I said goodbye to my beloved old Schwinn three-speed bike the other day. I put it up for sale on Craigslist and a fellow bought it two days later. A stout fellow, he was thrilled with the Schwinn’s steel frame and spring-loaded, padded seat. Here’s one of the photos I used in the Craigslist ad. I sold the bike with the rack and bottle cages, and my circa-1996 cycling computer (which is barely visible on the handlebars).
I bought this bike for $60 in 2009, and sold it for $90. Along the way I spent about $200 on a professional mechanical overhaul and a tuneup, plus whatever the accessories I added cost. But along the way, I enjoyed the hell out of this bike, even riding it across the state of Indiana on the National Road two years ago. Here’s a photo of the bike just after I got it, when it still wore its original gumwall tires. My dear friend Gracie photobombed this shot. I wrote this article about the Schwinn when I bought it.
I sold my Schwinn because I bought a new bicycle. I did a great deal of research first. I wanted something in the spirit of my old Schwinn, but lighter and with more gears, including especially a much lower first gear so going uphill wouldn’t be such a chore. I preferred another internally-geared hub (IGH) bike, but my research showed I’d probably need to compromise on that. In the end I decided that a 1x drivetrain (one shifter) would be my first choice, but I’d settle for a 2x drivetrain (two shifters). What I wouldn’t compromise on was an upright riding position, a cushy seat, and that low first gear.
I found a bike that checked every single box, both must-have and nice-to-have, on my list: the Trek District 4 Equipped. It’s a European-style 8-speed IGH commuting bike with extremely nice componentry, including a belt rather than a chain. But its price is hair-raising, and I was going to have to drive a couple hundred miles to even see one.
That brings up another point. I was originally including bikes in my search that are sold primarily online for delivery. I finally decided I would not buy any bike I could not ride first. I’d hate to spend hundreds of dollars only to hate the bike and have to ship it back.
In the end, my short list of bikes included four or five Treks, one Elektra (which is made by Trek), a Co-Op (sold by REI), and a couple of Bianchis. One bike shop in particular had most of these bikes in stock, so I drove over there one Saturday morning.
I’m glad I did my research up front, because a purchase like this has a big emotional component. From my short list I bought this Bianchi Cortina primarily because it was a Bianchi! All of the Treks I saw would have done the job just as well, but everybody and his uncle rides a Trek!
The bike shop was in Plainfield, a western suburb of Indianapolis. The shop was right on US 40 – the National Road! They got this bike off their rack, brought it outside with me, told me how to reach Plainfield’s extensive trail system, and said, “Take it out for as long of a ride as you want. We’re open until 5.” It was only 11 am!
I knew ten minutes into the ride that I was buying this bike. After I had ridden it to my satisfaction, I brought it back, asked them to attach a rack and two bottle cages, and brought it home.
This is a derailleur bike with 2×8 speeds. I’m riding it with the left shifter on 2; the low gear is still lower than I need for starting out. When I encounter a good hill, I drop the left shifter down to 1, and the first three speeds on the right shifter are all low enough for me to take hills without killing myself.
With this, my membership in the Society of Three Speeds must sadly come to an end. You have to own a three-speed bicycle to remain in good standing!
I’ll miss my old Schwinn. But my new Bianchi is so solid and smooth, and is easier on me when I ride it. I’m sure it and I will have many great adventures together in the years to come.