09 June 2013

Just about a bike: Schwinn Typhoon

Founding members of F.O.C.B.S.
(l-r) Joe Bob, Anthony, Ray, Johncoe, James
I'm all about riding "the wrong bike" around in the woods on any given day, and I do so, and likewise vocally advocate for doing so from atop my personal How I Think You Should Ride Your Bike soapbox, whenever I'm given the chance.

And, it pretty much goes without saying that my new Surly Pugsley is yet another proof of this concept and my commitment to it.  But this, dear reader, is not a post about my new Pugsley (though one's coming soon, to be sure).

No, this is a post about the Flagstaff Outlaw Coaster Brake Society, which is a recent creation of my old bike-shop boss, Anthony, who has a super sweet custom made Bomber Cycles cruiser which he likes to ride in the woods now and then, and until now, mostly alone.

Today we met by Facebook-invitation-only at the bottom of Schultz Creek trail for the Society's inaugural ride.  Five of us showed up on coaster-brake bikes of varying vintage and questionable suitability to trail riding.

Joe Bob arrived on a sweet new New Belgium Fat Tire cruiser which he won at last summer's Clips Of Faith expo.  Tony was on his Bomber. Ray, on an sweet all-chrome late '80s Ross Mt. Whitney with fenders. I chose to ride my 1960-something, rather finely blinged-out (note: chrome fenders, ding-ding bell, and period-correct galvanized Wald wire basket) once-green Schwinn Typhoon. And James rolled up on his most-ancient, klunker-style ram's-head Schwinn cruiser sporting full-on massive paperboy handlebars and a nifty, "basketball" clamp-rack on the back!

We rode up Schultz, which, with long rest stops and brief periods of walking, took (shall we say) a while, all the way to the Sunset trail-head at the top of the pass.

We arrived at the top covered in ample quantities of both sweat and dirt (it's very dusty out these days) and asked a random kid waiting in the shade next to his bike to take our picture. This noticeably concerned his dad, who rolled up a moment later, just as junior was finishing capturing our pose.  But he remained concerned only briefly.  On seeing our bikes, he quickly dropped his guard and began asking about our bikes, our sanity, and our ride up instead.

From this point, it was mostly downhill, though only in the geographic sense.  Fortunately, Ray surprised us all by breaking out the six-pack of The King he'd been hiding in his trunk-bag for the whole ride, so, before we rolled down the mountain with only our antique coasters to slow us, we sat down for yet another period of well-deserved respite, this time with tasty, if not nearly luke-warm, bevies all around.

Good call, Ray!

The ride down was a hoot! And pleasantly uneventful, even by more appropriately prep'd mountain-bike ride standards: there was no blood, not one catastrophic mechanical breakdown, and zero flat tires!

Quite insightfully, James observed at one point during the descent that "we should put some better parts on these old bikes, maybe a derailleur and some good brakes, and man, then this riding-bikes-in-the-woods-thing could really be fun."

I thought his wry observation was hilarious.


Getting accustomed to using a coaster brake and a big, heavy, long-wheelbased bike with basket and rattly fenders on singletrack really isn't all that hard, just challenging, like anything else new.  The only really scary part of the experience comes when your feet both pop off the pedals unexpectedly and you realize in that instant that you've just lost your brakes. Completely.

Fortunately, dragging your feet on the ground to slow your rate of descent works pretty well on most surfaces.

 Below is a short video Ray shot of me during our inaugural ride: