When not photographing records, watching the Flyers play terribly, writing in coffeeshops, eating falafel at Mama’s Vegetarian (כשר), cooking lentils, or sleeping, I am walking between places. Two weeks away from home means two weeks off the bike. That is not good–either physically or psychologically.
But there are many engaging bikes to see on the city’s streets. I posted many of my faves on Instagram, but here is my rundown of the bikes in Philadelphia (as drawn from my completely random, localized, and unscientific sample).
NUMBER FIVE: Cheap and Stylish.
KHS is afforable, but you can magic it up with a vintage Colnano or Colnano-esque stem and some untaped droppies. The silver finish just glows. Touching my heart with the Hal Ruzal style seat lock chain–but, why are you giving away your rear wheel? Hal would not approve.
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NUMBER FOUR: Something Old, Something New.
Smooth gloss black finish, butt hugging vintage style hardshell saddle, eight degree nose down quill stem, oh so delicate chromed lugged fork–our fifth place winner is this charming classic style Cinelli Pista lovely as spotted on Market St. No brakes means no brains in traffic, but what a ride. I can only assume that the unworthy wheelset is a result of having the good ones stolen–since it it clear that our friend is not great at locking up a bike. Ride in peace amigo!
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NUMBER THREE: Aluminum and Bull Horns Count Too.
Unbadged but heavily stickered, this light and fast raked Mapei(ish) looking critter might just be a Motobecane Bikesdirect redone in urban camo. But let’s leave lineage aside for a moment to say–hey, stem! Magic. The brakes take a bit away from the “Look at Me,” but at least you get to live to tell the tale. Bull horns would not be my choice–not when Pistas are an option–but I bet the ride is all fun.
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NUMBER TWO: A Gift From the Land of the Rising Seat Post.
It’s a Panasonic/National. Nothing super fancy in its day, but time makes things special. there–but a nice silvery finish. Style counts though and the steep quill stem, charming Pista bar curves paired with maxed out seat post and no brakes made this Chestnut Street steed a thing of beauty. Take into account as well the Champion Tubing which could be magic, or it could be Cromolly. In either case–this is a special find.
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NUMBER ONE: Hipster Takes the Day.
20th St by Chestnut. Is there a hipster cliche not included here? Mismatched wheels look casual, but you KNOW that a lot of thought and searching went into making sure a carbon wheel was on the front end. If nothing else, it was needed for the sticker space. Skinwalls too, but on only the front to make it look like you stole it! And speaking of stickers–stickers! And speaking of spoke cards–yes, more spoke cards. And before you can say “oy! alleycats of course,” let me say, of course. Alleycats. Oy. Unbadged steel frame but who cares who made it–it is the rider’s taste that makes it. Hardshell retro saddle with string of magic beads, droppie quill stem matched by the droppie Pista bars. No brakes–natürlich–and padded top tube nut protector. That makes sense. Since your knees won’t be with you for long, might as well hang onto the gonads. Laugh all you want though, this bike was all character and vibe and I would have ridden it off proudly if asked.
Here is a second view. Enjoy.