Old lady bike
Aunty is no longer young. But she can still ride a bike. And now, beginning her golden years, she wanted to have a good bike with all the bells, whistles and specs that fit her short, flat butted senior body. A folding bike seemed like a very usable and adaptable choice, and so, the search was on.
Initial stop was the old standard – McCully Bike on King Street. It was overwhelming to see rows of bicycles, all of them looking huge and youthful. The friendliest looking bike was a folding bike (!) – Giant Expressway2. It was also the smallest adult bike.
Aunty loved its look. Cute and sassy. It had 20″ wheels, 7 speeds (which wasn’t important), handle bars were adjustable in height and the seat could be lowered to Aunty’s short size.
Trying to be cool, Aunty swung her left leg over the low center bar (21.5″) and almost died as her non stretch skirt failed to give enough slack for the up and over leg. Pride and determination won out, and Aunty barely escaped crash mounting in the store by jumping into the seat and luckily finding her balance. A test drive down 4′ of crowded aisle was excruciating because of the stiff little seat of torture. How do people ride on those? A week later, Aunty’s tailbone was still feeling abused from the seat and her near mishap.
The Expressway2 was pricey at $560 before tax, a nice cushy seat would cost about $50 more, and a basket would be another additional expense.
Plethora of potential
After a google search of “folding bikes” and reviews, Aunty focused in on the Dahon Speed Uno because it had some good reviews and it was simple, simple, simple, like the bikes from Aunty’s hanabata days in Palolo Valley. One speed, pedal brakes. No wires and levers on handle bars. Lightweight and foldable, though a bit macho and sparse looking.
This was one of the lightest folding bikes – 24lbs. Small and tough looking.
NYCEwheels.com has a video review of the Dahon Speed Uno. The reviewer, Dave, is a very tall man and Aunty was trying to see if that horizontal bar between the handle and seat was low enough for Aunty to throw her leg over without getting embarrassed and eating it on the asphalt. In the video, the bar barely met the mid part of his lower leg, so maybe it was nice and low, or maybe he was a giant and double the height of Aunty. Dave rode with ease, whipping through U-turns and stopping on a dime.
This bike is bare bones and cool. No fenders, no basket – just bike, fun and simple.
One of the top rated folding bikes on Amazon was the Schwinn 20″ folding Loop Bike. It is 32 lbs, heavier than the Dahon Speed Uno, with shifts and cables for its 7 speed and handle bar brakes.
Notice how the frame dips low? This is called a step-through because one can easily step through the frame to get on. Nice feature for Aunty and her skirts. The back rack is part of the frame, handy for cargo or a basket or purse.
Searching “folding bikes” on Amazon will pull this Schwinn up first, but not too many websites even mentioned the Schwinn as a top 10 contender. Still, it is small and cute, has some nice standard features such as front and rear plastic fenders and the rear rack. It comes in several color choices, and it has the Schwinn brand name, which used to mean something in the old days. Free shipping on Amazon makes this a contender.
Brits have it
More google searching for “best folding bikes” opened up several great reviews, but most of them were British and European models, too pricey and shipping to Hawaii was not an option, or if shipping was an option, it would cost an arm and a leg.
“Best bikes for seniors”
Another google search for bikes for seniors was pretty interesting, but not many caught Aunty’s eye since the Dahon Speed Uno was flirting as the numero uno in Aunty’s head. A helpful website is boomerinas.com with an article about bikes for boomer women. She suggested searching “old lady bikes”, so Aunty did. One of the best articles was a 2009 one from AARP about terminology and choosing a bike. Aunty advises potential bike buyers to check out this great article.
Reading through many online reviews took Aunty to the website of Citizen Bikes. O. M. G…. Talk about pretty! The Barcelona folding bike in the champagne color was SO beautiful! It looked like something that Katherine Hepburn would ride. Options include a nifty wicker basket in the front mounted just above the front wheels, classy looking 2-tone seats, a bell ringer, and even a mount for smart phones (though how smart is it to use your smart phone while biking).
The rear rack and fenders were standard. Shipping from Florida to Hawaii was $152 via USPS – yikes! Florida is a continent and ocean away. Customer service closed early – 4:00 EST. Total cost with shipping, nifty basket and a 2-tone comfy seat was just under $600. This needed some serious back pedaling of thought. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) the only color in stock was black, not this yummy ivory color. Katherine Hepburn would insist on the ivory because black would not suit her style. Aunty only wanted ivory.
What is most difficult is not being able to actually sit on a bike and take it for a spin. How many people would buy a car without a test drive? Of course, the difference in price of thousands of dollars for a car vs. hundreds of dollars for a bike makes it 100 times less critical, or that’s what Aunty tells herself.
One cheapo (Aunty needs to learn to say “economical”) folding bike is the Stowaway 20″ 6 speed folding bike. It actually looks decent with a back rack, slightly lowered middle bar and pretty silver color. It comes with fenders that have dents in it (?) and weighs 38 lbs. Zooming in on the pictures on Amazon showed rather messy welding.
Reviews about this bike are mixed on Amazon – some have no problems and love it, some encountered problems with poor customer service and quality. Aunty was leery of speed shifting on bikes and this bike might not fit Aunty’s cup of tea because of the lack of hand holding support. Still, it was
cheapo economical with free (!) shipping.
A folding bike was a top priority because of the cool factor as well as being able to fold it up and take it almost anywhere one would take a really big rather heavy contraption. They tended to be lighter and smaller than non-folding bikes, but many of the negative reviews on Amazon about ANY bike was damage during shipment, missed parts, etc. Some companies required a qualified bike shop to put it together once the disassembled bike arrived.
Hmmm. Aunty decided to check out more local bike shops to see what could be bought already put together.
John and Roy Cho are a father and son team running 2 stores (Kapahulu and Hickam AFB), specializing in electric bikes. Aunty went to the Kapahulu store on Campbell Avenue, a couple of blocks from Rainbow’s Drive Inn and close to Zippy’s.
Son Roy showed Aunty some nifty looking folding electric bikes. These run quiet and work on an assist mode combined with pedaling for easy power. They are a bit expensive from around $800, but you pay for what you get.
One kinda neat option is being able to rent an electric bike for a day for $40-50, which a lot of tourists do. Aunty was tempted, but not quite ready to hop on one of these bikes, especially since her tailbone was still aching from her first try out attempt at McCully Bike.
Customer service at Ebikes Hawaii is excellent. Son Roy is super nice, no pressure, and treated Aunty with gentle respect. Maybe Aunty will be back one of these days when taking on hills becomes part of Aunty’s bike riding experience.
Aunty’s search continued, venturing into the possibilities of non-folding bikes that are comfortable, pretty, and easy.
The Pure S Trek Bike was one found online that was single speed, pedal brakes, and step-through chassis. Trek is a good bike brand with a nice website. They are sold in Hawaii, at the BikeFactory on the corner of Ala Moana Boulevard and Cooke Street. Aunty had to go.
Terrifically, the BikeFactory has lots and lots of bikes! Salesman/expert Tyler really knew his bikes and was a patient guide to a wishy washy yet determined Aunty. He pulled down a Trek bike that looked huge. It was not a Pure S Lowstep, which he said was a slightly recumbent bike, meaning the seat was behind the pedals rather than right above them. It was not a folding bike. Aunty didn’t like it and looked at other bikes in the bike crowded store.
Ooooh! The BikeFactory had Dahon bikes! They had the Dahon Boardwalk, a less expensive model than the Speed Uno, and was complete with hand brakes, fenders, and a rack! It was really spiffy looking, though a little heavier than the Speed Uno. Plus, it wasn’t as simple because it had the hand brake cable and lever, which Tyler said could be removed. It really was a cool looking bike and the seat could adjust really low to compensate for Aunty’s lack of height. Aunty liked it!
Excitedly, Aunty took it out in the parking lot out back, ready to ride. They say that once you know how to ride a bike, you never forget how. It’s true, but since it was almost 50 years since Aunty had ridden on a borrowed bike in Palolo Valley, it was like entering uncharted territory. The ride wasn’t as easy as hoped. It was stiff Aunty could only go straight, timidly. Turning was not going to happen with the rather skinny front end and shaky ride. Aunty felt like a chicken.
The Dahon Speed Uno suddenly was not an option anymore based on Aunty’s test drive of the Dahon Boardwalk. Dave, the New York bike reviewer of the Speed Uno was a biking pro whipping along with confidence – and Aunty was not.
The Townie 3i by Electra in Champagne Pearl
Tyler knew just what Aunty needed. The Electra Townie. Just the name of it was delicious. The color was delicious. It was not a folding bike, but a one piece low step through and rather light because of its aluminum frame. The seat goes way down for shorties. It was a 3 speed bike, 20″ wheels with both pedal and hand brakes.
Aunty took it for a spin out back. It felt much more stable than the Dahon. Aunty almost completed a U turn going at snail speed, the seat was surprisingly comfy, and the hand brake had a mean bite which took a bit of getting used to.
This was an old lady bike that Aunty felt good about. It was also one that Aunty could feel proud to ride around the neighborhood. A rear rack was added ($49), the bike was given an all points checkout, registration paper signed, and Aunty was ready for the road!
*Update: It has been a week since Aunty got her new wheels. Every day when there are hardly any cars on the road, Aunty would pedal down the block, going just a little further each day, making a U turn without stopping, and then pedal back home. At this rate, it may take a long time before Aunty is ready for the main road and a trip to the post office, bank, or mall – but that is the goal. It will take some time getting comfortable with riding on the edge of the roads and sharing it with cars – but it will happen.
When you are driving, please be nice to bike riders.
If you do see Aunty perched on her bike with her hat banded hair streaming in the wind and cruising along, please don’t honk. Aunty might fall off.