Antique bikes both charming and 'green'
Cycling is an exciting pastime, and now it is becoming widely popular among people of all ages in this country.
Various types, models and shapes of bikes are also cropping up, like racing and mountain bikes as well as BMX models for children and teenagers.
Today's diversity of bikes are inspired by the presence of their predecessors. The Simplex Machine Company was one of the pioneers, and it is now one of the world's oldest bicycle makers.
Simplex bicycles were first produced in 1887 in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Some of the other popular makers were Gazelle, Juncher and Britain's Raleigh, Hercules and Rud. There were also Japanese, Chinese and American cycle makers.
Meanwhile, antique bike hobbyists are emerging in major cities in Indonesia, particularly Jakarta, Bandung and Yogyakarta, where bike enthusiast clubs can be found. Members of old bike clubs are mostly elderly citizens, who gather in the morning to go out cycling as a social activity.
In Jakarta, for instance, rare bike club members meet for discussions in the National Monument (Monas) square on Sunday mornings before going out for a ride.
One of them is Misman, 65, a retiree from the Ministry of Religious Affairs. He is part of the Jakarta Antique Bike Club, and the proud owner of a 1957 Humber -- made in England. ""I ride this to see fellow old bike buffs in Monas and do some sightseeing of the city in a convoy,"" said Misman, who lives in Pisangan Timur, East Jakarta.
Sugito, eight years younger than Misman, also takes part in the morning outings when he has time. According to the retiree, he and his family are all antique bike enthusiasts. Though he now has only a single 1955 Humber, since childhood he has had a wide variety of bikes.
""First I bought a Phoenix from the People's Republic of China in 1962; then I rode British Philip for a change, and later a Japanese bike,"" he said. Bicycles have long been part of his life. ""I went to school, helped my parents in the fields and later worked in Jakarta, and got to all those places by bicycle. Now I'm retired and I'm still riding it around,"" he added.
Durable and unique
People love old bikes for different reasons. Earlier products are frequently hunted by collectors of antiques, with older ones being sold quite at quite high prices.
They will be valued even higher if they are well maintained and have complete genuine parts and accessories, like saddles and cushions, front and rear lights, gear cases and other parts.
Products from Europe, including Holland, Britain and Germany, are known for their strength and durability. Each of their trademark holders at that time offered unique features or typical characteristics.
A Humber of the 1950s, for example, was equipped with a gear shift. ""It has three gears, so we can race with them,"" assured Misman.
Bicycle accessories no longer found today are a hand pump, less than half-a-meter long and stuck to the body frame, and a small generator fixed near the front tire with a rotor to make the front light turn on.
A German-made Bosch RL/WQ2 attached to the 1955 Humber is capable of producing six volts. ""The light stays on and the generator, provided by the bike factory, is in good condition. The light stays on even when it rains,"" Sugito, the resident of Cempaka Baru, says proudly of his bike.
A Gazelle saddle made of thick, brown leather, and a classic gear case remain intact on Misman's 1957 Humber. ""They can't be replaced if damaged or lost. The manufacturers or shops are no longer there: Where could we find them?"" queried Misman.
Often, he added, fellow antique bike collectors are sought for help. ""But if the frame, brake or rim is damaged, we can take it to a bicycle or lathe workshop for repair to make it functional,"" he said.
Though ridiculed by some as fans of ill-suited bicycles, the 50 or so members of Jakarta's antique bike club from the city, as well as from Bekasi, Depok and Tangerang, carry on their activities.
Besides pedaling around the capital, they also tour Bogor, Puncak, Sukabumi and Banten, not only as a weekend program but also in an attempt to preserve the practice as part of an old Indonesian tradition.
In addition, they wish to make the public aware that cycling is an interesting hobby, which will increase communication and brotherhood.
Furthermore, amid the energy crisis and fuel scarcity, the operation of bicycles greatly supports the government's energy-saving program.
By pedaling, air pollution caused by motor vehicle emissions can also be reduced, while good health is maintained and the environment preserved.