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I TREK, YOU TREK, WE ALL TREK?
Story by Lois Grace


Rob and I recently decided it was time to get off our rapidly-approaching-middle-aged-duffs and get more exercise, so we went out and bought a pair of mountain bikes. Actually, Rob got the urge before I did (I have bad knees), and bought his bike first. I saw how much fun he was having and made noises about having a bike of my own, and PRESTO! My very own mountain bike appeared as my anniversary present. Now, we can bike ride together.

You may be wondering what all this biking has to do with Volkswagens. Well, not even a WEEK after I got my bike, Volkswagen announced its new ad campaign for the Special Edition Jetta Trek - you know, the one where you buy the Jetta and you get a cool bike rack and a limited edition Trek mountain bike for free. Not only do you get the rack and the bike, but the bike has the VOLKSWAGEN LOGO stamped on the front. Now, I ask you: what more perfect bicycle for VolksWoman than this??? I think it's kind of RUDE of VWoA to offer this special deal right after I buy another brand of bike. Even though I would have had that big useless Jetta laying around afterwards, I could have found a home for IT - and the bike would have been a great tidbit to add to my vast collection of VW-abilia.

How does all this relate to VW's? Well, the answer is simple: biking, diesel-VWing, and vintage Transporting have a lot in common, and I have knowledge now of all three. After my first bike ride, it became painfully (literally) clear to me that taking up a sport like this after a long absence feels a lot like an old car must feel at times. Because of my blown-up knees (due to Vernon's wreck in 1973), I wasn't even sure I COULD ride a bike any distance. We have a really nice bike trail, within a couple miles of our house, so finding a spot to ride the bikes wasn't hard. This paved trail stretches for nearly 15 miles so we can actually ride 30 miles if we take it from its beginning to its end. Before buying my own bike, I borrowed a friend's and rode 8 miles the first time out. I felt pretty darned good after that with one slight exception: at the end of those 8 miles, my own end felt like it had been seriously injured in a very traumatic manner...................much like Vernon must have felt as that Oldsmobile plowed into his side all those years ago. Vernon didn't complain about his side as much as I complained about my fanny that evening, but the parallel still struck me. Also, I felt slower than Dad's little diesel Rabbit pickup going up that first tiny hill. I quickly got the hang of this though - I practiced what I like to call Anticipatory Transporting, but on my new bike. With the Volkswagen version of this, it involves one very slow, very OLD Type II (pick your model, it doesn't matter, they're all like this), one seemingly insurmountable HILL, and one nervous driver. Somewhere before the bottom of the hill, the driver realizes that there is NO WAY he is getting up the hill without some serious acceleration happening, and so puts his foot to the floor. Since the Bus or Truck is already traveling downhill at this point, the gas pedal/downhill momentum combination provides what feels like a great rush of acceleration and the very startled, unsuspecting old Type II hurtles downwards, to the bottom of the grade, and starts its climb up the other side. The funny thing about Anticipatory Transporting is the fact that no matter how hard you stomp on the gas before the hill, or how much of a tailwind you have, you will almost NEVER be able to make it all the way up the hill on t the other side, without shifting down and ignoring the disgusted looks of the other drivers as they pass you. My dad used to call this (when driving Vernon, of course) "getting up a good head of steam". Dad spent a lot of years in the Navy and to him, getting Vernon up some of the big hills he drove regularly must have seemed a lot like getting that battleship he'd been stationed on so many years ago moving.

Anyway, once comfortably (more or less) pedaling my new mountain bike, the small hills I encountered on the bike path felt to me much as those big grades must feel to Vernon, except that I know I have a lot less horsepower than Vernon does. At 36hp, Vernon outranks me - I'm not pushing around the weight he does (thank God for small favors) but he's still peppier than I am on my bike. After walking my bike up a couple of these hills, I think I've got the Anticipatory Transporting thing down pat: now, when I see a hill coming, I pedal like crazy, shifting down like mad, till my feet are a blur (like the Roadrunner in those cartoons) and I seem to be pedaling and not going anywhere. All this shifting keeps me moving and moving on a bike is a GOOD thing - same as in an old VW! At this point, I'm usually going fast enough to where the bugs are now splatting off my glasses and my hands are vibrating on the handlebars.............GEE! Just like bugs off Vern's windshield! He even has a funny , odd vibrating thing he does with the front end at higher speeds...............UP the other side I go, till halfway up, I slow, and slow down some more, and then just when my knees feel as if they are about to burst right through my skin and I'm covered with a fine sheen of sweat and my face has turned this funny, GRAY color, I'm at the crest and over we go. WHEW! I didn't know it was this hard. I will have to try to have more compassion for my old boys next time I drive them.

While bikes, diesels, and old vintage Type II's are a lot alike, they do have a few differences. For instance, you'll never have to change the oil in your bike. You may have to oil the chain every now and again, but without internal combustion, there is no nasty gallon-jug residue to get rid of. Your bike will probably never need a $2500 paint job - if you find the need to paint a bike, one good-sized spray can will do the job, and look reasonably good afterwards as long as you remember to take off the wheels first. On the other hand, I've never seen any spray-can-painted car that looked halfway decent. While bikes and old cars both have brakes, car brakes can prove to be a real pain to replace and an even worse pain to pay for. For $20, you can get a nice set of brake pads for your bike, and even replace them yourself! Bike tires won't require a second mortgage to pay for, and while there ARE off-road bike tires (same as for cars), they don't look much different than road tires. Any tire needs air to do its job, and this can be a real problem for your bike, if you are on a bike trail, 7 miles from anywhere, and you get a flat, like I did. But, not to worry! With a car, you'd better have a spare tire with air in it and know how to change it. And, plan on getting a bit dirty. But with a bike, even if you don't carry a spare tube (no need to carry a spare TIRE, a new tube usually does the trick) you can easily patch the hole on the spot and pump the tire back up using your arms (try THAT with a Michelin) and the tiny air pump that bolts right to your bike frame. In my case, we didn't even patch the puncture: we just pumped it up and I rode the bike home. The tire didn't go flat till the next morning. Both cars and bikes have bearings, I find out, and both can howl like wild animals. So, best to keep an eye on both automotive bearings AND bike bearings, unless you enjoy your ears bleeding. I won't even mention transmissions here - knowing next to nothing about VW trannies makes me shy away from even bringing up the subject, and the bicycle has something mysterious called a "derailleur", located on the rear axle, for this purpose. I have no desire to learn too awfully much about VW transmissions, and after I saw my bike's weird-looking shifter mechanism, that struck me the same way. Suffice it to say that if adjusted properly, both your transmission and your derailleur will change your gears in a speedy, silent and smooth manner. On the other hand, on a bike, same as in a car, if your derailleur or transmission is not in good working order, you will KNOW. Others will know too, since they will hear you madly trying to change gears in a very noisy and objectionable manner. The noises that derailleur's or transmissions make while chewing each gear to small tiny bits is NOT pleasant.

I think, after riding my bike for a couple months and many miles now, that I still prefer the VW to the bicycle. After all, you can cover much more ground (even in a vintage VW) in a car than you can on a bike. Of course, there are crazy people who ride bikes as far as us normal people drive cars. I am not going to be one of them, but I do enjoy my bike. It's like driving my convertible, Oscar, but there are no doors. Putting my lunch in the bike bag behind my seat is like driving Vernon with a load in the bed, but I don't have to fill up a gas tank, or banging up those nifty wood slats. Still, there are benefits to vintage VWing: one of my main activities in the summer is to take my cars to shows. I simply cannot imagine sitting around all day under an umbrella, while people paid money to get in and look at my BIKE.


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