A man, a plan, a bicycle: Boston?

Just to follow up on Scottoway‘s recent post about Mayor Menino’s newfound enthusiasm for cycling: it is worth noting that the contraption he is pictured riding is nothing other than the Trek Lime, an automatic-shifting bike. Those crazy-looking hubs? No, it’s not from outer space — that baby’s got an automatic transmission. And coasting brakes. Oh, yes. It isn’t quite the “silver Trek road bike” they make it out to be. No, it is definitely not a road bike.
Now, the obvious question here is: Why would anyone want an auto-shifting bike? Or, perhaps more to the point, why would anyone need one in the first place? I have not yet been able to answer this question, though I have observed the Lime in action, and I have to say that for anyone who has actually ridden a bike with gears before, the whole autoshifting thing appears to be an atrocious pain in the kiester, one immediately apparent reason being that, since it starts you off in a low gear, you have to pedal like mad when you’re getting going from a stop. Never mind how that looks.
[Sidenote: Apologies to Trek for this entry. I own one of your bikes, and it’s treated me very well. I have one of your marvelously talented employees to thank for many kindnesses, good advice, and gratis tutorials, not to mention lovely company. Plus, hurrah for Wisconsin bike companies! Trek, Waterford, there must be others… Isn’t Saris in Verona?]
But let’s go back to the article, and to Boston, and to that picture of Menino riding the Lime before sunrise in Hyde Park. Don’t get me wrong: I am very, very, very glad that the mayor wants to make Boston more bike-friendly, and that he is doing this by setting a personal example (which presumably does not involve being driven to his Trek Lime by a cavalcade of black Suburbans like the mayors of some cities), and especially since much of my impression of Menino prior to this article was based on his appearance at the St. Patty’s roast a few years back, at which event he — as well as the rest of Boston’s city officials, and, to be fair, probably much of Boston — was visibly, ruddily, incoherently drunk, in so distinctive a manner that my friends and I, while watching the broadcast, coined the term “Meninoed” — as in “I got completely Meninoed last night” — to descibe his state. But imagine that man doing what I described above. In those shorts.
No wonder he rides before dawn.

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5 thoughts on “A man, a plan, a bicycle: Boston?

  1. The Lime seems like a reasonable starter bike for nonbikers and the (comparatively) elderly. Using the gearshift isn’t a trivial thing for new bikers. Anything that makes biking more appealing to people who’ve never gotten accustomed to it is a good thing, and this isn’t a bad bet to do so. It’s arguably much better than starting on a 10-speed you never shift. And Trek isn’t marketing it as a year-round commuter bike; it’s meant for leisure time. Apparently lots of people ask for a no-thinking-required multi-speed bike.
    It’s easy enough to trade up later, as well, when more aggressive riding is called for. (No bike shop is gonna sell a Lime to a fit 20-year-old.)
    Why would someone want one? Well the article answers the question with the fact that Menino bought one, not having ridden a bike in forty years, and is loving it. Someone did want one, for whatever reason, and as a result more people will hop on bikes of their own. (Analogous question: why make the icons on your PC desktop huge when you could fit, like, a million of them onto the screen at once?)

  2. No, no, it’s certainly an all around good thing, the biking; and obviously there’s a market for the Lime — there’s no question about that. I suppose I would argue that for most places anyone would leisurely ride a bike — particularly in the parts of metro Boston where the mayor presumably rides — there isn’t actually a need for any gears in the first place. I suspect — and this is just a suspicion here — that most of the people who purchase the Lime could just as well purchase a Schwinn Breeze or some other such old cruiser at their local thrift store or secondhand bike shop or neighborhood garage sale for a fraction of the price and ride just as comfortably and just as leisurely — if not quite so space-agey. Even if you were dead set on having more than one speed, those old three-speed hubs are incredibly easy to shift, and don’t require the same sort of learning curve as a gear shift.
    Okay, okay, I know, people want to buy something new that they don’t have to fix or whatever, and clearly people think they need more gears, whether or not that’s the case. I can only imagine that maintaining such a bike would be a nightmare. (Of course, the owners probably wouldn’t be doing the maintaining, either, though, would they?)
    And, setting all reasonable arguments aside for the moment, I still think it’s kind of funny, esepcially after having just ridden to the High Noon a few days ago in the company of someone who was riding a Lime and swearing at it the whole way. When I saw the article, and recognized the bike, I simply got a good laugh out of it. And that’s really all I was getting at. I think we can all agree — as I said — that this is hands-down a good thing.
    Plus, I’ll be way more excited about the prospects for Boston biking when Menino is actually commuting to work on a bicycle, suit, panniers, and all. (I guess maybe that’s another part of the incongruity for me: he’s taking an early morning ride, presumably for exercise, yet he’s riding possibly the least exercise-oriented bike in existence. But perhaps I should remember the St. Patty’s day roast, and temper my judgment. It’s a starter bike, after all. But you know what they say about riding a bicycle…)
    Oh, and “getting around the hub” — that’s also a good one. I wonder if that was intentional.

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