By Allison Slavick
I hadn’t planned to buy a new bike. I grew up with depression-era parents, in a home in which lights were turned off when we left a room, food was not wasted, and we used things until they were worn out. With many bikes in the garage, I knew I didn’t need a bike. I had road and touring bikes (2), mountain bikes (3), and a Benotto – a nifty old steel racing bike from the 1980s on which I’d had New Moon modify the corncob gearing; I’d used it for the Firehouse “Ride the Divide” race many times.
But it was December, and there was a full-on pandemic raging around the world. Vaccinations were not yet available, and I had time to browse the web. Specifically, I looked at the website of the Marin Museum of Bicycling and the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. As a consultant to museums, MMBHOF had been one of my pre-pandemic clients for which I had developed great affection. I knew the museum had been closed for months, and I wanted to see how they were faring.
That’s where I saw the Breezer Uptown 8, a 2004 still-in-the-box “town” bike donated for sale to benefit the Museum by Joe Breeze, the Bike’s designer and founding board member of the Museum. A PDF flyer at the website gave all the specs: small black aluminum frame, 8-speed internally geared hub; front and rear lighting from a hub dynamo (no batteries); fenders, a spring rack, a kickstand, and an integrated lock with a key on the back wheel. And a bell.
Dump your car, get this bike, the flyer said. Last Diamond of this award-winning Breezer (many years “Bicycling” magazine’s Editor’s Choice winner). Joe Breeze will sign it for you. Like I said, I hadn’t planned to buy a bike. And also, like I said, I have affection for the Museum and the people who run it and want to support their efforts to run a world-class museum. The Museum is fully run by volunteers in Fairfax, California, just 15 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was founded by Joe Breeze, Mark Vendetti, Otis Guy, Julia Violich, Keith Hastings and Lena Maria Estrella. If you know the history of mountain biking and the Repack races in the hills above Marin, some of those names will be familiar to you. (If you’ve read this far, visit the Museum’s website at www.mmbhof.org to learn more about their fantastic collection of bicycles. If you make a purchase from the Museum’s online BikeMuse Gifts and note that you read this article, they’ll include a free Mtn Bike Hall of Fame badge sticker with your order. And they will give you free domestic ground shipping on orders over $75 in August by using the code SHIPZIP75. Nice folks, aren’t they?)
For a week or so, I returned to the information about the Breezer often. Okay, I printed the flyer and kept it on my desk. Along with depression-era conservation values, I have a thing about impulse shopping and making sure I really need something if I’m about to splurge. I live rurally on a dirt road and certainly didn’t need a bike like the Uptown 8, which was called a serious, fully-equipped transportation bike. Did I mention that it had a kickstand and a bell? It was a week, I think, before I let Marc Vendetti, the Board President, know that I would buy this classic and classy Breezer. I mailed a check, and we agreed that he would keep the bike until I made a return trip to the Museum. It would be a perfect ride around the streets of Fairfax, and then I could bring it home.
Sometime in June, the pandemic not really over, I started yearning for the bike. I asked to have it shipped to New Moon. Chris assembled it joyfully and expertly, with a call to Joe Breeze for a question about fine-tuning the shifting. My first ride was on the city streets of Hayward. I feel proud when I ride my Breezer around my neighborhood, to visit a neighbor or drop off something that I’ve carried in a pannier. I like sitting upright and looking all around as I pedal, which induces a happy feeling. And I really like ringing the bell. I didn’t need the bike, but I sure do love it.
Allison Slavick got her first mountain bike in the mid-1980s and has been hooked ever since. She cross country skis, rows, and rides bikes all over the place, but especially enjoys the Scottish Highlands. She lives near Cable, Wisconsin.