Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’

My dad bought me a cruiser for college.

On any other campus, it might’ve been fine, but the repercussions are being felt here at college. UC San Diego is practically on the water; UC Irvine is relatively nearby the Pacific. UC Davis, the biking capital of the nation, is more than fifty miles from the nearest beach.

Cruisers are sometimes termed as “beach bikes”, meaning they’re meant for relaxing rolls and strolls along the ocean’s shore. Their handlebars are extended outward, as though it were extending some sort of hug, though it feels nothing like that when riding one.

It’s their slow and steady build that makes them poor traveling bikes, and the awkward extended handlebars lower their rank even below tricycles (according to a Facebook post in the UC Davis freshman page).

Where do I find the upsides though? My dad bought me the cruiser because I asked him for a fixed gear bike. He thought it looked pretty nice and used the money he could push out to buy it for me. It didn’t stand very tall (since I’m very short), but it boasted a bold gummy blue with fluorescent green highlights. Ring ring. He even got me a bell to go along with it. It was bought with thought and love, so I’ve learned to appreciate it no matter the hassles it gives me. People do still give me trouble about it every now and then, but I don’t think they’re too off about what they criticise.

It’s alright to use… Sometimes it gets a little difficult to bike around with, since it’s a fixed gear and lacks a streamline frame. I guess all the unecessary weight bolted onto the bike does give it a bit of extra stability, but being a college student, I want to get where I need to go as fast as I can. A road bike would certainly be of more use because of its gears and more streamlined frame, but I guess my cruiser works well enough. (The extra exercise has seemed to pay off; sprints on my bike really get my heart pumping!) Their least liked quality however, comes with their handlebars. When living in the nation’s biking capital, finding bike parking can turn into a hunt to the death (not really). Handlebars often cause a sort of mini-traffic jam when pulling in and out of a spot, and double parking with them is so socially unacceptable that I often find myself reciting apologies repeatedly when doing so.

My reliance on my bike has definitely skyrocketed since I came to college. Every time I find myself without my bike, having to travel long distances, the thought doesn’t leave my head: Why am I so slow? My bike and I race down the street at least five times quicker than the average pedestrian moseying down the street, also leaving me wondering how anyone could bear to actually place the act of walking into their schedule when going place to place.

And thankfully, we are not in the baby stages of bike design. Bike models have been refined over the years (though obviously, cruisers seem to be backtracking a bit). There are so many sophisticated parts all over the bike that have been designed and redesigned for the same purposes, usability and aesthetic.

Since it’s a beach cruiser, its association lies with the beach. There is so much negativity brought upon it at the UC Davis campus that brings even more negative feelings towards its design. I’ve been ridiculed quite a few times because of my bike, and like an embarrassed parent, often apologise on behalf of it. It isn’t the most well suited for travel, but my dad has the best intentions for me, wanting to get me a bike he thought looked nice.

With that said, the aesthetics of the bike are not too bad. I don’t necessarily prefer its blue and fluorescent green color scheme, but it doesn’t look terrible. Much of the negative association with it has come because of its being a cruiser, so it has sort of become like a dish that tastes bad because it looks bad. I’ve seen some pretty beautiful bikes in my life, and mine isn’t one of them.

I’d say the design of my bike is poor. It fulfills its purpose, but doesn’t hold in other aspects like associations or usability. There certainly are better bikes, and I certainly will look into them in the future. But even though my current bike carries such a negative taste, I still thank my dad for wanting to get me a bike he thought was alright.

Just not when I’m forced to double park.

(Inspired by Chapter 1 of Design for the Real World by Victor Papanek. This essay is for my ECS 98class.)

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