Electra Townie 7D
My husband and I decided that we would take up biking again after more than 30 years of not riding. we stopped biking after I almost hit a car and could not get over my fear. In the 70s, we bought his and hers Sears Ted Williams 3 speed bikes. We gave mine away after a few years of disuse but my husband kept his in our basement for years. He has now brought the bike up, cleaned it up, added air to the now flat tires and took a test ride on our cul-de-sac and surprisingly, the bike is still in very good condition. So we decided that this bike is a keeper.
On to the search for my bike. Since, we have not looked at bikes in years, we went to see what is available out there by visiting our favorite big box store, Target, I never knew there were so many bike types to choose from - cruisers, hybrid, mountain, comfort, road, BMX, etc. Please visit this link to see the differences in bike categories - Bike Types. I wanted a simple bike for riding around the neighborhood and maybe some bike trails so that eliminated the road, BMX and mountain bikes. I am also not very tall so I settled on a 26" wheel. I preferred the coaster brakes where you use your feet to stop the bike since that is what I am familiar with as opposed to hand brakes. As far as gears, at first I thought I would stick with a single gear - no decision making while riding. I also like the look of fenders and rear racks - just like the bikes I grew up with. Target carried Schwinn and Huffy bike brands - these again were brands that I am familiar with.
Nowadays, one does not make a purchase without consulting the Internet for customer reviews and best prices. During this research, most folks advice checking out your local bike store for best selection and service. So the next weekend, we decided to visit the bike and sporting goods shops around us. I must say that at all the local bike shops (except for a couple), we met some very accommodating and knowledgeable sales personnel. They all wanted to help you find the perfect bike for your needs.
Our first stop was Prairie Path Cycles in Geneva, Illinois, a shop that carried Trek bicycles. I was fitted with a Trek Navigator which I really felt very comfortable in. I think it had 21 or 7 gears and hand brakes which slightly intimidated me.The size was a good fit for my body and it was light weight because of the aluminum alloy used for the frame. I sat upright and was able to reach the handlebars without straining. I could also get in and out of the bike easily due to the lowered cross bar - lower than the normal women's bike design and my feet was flat on the ground when I am stopped which removed some of my fears of falling or crashing. All these features were new to me and I was excited about them.
So now I added to my list of desirables for my new bike: aluminum alloy frame, easy step thru boarding and being able to have my feet flat on the ground when stopped. I liked the Trek bike except that it looked too sporty for my taste. I was leaning towards the look of a what I later learned to be called Dutch bikes or Omafiets (Dutch translation for "grandma bikes"). I imagined myself tooling around town in my bike with a wicker basket on the front just like Jessica Fletcher on Murder She Wrote or one of the characters in Agatha Christie's Miss Marple.
We went to REI next. The bike that caught my eye (and fell in love with at first sight) was an orange Electra Townie. It had sort of the Dutch bike look but no fenders and rear rack. It had seven gears and hand brakes. I really wanted one or 3 gears and coaster brakes. I did try on for size a comparable REI brand Novara bike and a blue 21 gear Electra Townie. The 21 gear Townie was nice since it had shock absorbers on the front wheel and seat which made for a more comfortable ride.
A few more bike shop visits learning about gears, brakes and other bike features and looks and I was able to narrow down my requirements. I set my budget at $600. I did not want to spend more than that not knowing if I will be able to really use the bike fully. These are the list of items I want in a bike:
1. Dutch bike -look
2. Aluminum alloy frame - for less weight
3. Coaster brake or coaster and hand brake combination
4. 3 gear sealed hub - for less maintenance, and less thought about shifting
5. Step thru frame - for ease of getting on and off
6. Flat feet technology - for more secure feeling
8. Wider tires - for extra comfort
9. Available at a local bike store
With that I was able to narrow down my selection to the following bikes. All are step thru bikes with aluminum frames.
I printed out a picture and specs of each of the bikes I was considering and tacked them to the wall so my husband and I can compare them. We found a store in Chicago that carried most of the bikes I was contemplating. With list in hand, I played the Goldilocks game with bikes in the store.... this one is too big, this one is too heavy, this one is too sporty, this one is too small and so on and so forth. The salesman was very patient, even helping me along as I tried riding the bikes in their indoor test track. I did not do very well on my test run because I was nervous about doing damage to the bike I was on or the ones on display but he did say that he is confident that in open space I will pick up biking again. Sadly, I had to eliminate the Electra Amsterdam from my list because it was too big for me. So there goes my Girard Madonna. The best fit in this store ended up to be my first love: The Electra Townie 7D. My only reservation is that I was still dead set on a 3 gear with coaster brakes and that this store is quite a trek from our house. But if you reside in Chicago and are in the market for a bike, I definitely recommend you check out Kozy Cyclery.
On our way back to the burbs, I was able to slowly convince myself that I might be able to live with a seven gear bike. So we stopped at the REI store for a second look. We decided to buy the orange Electra Townie 7D I fell in love with during our first visit. What convinced me is REI return policy. Every item is 100% satisfaction guaranteed. So if the 7D does not work out, I can still return it or exchange it anytime. And the folks there were ultra helpful and patient.
I am very happy with my purchase. I got a bike with the Dutch bike look, aluminum alloy frames, flat feet technology, step thru frame, wider tires, colorful (orange), upright seating with forward pedals, 7 gears and front and rear brakes which equates to more comfort, ease and safety and satisfying almost my entire wish list. And I am already looking for accessories to spruce it up into a true Dutch bike such as fenders, baskets, racks and lights. I made Willhelmina a handlebar bag to carry my money, phone, etc on trips. And I am happy to report that I was able to bike around the cul-de-sac. I guess the saying is true that once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget. But for me, baby steps....baby steps.... gotta take care of these old bones. I predict that Willhelmina and I will have some great adventures to come.
Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.
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