Personal Note: I loved doing this story! It involved an afternoon of Jill and I traipsing around the downtown area looking for different bikes, different bike baskets, different bike seats, etc. Jill is an expert bike analyst, and we had so much fun that day!
Header: A photo from the Rideable Art blog.
First published in August, 2010
Sometimes I get so hung up on posting pretty pictures that I forget to talk about subjects that are of vital importance to those of us who live on the island – and those of you who are planning to visit. It wasn’t until a reader recently suggested I write a blog on Mackinac Island bicycles that I even thought about everything I hadn’t written about bikes in almost two summers of blogging. So consider this “Bikes 101” – or “What Everyone Should Know about Two-Wheelers Before Coming to the Island.” In the time it takes to complete this little seminar, you’ll also get to see some pretty snazzy bikes – “rideable art” as Grant Petersen has called them.
After I got off work at the Stuart House Museum this afternoon, Jill and I set out to tour downtown looking at different kinds of bikes. That hadn’t been my original intent, but as usual, anything I plan to do during the day gets changed 10 times before 9 o’clock each morning. Jill had an hour-and-a-half before she had to be at work, and if there is anyone on this island who knows everything about bikes on Mackinac, it’s Jill. After all, she’s been coming to the Island every year since the 70’s – that’s a lot of bike knowledge! She had popped into the Stuart House a little while before I got off and had on the cutest shirt – it was covered in bikes. Thus, my inspiration to go ahead and write the bike story today instead of what I had originally planned.
Jillski in her biking shirt.
Most of the bikes you’ll be seeing are personal bikes of folks who live here during the summer, although a few may be rentals.
If you are going to be on the island for more than a week, you need to bring your own bike. Even having to pay to bring it across on the ferry ($8.00, I think) will be way cheaper than renting one for a week. Of course, if you just like to hike around, no bike is necessary – or you can rent one for a day or two. That’s what Ted and I did when we came on vacation for two weeks every summer. We’d only rent bikes once – the day we biked around the island each year. Once we bought the condo, we bought bikes to keep here.
This is the bike I ride now – it’s a Biria, which Ted bought used at the end of last summer. The Biria was introduced into the U.S. market in 2002 and was designed in Germany. The “step-through” mounting is why I love this bike. No lifting the old leg over a bar. These bikes are unisex. Except for the easy-mount feature, this is a really plain bike – I haven’t even put a basket on it yet. But it does have a spring-operated device behind the seat that allows me to put my purse and other stuff there. It also has both hand and foot operated brakes, which is pretty cool. I do need a basket though. Please also notice the really chic shower cap I use as a rain protector for the seat. I learned the hard way to buy the shower caps that are $2.00 each – not the 3 for $.97 shower caps.
When Jill and I started cruising the bike stands around town, we focused on unique colors, basket design, and any other feature that stood out and shouted, “This bike belongs to somebody who has a mind of his or her own!” When you live on the island all summer (or all year), and your bike is your only form of wheeled transportation, you want it to be special – just like on the mainland you want the coolest car on the street.
BIKES OF A DIFFERENT COLOR
Baby blue. This could be a rental because I don’t see a bike permit sticker anywhere (but I could have missed it). If you ride your own bike on the island, you go to the police station, pay $3.50 for a permit, and stick it on the crossbar – just like buying the annual sticker for your car tag – only way cheaper!
A spiffy black & white design. Definitely a girls’s bike. Wow – look at that – flowers on the fenders too!
A blue-patterned bike. Again this could be a rental. The bike shops will add a basket to any bike you rent at no charge. Always ask for a basket! You will be surprised how much will end up in there – your purse, your camera, your jacket, your water bottle, PLUS your husband’s sweatshirt he wants to take off halfway around the island.
Deep coral. Very pretty. See all the stickers on the cross bar – definitely an islander’s bike.
Three bikes – three shades of green!
I’m going to call this peach, although I don’t think that’s right. Maybe my readers can help me here. Cool bike with it’s own cup holder and a big, black wire basket. Has a bell on the handlebars too.
Two-tone. This one is pink and white . . .
. . . this one – green and white.
Bright, bright yellow – and my personal favorite of the colors I photographed today. Notice the custom handlebars.
A WORD ABOUT FENDERS
Picture this. It’s a rainy day on Mackinac Island – or a few hours AFTER the rain. Someone is riding around town with no idea whatsoever that from the back neck of whatever shirt/coat/sweater they are wearing, all the way down to where their bottom is planted on the bike seat, there is a wide, very distinct stripe of mud and horsepoop. That stripe is there because the bike has no fender. If you’re going to ride a bike on the island, you need fenders. Trust me on that.
For the discriminating shopper – dual baskets, one on each side of the back tire. Great for a trip to Douds. Plastic bag seat cover. Not as good as a shower cap – but readily available at any store downtown (or stuff one in your pocket before you leave home).
What to do with leftover carpet pieces? Make a custom bottom for your bike basket. If you’re carrying something breakable – this helps. Look at the extra shock absorbers under the bike seat. I bet this is one is an extra-comfy ride!
A line of standard wire baskets.
Our best guess was this must belong to the guy who delivers pizza for Island Slice.
A wood-bottomed basket. Doesn’t cushion as well as carpet, but won’t stay wet as long either – if it happens to rain. Again, the all-important bungee cord.
The ultimate in padding. This biker is taking old bike inner tubes and cutting them into strips. The strips are then woven through the wire, creating a padded basket. No breakage!
Hmmmm – this one has led a long and out-in-the-elements life. Still going strong though and attached to what looks like a brand new bike. It’s kinda like buying a new car and telling the dealership to put your old car’s hood ornament on the new car. Some things you just can’t part with.
HIS AND HERS
We see a lot of these bikes come off boats anchored in the marina. They’re light, and they fold up into a compact, easy-to-store means of transportation.
I loved these two bikes and wish I could have met their owners. The guy bike looks military, even had a star on the crossbar. The girl’s bike is feminine and distinct. Even the way they’re locked together looks cute.
I can’t tell you how many times we saw “his and hers” Schwinns locked together this afternoon . . .
. . . here are two more – although these might be “his and his”. It’s hard to tell sometimes because they are making a lot of bikes now with a crossbar that is unisex.
We know this couple, and the husband bought his wife this bike for her birthday. She added the cute sign. It has bells, cute matching black/white trim on red, a great big basket, and a cup holder. She said she added the tassles just to prove she was still a little girl at heart.
No doubt about it – this guy is a Packers fan!
Haven’t figured out exactly how to interpret this ornament – but it’s sure cute!
Obviously a Great Turtle Toys employee.
This guy tells his whole story on his bike basket – he loves Michigan, Mackinac Island, Superman, and America. What more could you possibly need to know?
THE SEAT’S THE THING
Seats are as unique now as clothing. Zebra . . . flowers . . . and a shower cap to keep it dry.
Jill’s bike seat. Geez Louise – she’s going to kill me for putting this on here.
Spider-Man seat – in fact, it was a Spider-Man bike! Cute, cute, cute!
Just when I think I know all the tricks, I learn a new one. See the hankie stuffed under the seat? That’s there in case it rains, and you didn’t bring a seat cover. Just whip it out, dry off the seat, stuff it back under the seat, and hop on.
There is an area on the island where all recovered bikes go to wait out the winter. These bikes have usually been stolen (although in most cases, “borrowed and not returned” is a better phrase to use. Someone doesn’t want to have to walk somewhere, spots an unlocked bike, hops on and rides off on it. When they get to where they needed to go, they push the bike into a nearby crowded bike rack and walk off. This happens a lot on the island. Usually all an owner has to do is go downtown and look around for a while, and he will find his bike. We’ve had bikes stolen out of our yard (they were unlocked), and they’ve always been found downtown the next morning – twice they were found in the police department bike parking lot!
But – sometimes no one looks for the bike, or the bike is abandoned in the woods, and no one finds it for a month when someone happens upon it while walking a trail, or season workers have bought a used bike at the beginning of the summer and just leave it on the dock when they leave for the winter. Any recovered bike is brought to this storage area. In the Spring, the bikes are auctioned off to the highest bidder. A great time to get a good bike for very little money!
Finally, I wanted to show you a true, true, true island bike.
We counted 15 years of bike permits on this bike. It has your standard fenders, a large wire basket with bungee cords, another Super Soft bike seat, and – very important – a mounted bike light for night biking. This biker is prepared for anything, anytime, anywhere.
A FEW BIKE TIPS
- If you use plastic bags as seat covers, ALWAYS throw them into a trash can. Nothing, and I mean nothing, spooks the horses of the Island like a plastic bag flying across the road. It is a hazard everyone who lives here deals with everyday, and that’s why – when you are here – you will probably see at least one islander chasing a bag down the road. Please throw them away – or stick them way down in your pocket so you can use them again.
- The road is for horses and bikes. The sidewalk is for walking. No bikes on the sidewalk, no walking in the street.
- Horses always have the right of way. It’s so much easier for you to stop and wait than it is for a driver to stop two 2,200 lb. horses.
- Always, always, always lock your bike.
- Always, always, always wear a helmet.
Without Jill’s vast knowledge of all things “bike”, I couldn’t have written this one! Thanks, Jillski!