By Jim Felder, Madison, Alabama, in February 1998
From time to time, someone writes to rec.bicycles.misc asking whether the Autobike is a desirable bicycle or not. The answer always comes back that the Autobike is overpriced and is not a very good quality bicycle. However, there’s more than one way of looking at any issue, and so Jim replied:
Maybe you’re all missing the point…
About a year and a half ago, I returned to cycling. In my twenties, a bicycle was my transportation. In my late forties, I began wanting to know if I had passed up some final chance to enjoy a bike as sport, adventure and transport.
I greatly surpassed all my expectations. But there was a missing component… getting my wife to ride with me. She was, for whatever reason, put off by the gears on my grip-shift mountain bike. Shifting, it turns out, is a lot like using a mouse or particular computer OS–your point of view depends largely on what you were “raised” on. She last clumsily shifted a ten speed over 20 years ago.
I ordered her an Autobike, figuring that when she got comfortable with the dynamics of just riding a bike, she would graduate to “harder stuff”.
She became addicted in six weeks. The Autobike became her 75 year-old mother’s bike, my mountain bike became her bike, and she now has her eye on my vintage Gitane friction-shifing tourer.
She does 20 to 30 miles a day when the weather’s decent. We enjoy rides nearly every day now, and most of the groceries in our house arrive via bicycle. We ride through the ethnic neighborhoods near us, where you can actually smell what’s on the stove, to give us ideas of what to cook when we get home. We know where every road goes in three neighboring counties. We know a world that can’t be experienced by car. We’ll be biking through Provence this fall. Believe me, she never would have taken up cycling with a starting point of of Campy bar-end shifters. The Autobike did its job, and moved on.
Even this January and February, we’ve managed to ride to neigboring towns 30 and 40 miles away, eat a great meal there, and experience the beautiful and chilly ride back.
If only those of you who have already decided what’s good for “the rest of us” could experience the fun I’m having now. My wife will live longer and feel better partially because of the hated Autobike; we laugh at what we call the “congac-sniffing windbag social engineers” who hold the ideals of their limited imaginations above splendors of everyday life. It’s true, the Autobike sucks as an end; as a means to an end, we feel you’re not qualified to say.