Goodbye, Breezer Villager. Hello, Manchester Imperial De Luxe
by Adam Kuban
It was totally my fault. All my dumbass fault. For years I’d been locking my bike right, with a series of heavy-duty primary and secondary locks. But then my big-ass honkin’ padlock rusted. Once I finally got it opened, I couldn’t get it closed again. I put a rinky-dink lock on it, “just until I get a new big-ass padlock,” I thought.
I waited too long. I should have gone lock-shopping the next day. Instead I waited a week, in which time some assholes came through our apartment complex and stole a number of bikes, my beloved Breezer Villager among them.
It was a great bike. I’d say in the top 3 of bikes I’ve ever owned. It was the perfect commuter. Fenders, a chain guard, built-in generator lights. Seven speeds, low and high enough to tackle the (minimal) hills and flat stretches of NYC’s streets.
I hadn’t ridden it into Manhattan since moving to Queens in 2010, but I always told myself I’d start, “one of these days.” (Thing is, the route from Astoria through Midtown Manhattan seems a bit scary.)
Commuting to work by bike remains a goal, though, so I needed to start over. Enter the Manchester Imperial De Luxe 3-speed light roadster I just picked up off Craigslist:
I’d had my eye on vintage 3-speed English-style light roadsters for a while. I had one once before, in the late ’90s in Portland, Oregon (yeah, Portlandia all the way). It was one of the most enjoyable bikes I’ve ever owned. I never worried much about it getting stolen because at the time nobody wanted bikes like it. As a consequence, I rode it everywhere and all the time. It was built like a tank and was simple enough that I could fix basic problems myself. And, hell, it was stylish, too. (In fact, my friend Andy used to call these “fashion bikes,” claiming they were impractical and that hipsters only rode them because they looked cool. He had a similar take on “fashion cars.”)
When I saw this bike appear on Craigslist, I jumped on it and picked it up for a bargain. It’s a Japanese knock-off of a classic English 3-speed. It’s in amazing shape, like new, and is all original, down to the tires, which I’m going to have to replace since they’re showing signs of dry rot.
I’m already planning my route to work, though I’ll probably have to build up some strength before then. Low gear on this thing is still pretty brutal on even the gentle hills of Astoria. I can’t imagine tackling the Queensboro Bridge with it yet.
You better believe the first thing I bought for it was a big-ass fuggin’ lock.
‘Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before’
When I was in junior high I would have killed a puppy to have been able to order up Smiths videos on demand on a computer. We used to have to watch MTV’s 120 Minutes and hope they’d play a Smiths video. (Which we would then record on VHS, of course.)
Anyway, I’d never seen this video until recently, but stuff like this is where I developed any romantic notions of tooling around on a 3-speed bike.