Let's Look At Some Real New York City Cars: These Old Bikes

We went out to Gowanus in Brooklyn to go looking for some of the wonderful old cars street-parked in the neighborhood. But before we got into it, we found a great survey of interesting bikes, including one with some history.

(Welcome back to Carspotting! We’re back with The Worst Walking Tour of New York City, headed by me, a hack who is barely qualified to tell you how to get to the Empire State Building from here. We’re out to find the best cars of the Big Apple. We shot a handful of episodes before New York City really started to shut down under coronavirus, and a putting them out now.)

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A bike should be just about the perfect way to get around New York City. As it is, riding is a more deadly operation than it ought to be, and the changes to fix it are, well, you know what! I’m not going to get into it!

But I will say that there are tons of cool bikes in the city, and this is coming from someone who grew up in Davis.

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I was still surprised to see a nice Terry parked up not far from the actual superfund cite itself.

I had never really given Terrys much thought growing up, other than that they usually had excellent paint jobs and graphics. I never even realized that they were the product of one Georgena Terry, who went from making custom frames in her basement to, in the mid 1980s, selling the first modern bikes designed with geometry for women riders. The LA Times explained what was so different about a Terry in a 1996 profile of the founder:

“A lot of women were complaining about the same thing—sore neck, sore shoulders, sore crotch—whether they were 5-foot-2 or 5-10,” Terry said. “It occurred to me that they weren’t getting what they needed. It’s not the solution to make the bike smaller or paint it pink.”

Terry’s changes to the conventional frame were simple: smaller front wheel and different fork angle, a design that forces shorter riders to sit upright and more comfortably. The normal-sized rear wheel still gives them the same leverage while the smaller front handles just the same.

Terry, 46, a self-taught welder, quit her job as a mechanical engineer with Xerox and rode into the bicycle-making world 11 years ago when she founded Terry Precision Cycling for Women Inc.

A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette profile from 2014 gives a bit more background:

So she began studying mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and worked at Westinghouse Electric’s nuclear services division during summer breaks.

“I loved that job; it was hands-on work” that included inspection and maintenance of nuclear reactors.

With her bachelor’s in engineering from CMU, Ms. Terry got a job at Xerox Corp. in Rochester, N.Y., where she worked on the company’s first laser printer.

After two years, she left to start her first company, Terry Precision Bicycles for Women, an outgrowth of her hobby of building bicycles for her friends in her basement.

Among her first challenges, she said, “was getting bicycle dealers to understand the women’s market.”

“It’s been so dominated by men for so long that it’s tough to get out of that mindset.”

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The history of women and bicycles goes all the way back, as it does for cars, but it’s still surprising ho long it took for bike designed for women to catch up to bike use by women, as Terry only started her own company in the mid 1980s.

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You can read specifics on what bikes Terry produced here on Sheldon Brown’s website, and the specifics of the Terry Classic seen in this video on that site as well.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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DISCUSSION

notimetoulouse61
NoTimeToulouse

Alas, this was from Georgeana’s attempt at mass-marketing. Today, the “Terry” name is only for women’s cycle clothing; ‘Georgeana Terry’ still makes custom bikes, but few of them. What you found was just an old oddity, certainly nothing valuable or collectible. Her design ideas hit a market sector few noticed before, and since then it seems every manufacturer has entered that sector.

BTW, the reason for her ‘funny bike’ layout was fairly simple; on smaller frames (say 52cm or smaller), it becomes more and more difficult to keep your steering geometry withing normal constraints and still use a 700c wheel. Many bikes that do end up with some odd-@$$ geometry where the headtube is more vertical than in larger frames, but the fork offset is a lot greater. Handling suffers as a result, making the small-frame versions handle completely differently from the larger frame models. But, if you move to 26" wheels front and rear, suddenly a lot of gearing options are lost due to having a smaller drive wheel.

Things are different today, partly because of greater usage of the 650b/27.5' wheel, and because of greater gearing choice availability. Terry’s latest designs mostly look more conventional, being more like a women’s-specific Velo-Orange design.

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