Meet Trinket. A 21-speed Townie cruiser from Electra.
When I was living in New Westminster, I had stumbled upon the Townie after reading some articles about it, and then researching more about what type of bike to get for myself. I wanted to make sure my choice was perfect for me.
In order to truly appreciate Trinket, I have to back-pedal about fifteen years earlier, when I purchased my first bike as an adult.
I was living in the Shuswap and went to a bike shop where it seemed that my only options were mountain bikes. I just figured that’s the way it was. I thought mountain bikes were in, and everything else was just out. I figured it was a trend. So in my mind, I just wanted something relatively inexpensive, in a colour I found pleasing, that seemed to feel alright while I rode it. I eventually moved to the Okanagan, so really, it made sense to have a mountain bike since I was living in a place where mountains were, right? So, a mountain bike it was. The brand name escapes me unfortunately. I only know what it wasn’t. Not Schwinn, not Norco, not Raleigh, not Kona, or anything else relatively familiar today. It was basically a cheap bike ($300 at the time), dark purple in colour, and didn’t seem to hurt when I rode.
My brainy idea was to ride to work. You see, gas had exceeded $1 per litre, and anything I could do to save money was very important. (I worked in radio, after all.) Things began to make the bike less about fitness and more about commuting when I first rode it to work without fenders. I had a “rat tail” on my first rainy day commute, and my coworkers wouldn’t let up about it.
I took my $300 bike to the nearest bike shop where I had purchased fenders, a handlebar bag, bell, drink holder, and later on, my parents gifted me a pair of saddlebags on my birthday. It was looking less and less like a mountain bike, and more of a city bike. Honestly, it was not well-thought out but I hadn’t known that yet. I did feel a bit accomplished as this was my first grown-up bike, and I chose to doctor it up how it suited me. The problem was it was still a rugged mountain bike, but I figured I just had to live with it. After all, I did spend a whopping $300 on the bike itself. In my world, this was a huge commitment. No looking back. Eventually I had the saddle adjusted with some shocks since it was quite simply the most uncomfortable thing to sit on after a few minutes. Even after the shocks were installed, I was in pain. Finally, I had to come to the realization that I seemed like no matter how I tweaked this bike, I hated it.
Otherwise, prior to this my bikes were as follows:
A ladies 10-speed, grey, brand unknown (age 11-15)
A child’s 5 speed, red, brand unknown (age 9-11)
A banana seat single speed, purple/sparkled paint, brand unknown (age 6-8)
First two-wheeled bike with/without training wheels, something blue.
I remember that as a kid, I considered my bike so important that I rarely thought of it at all. All my bikes were Christmas presents, and seemed to be upgraded as some sort of rite of passage into the next phase of my life as I grew up. I felt like a woman when received my final bike before heading into my car-driving years. I was so impressed that the bike was considered a “ladies” bike. Because of this, it the largest bike I had ever owned, which at that time in my young life was very important.
My bikes were my primarily source of transportation every single day. Rain or shine, my bike was used to get to school, head out to softball practice, go to my friends’ houses, or make my way around the community in general. I hopped on it without thinking, and just maneuvered around the streets like a pro.
I had become so comfortable on a bike that I eventually figured out how to hold my school bag and any sort of extras on the handlebars while also holding an umbrella. Eventually I had a rat-trap installed on the back and could carry even more! But in the rainy area where I grew up, the umbrella was a must. Finally I got enough control and skill to learn to ride hands-free. This was especially great for the times I needed to ride with more things to carry, or to just sit up and ride with my back straight. The bike I learned to do this on was my little red 5-speed. It had me otherwise crouching so far over that it was nice to ride "no-hands" to give my body a break. I was riding hands-free well enough to even figure out how to turn corners with ease. If this sort of talent kept up, I might have even been able to ride a unicycle. Coupled with the fact that I was a Gen-X latchkey kid, it’s amazing that I never got myself killed.
Only once did I have an accident on one of my bikes as a child. I can’t recall which bike it was, but I was roaring home from the school park and my brakes failed me. I had tried slowing down as I turned the corner down my street, and realized instantly that I had no way to stop. Unfortunately, I lived on a cul-de-sac and knew my time was running out on my short street before I crashed into something. Also, I panicked. Had I been thinking, I would have rode right to my house, and onto the grass where the soft traction of the lawn could break my speed as I rode around the house, and get enough control to use my feet to slow me down even more. But I wasn’t thinking. I was scared. The best I could do was force myself to “crash” onto a curb and hope for the best. So it happened. I rode right into the curb of a long stretch of boulevard just before the turn-about. The impact was so great that I was catapulted from the seat, over the handlebars, and right over the front of the bike. I landed on the grass and remember looking over to see my bike looking mangled from the way it had fallen, with the front tire spinning hard despite the fact the curb had slowed its speed. I determined quickly that nothing was broken. I just suffered a fall with fresh marks from the grass to show for it. I believe the one thing that I was most grateful for was that nobody saw me. I hated being fretted over, and even more so, I absolutely hated being laughed at. Surely, anyone who had seen this daredevil stunt would have done much of one or the other.
I only realize it now as an adult, but my best friend at the time did not have a bike of her own. In fact, even my runner-up best friends didn’t have bikes. Several of them lived right across the street from the school, so they didn’t need to commute. But my best friend came from the type of family that struggled, and it seemed she didn’t really have much of many things I was lucky enough to have. I would often find myself simply walking with her, or if I had my bike, walked it or rode very slow. I certainly didn’t mean to ever make her feel bad for not having a bike, but I couldn’t see myself going without mine. Later on, her “walking” with other friends who walked seemed to draw a social line in the sand. To be on a bike was childish, as walking looked much more cool.
It just seemed like my bike-riding days eventually came to a close when I went to junior high and the image of being on a bike at the age I was, while trying to maintain my fluffy, sprayed, hair-style of the 80s, the bike was just eventually parked. Besides, we had moved into a neighbourhood where the hill was too much to bear riding up. Down? No problem. But I gave up bikes and opted for the bus until I learned to drive.
Between the ages of 16-23 I was a driver and nothing more. Any bike I had was collecting dust, and eventually after moving out of Mom & Dad’s house, I simply relied on my car. It wasn’t until I purchased my mountain bike that I began feeling like I wanted to ride again. I was beyond the feeling of worrying what people thought of bikes anymore. This wasn’t highschool. But still, I was bullied at times for being on a bike.
When I rode my bike in Kelowna to the radio station I worked at, I remember one time a car drove by and someone inside threw a piece of bread at me. It might have been half of a sandwich. I don’t recall. I didn’t know who it was. It was just a random car with assholes inside. I was so humiliated that I just kept riding rather than stop to inspect what was thrown at me. I also endured much teasing when the rat-tail incident happened, and afterward, co-workers who felt they had something to prove wouldn’t let it go.
I guess it was that age-old problem of wanting to do something more healthy in life, but as an overweight person, people don’t want to let you forget you’re big. It’s like those who are overweight who join a gym, and though they may have supportive staff helping them along, the clientele can be very cruel as they watch you and sometimes bully you away from the equipment. I know. I’ve had it happen to me. When it happened more than a half dozen times at different fitness establishments, I decided to stop altogether. People can be awful.
But that’s where Trinket comes in.
You see, most of the bicycle industry relies on the aspect of fitness to be their selling point. After all, any bike no matter what type of bike it is, is beneficial to one’s daily fitness regime. It’s just that the bias of bikes that look and feel as though they are meant to be tools for exercise are obviously favoured. It wasn’t until the reinvention of the wheel (pun intended) happened in the mid-2000s when cruiser bikes began to make a come-back.
Suddenly, consumers were realizing that they had a lot more options. Those who might not have been in the market for a bike, suddenly found there was a bike for them. It was a bit like athletic shoes, and how finding the best footwear for one’s needs was categorized by activities. Walking, running, tennis, hiking, you name it, there’s a shoe for it. The same extensive styles for every rider were now options for everyone.
In fact, it was almost unheard of to have more than one bike for many people. Most people chose a bike that suited them, and that was it. It was used for all purposes. This is why it seems my mountain bike was a go-to for everything, except mountain-biking.
In November of 2012 I was living back in the big city again. I had seen some photos online of beach cruiser bikes, but mainly what appealed to me was the lifestyle that the bike seemed to project. Those with a cruiser were wearing regular, comfortable clothes. Most people on a cruiser were people who looked calm and in control. Happy. They carried flowers in their front baskets, and toted a picnic basket on the trunk. This wasn’t about athleticism. This was about “relaxicism”.
I decided that I wanted that to be me. The other important factor was to use the bike wisely as per my needs. Now that I understood who I was as a cyclist, the decision about choosing a cruiser still made the most sense.
I researched more about the beach cruisers and found the name Townie had kept coming up in my searches. I was certainly leaning toward the Electra’s line of cruisers, but wasn’t ruling anything else out.
When I started my search for a good bike, I wanted to rule out the mom-and-pop shops first, knowing that it was likely I was going to make my purchase from Cap’s – where I have been a customer since childhood. This was an important purchase and I wanted to make sure that I did it right this time.
The only other shop in town was at a small store heading towards downtown on 6th. I went inside and talked to an employee for a while, and was happy to try out my first bike. 6th Street was a steep hill, and I thought it would be best to walk the bike up one block and ride perpendicular to the slope on a side street. The employee allowed me to ride alone as long as I left behind my identification. So, alone I was, riding along Carnarvon, and decided it was best to be polite and naturally – trustworthy, to take the bike back after only a few minutes. I rode back down Carnarvon for a short while, then turned south-east onto 6th, deciding to glide right into the shop. The problem was that I forgot how many doors down I had to turn into the shop, because what I had done was ride right into a martial-arts session at a training facility. Once I realized it was the wrong shop, I pulled the brakes and swerved and fell off the bike once I got inside. The martial arts group was full of youths who turned once they heard the commotion. I picked up the bike and tore myself out before anyone had a chance to laugh at me. I then walked the bike to the correct shop, without the employee knowing a thing.
I thought it was time to go to Cap’s, where all except one bike had been purchased from in my life. My stint at the martial arts facility allowed me to be a better customer, and I had about five minutes’ worth of riding experience that I was ready for the Cap’s parking lot.
I tried several cruisers but had made up my mind about the Townie. Definitely I was swinging that way even before my test rides, but after sitting atop other saddles on other brands, the Townie just felt like I was in a car, not a bike.
What makes a cruiser so great is that anyone can ride it. Even those of us self-conscious about how much we weigh, or how much cycling experience we have. The cruiser is forgiving toward anyone just starting out (again). The cruiser also doesn’t scream “Look at how powerful I am,” or “Look how slick I am!” It just says, “Hi. I’m me. And happy to be no one else but me.” For the first time, it’s about the rider before the bike.
The next order of business is which Townie to select. If I had to criticize Electra on anything, it’s the unwarranted assertion of the hippy styles they came up with for colours and designs. For someone like me who enjoys a little more simplicity, Electra really isn’t my favourite brand, style-wise. Bear in mind the bike’s frame design and comfort is what made me decide on the Townie.
It’s as if the marketing department met up with psychologists to decide on “happy” colours, and decided to mix and match everything happy all at once. Some of the frames were okay, but the choice of colour in the saddles, handlebars, and rims were just horrific. Pink with green.
Turquoise with yellow. Purple with orange. My god, it goes on. And we’re not just talking about a subdued purple. We’re talking Mother’s-Day-flowers, sort of purple.
I had three choices that fall when I put my order in. Three, because I had decided on a 21 speed bike due to the fact I lived in the most topographically-challenged community in Vancouver. What San Francisco is to California, New Westminster was to British Columbia. The roads were steep and unforgiving. No single-speed rider had a chance. It just seemed like 7 speeds weren’t enough, and 21 speeds were too many. But since the price between the two were no different, I opted for the extra speeds. This was a mistake. If I had to do it all over again, I’d select 7 gears simply because I ended up using only the same 5 gears anyway. Also, less weight, less maintenance, less chance for things to go wrong. I may have even had better colour options.
But it was too late for that. Trinket was about to be ordered.
My horrible colour options were Cinnamon, which was a terrible orange colour, it had black print and trim. Wintermint, which is light green with white print and trim. And Pewter, a bluish, silverish colour with white print and pink rims. Since I couldn’t stand the first two colours, I was focusing on Pewter simply because it was neutral. I wasn’t happy whatsoever with the white trim and pink rims for god’s sakes. It was typical Electra to make things wild, happy, and hippy-like. I decided I could work with the frame, as that couldn’t change, but I could change the white. Unfortunately, I was stuck with pink rims. One of the techs at Caps worked with me to replace the saddle and handlebars to black, and to install black fenders and a black back-rack, but commented that the bike was becoming a Frankenstein-bike. I didn’t care. I did not want to be seen with so much fluffy colour the way Electra intended me to.
After completing my order, I waited three agonizing months for Trinket to arrive. In March, 2013 I received word that the bike was in! It was still winter, and most people on bikes weren’t out yet, but I wanted to take Trinket out for a spin as soon as possible.
My mom suggested I go to Barnston Island, where a short ferry trip on foot could take me to a flat area perfect for riding. One rotation around the whole island would take about an hour at a slow pace. I was driving a 1991 Sundance at the time, and needed to detach the bike's wheels completely and stuff the bike into the car in three different sections in order to fit. It was not fun. Not for a first-time bike-rider as an adult, who didn’t know much about how to take apart and put together the parts. I managed it though, and took my first ride. Detached, and then went home.
I thought it would be great to ride to work and back, but as I mentioned New West isn’t a great place for bikes – especially for the inexperienced rider. I also wasn’t fond of rain in my hair, and dealing with pedestrians who cluttered the sidewalks and drivers who made it clear they hated bikes. I took Trinket to work about three times before I decided it was a mistake.
Had I made a big mistake? The one sole reason for having this bike, and it seemed to be going downhill. (Another pun intended.)
Not long after, I made a move to Vancouver Island where I found an apartment along the seawalk facing Discovery Passage. It was flat and perfect for recreational riding. It wasn’t meant to commute, as once again, I was riding uphill on a street too steep for my liking. At least I could enjoy my bike with less stress than I did in the city.
About a year later, made another move, this time into the mountains back on the mainland. The town I shop in and do personal business in is magnificently flat and perfect for a bike rider. I had felt very defeated with my bike and ignored all the signs that made it clear I should just ride again. This was the place. It was perfect, and I was ready.
After COVID-19 hit, fuel prices had dropped, but had increased with a vengeance. As I write this, we had just experienced fluctuating prices between $1.50-$1.65 per litre. Again, I was thinking it would be nice to save on gas – the exact same thinking I had back in the late 90s when I had my mountain bike. I had come full circle with "why" I should ride, but this time, I had the bike that was truly meant for me.
This time, the bike had been stored in a garden shed for about three years. To make things more interesting, a few years earlier I had encouraged my husband to get his own bike. He did so, but opted for a hybrid style so he could feel a bit sportier. He actually is more athletic than me, so it just made sense. We went out for about two rides and that was it. The bikes were stored.
This time, I took the bike out of the shed this past spring, and decided enough was enough. There was no better time in my life, and this was the perfect bike. I washed it down, decorated it with fresh baskets for the back rack, purchased a new front bag on the handlebars, and I decided this would be the one thing I had wanted to do all along. Ditch the car for the simple tasks around town. Use the bike for shopping and running errands. Why was this so hard to finally do, once and for all?
I made an appointment for the town bike tech to get my bike tuned up and ready for the road.
It seems no matter who sees my bike, they like it. They comment on how nice it looks and how nice the accessories are on it. I should love my bike more than anyone else, shouldn’t I? It had just seemed that in the last few years, I didn’t give my bike a chance after thinking of all the negative that had happened with bike-riding in general.
This time, things were different. I've been riding Trinket just about every day. Even in the rain, if I needed to go someplace, I just dressed accordingly. My husband is even out more. We got so serious and committed to riding that my husband and I built a new bike shed in the front of the house for proper storage, and for easy-access to grab the bikes when we need them. (Part of the problem before was out-of-sight, out-of-mind.) It’s a beautiful bike shed, and I love that the bikes almost seem happier now.
So why the name Trinket, you might be asking. Well, the truth is I didn’t name my bike until this past spring in 2021 until I truly began to fall in love with my bike and find that this was the time to commit to riding frequently, if not every day. Therefore, it certainly deserved a name. I hadn’t named anything before, except an old car I used to drive that I called “[The] Bullet”. (I’d rather not explain why.) I didn’t think naming anything was actually all that necessary, but it certainly makes me feel more attachment, and for that, maybe it would help me retain the closeness I’ve developed to my bike this time.
This particular model’s colour from Townie was called “Pewter”. What are most things that are made from pewter than knick-knacks, gift-pieces, and trinkets? Things that are made from pewter are often enjoyed for many years, displayed for people to enjoy, and some items are even used daily, with love.
For all those reasons and more, that’s my Trinket.