My membership in the Society of Three Speeds has been revoked

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.

1986 Schwinn Collegiate

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.

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34 responses to “My membership in the Society of Three Speeds has been revoked”

  1. marcusterrypeddle Avatar

    Both the Schwinn and the Bianchi are fine-looking bicycles. Congratulations on your new purchase. I’m looking forward to reading some stories about bike trips.
    It’s mostly mountain bikes in Korea. It’s difficult to find a decent upright bike and all the shops I’ve been to don’t stock them. Most (all?) bike shops don’t let you test drive any bicycle because then, they say, it’s no longer a new bike and they have to sell it as used.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m surprised to hear that it’s all MTBs in Korea! And that they won’t let you test ride. I’d find that to be enormously frustrating.

  2. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    Glad to see this, it looks like what I would want as well in the “upright seating” category. I have to say, I still have my heart set on an internal hub shifter, altho I think for the trips I take, a five speed would be fine. Another plus I’d want is the disc break, I’ve never had a standard brake pad multi-speed bike that could stop a bike headed down a hill at high speed! The Trek looks great, and a plus is that it’s a Wisconsin company, but $1700.00 for a bike? I don’t think so at my fixed retirement income! One of the “wags” that’s a part time barista at my local coffee shop, is a full time bike repair guy, in fact, in the deacquisition of my life, I gave him all my bike tools. He thinks he can get me into an internal hug shift bike for about $900.00 when I’m ready. We’ll see after the fund raiser!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I really wanted another IGH bike but they are so hard to come by here now. I’m with you, five speeds would be fine, especially if one of the five is very low for hills. I considered a disc brake bike – there was a disc brake Bianchi available – but the salesman said that those are useful primarily for people who ride in the rain. I don’t do that so I decided so save the cost.

  3. Peter Miller Avatar
    Peter Miller

    Great choice! Always wanted an American made bike. During the great bike shortage of 2021, I walked into the bike shop and saw a used Cannondale, 20 years old, for $325. It was that or a Giant for $600 or so. Emotionally the Cannondale was right, it is, I guess, a hybrid road bike: upright, 18 speed, grip shifters, great seat. I’ve added a rack and pack. But I have to put the bike on the ground and then lift it under me to get on it. But in my 8th decade I am riding again.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Your Cannondale sounds terrific! Quite a find for $325!

  4. Louis A. Sousa Avatar
    Louis A. Sousa

    Hi Jim, I still have my Schwinn Super Sport, purchased with money I made from my paper route.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Outstanding! That was a very nice bike in its time, and still a good all-rounder today.

  5. Mauro Avatar

    I’m sure you will enjoy your Bianchi. Do you know that Ettore Bianchi the founder in Milano was appointed by the king of Italy more than 100 years ago to produce bikes for the army? Bianchi bikes have made the cycling history. I proudly own and ride a Bianchi race bike made in the late ‘50s. I wish you great rides with your new companion!!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Military Bianchi bikes! That’s a great story.

  6. DougD Avatar

    Great bike! I was very happy to get my new Opus a few years ago, although I don’t ride as much as I should.

    You should come and do a cycling vacation around our Niagara wine routes. It has become quite a thing. Bring side bags for your various purchases:

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I love the idea! I put a rack on my bike just so I could hang bags off the back. I have a bag on top of the rack now for just tooling around here – my keys and wallet and phone ride in it, and a garage-door opener, and a lock.

  7. adventurepdx Avatar

    Congratulations on your new bike, Jim! But as for your membership in Society of Three Speeds, you have to do something really egregious to get your card revoked. Simply buying a non three-speed is not enough, even if you don’t have a three speed currently in the fleet. Once a member, always a member!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m so pleased to hear this! I think I’m due to renew!

      1. adventurepdx Avatar

        I will give you grief about breaking bicycle photography protocol with the shot of the Bianchi–Always photograph yr bikes from the drive side! ;-)

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          There’s protocol?!!?

          1. adventurepdx Avatar

            Oh, is there!

  8. Darts and Letters Avatar
    Darts and Letters

    That Schwinn sure was a beauty (it seems like you gave the buyer a fair price for such nice vintage) but this new bike should serve you well. It’s a nice-looking bike!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I didn’t want to hassle with selling it at all, but I also didn’t want to donate it to Goodwill or the Salvation Army and have it potentially to go to someone who wouldn’t appreciate it. So I priced it at a level that would be a nuisance to the casual buyer, but might attract someone who would really appreciate the bike. I think that’s what happened

  9. Khürt Williams Avatar

    Jim, I’m surprised you didn’t get a bicycle with vented disc brakes.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar


      1. Khürt Williams Avatar

        I was told they provide a more stopping power than rim brakes. This allows the rider to apply less force to the lever before the bike stops.

        1. adventurepdx Avatar

          Disc brakes -do- provide more stopping power, true. But good rim brakes work well, too, especially if riding in dry conditions. Modern rim brakes are better than they ever were.

          1. Khürt Williams Avatar

            Hi Shawn. We get a lot of snow and rain in New Jersey (it rained last night), even more than Oregon. I erred on the side of caution when purchasing my e-bike.

  10. […] few days ago in my blog feed I was startled by a post, titled sensationally “My membership in the Society of Three Speeds has been revoked.” This was especially startling, as I did not revoke Jim Grey’s membership. As a matter of […]

  11. […] few days ago in my blog feed I was startled by a post, sensationally titled “My membership in the Society of Three Speeds has been revoked.” This was especially startling, as I did not revoke Jim Grey’s membership. As a matter of fact, […]

  12. Steve Mitchell Avatar

    Your new bike looks great! You will certainly appreciate the lower gears on the hills :) Now that you are beginning to travel a bit, I think you should add the Otago Central Rail Trail to your bucket list ;) I will ride it with you :)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      If I ever do, I’m renting a bike there rather than schlepping mine around the world!!

      1. Steve Mitchell Avatar

        There are plenty of good options to do that!

  13. Doug Vaughn Avatar
    Doug Vaughn

    Congrats on a beautiful bike I’m sure you will enjoy. I just purchased a Trek in May to get back into cycling after a 10 year hiatus. My age odometer turned over to 59 this month, and I looked at e-bikes to help this old guy with the hills and headwinds. Most didn’t interest me because of their weight and size, but I found the Trek Dual Sport +2 to be the Goldilocks bike for me with just enough electric assist to be helpful (on the lowest setting) and a weight barely above a standard bike. It also doesn’t look like an e-bike, which is a plus in my book.

    You’re 100% correct about needing to ride multiple bikes. What I thought would be perfect wasn’t, and what seemed an afterthought turned out to be my favorite. Yesterday marked three months of ownership, and the odometer shows 820 miles. I had been staying in shape with long morning walks, but elevating my heart rate on the bike for an hour 4-5 days a week has been positive in many ways.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      If we had more hills here (central Indiana is flat) I’d probably be considering an e-bike. I’m glad you found a good one!

  14. J P Avatar

    Congratulations on the new bike! It appears that I am a member of the 3-speed brotherhood, with an old woman’s Herculese in the garage. I mean an old Hercules for women. Although we are at an age where the first phrasing could be correct. It really needs to go away, as it hasn’t been ridden for years.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Sounds like a Goodwill candidate!

    2. adventurepdx Avatar

      Nowadays we generally say “step through” or “diamond” frame, as the boundaries have been blurred greatly–many women ride diamond frame bikes, and more and more men are riding step-throughs. I only ride diamond framed bikes, but I can see as I get older and creakier how a step-through would be handy.

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