We go through cycles

The AP put out this wacky whine last week about how the highest number on your car’s speedometer likely exceeds your car’s top speed, complete with a whimper from Dishonorary Anti-Destination League member Joan Claybrook, who once managed to persuade (in exactly the same sense that the Mob “persuades”) automakers doing business in the States to cut off the scale at 85. Inasmuch as digital displays were all the rage back in Malaise Era I, if you had such TRON-ics on your dash, the temptation was irresistible to see what happens at 86. (Never you mind what happened at 88.)

My current ride will happily display speeds up to 160 mph, though by all accounts it will not exceed 130 or so. This is consistent with the fact that it was originally equipped with H-rated tires, which are supposedly good to, yes, 130. And I admit that I’ve never tried to peg the meter, though I’m not about to claim that I’ve never driven at triple-digit speeds.

I have, however, pegged this meter, or one exactly like it, something the manufacturer probably never anticipated:

1960s Schwinn bicycle speedometer

You may have read about this already:

Screenshot from Google MapsI spent almost an entire morning this past week swirling around some of Austin’s ultra-twisty streets, including a 2.2-mile transit of Mount Bonnell Road, the very road that I, thirty-eight years ago, attacked with a bicycle in the dead of night, resulting in a personal speed record for a Schwinn 27-inch (an estimated 65 mph at one point) and the sort of adrenaline rush that would probably damn near kill me today. There’s one curve that’s posted at something like 10 mph, and — this is the scary part — there’s a good reason for it.

Feel free to key in 5100 Mount Bonnell Road, Austin, Texas 78731 at Google Maps, and see this for yourself. What it won’t tell you, however, is the fact that there’s a mile-long plunge leading into that gentle bend. (It’s called Mount Bonnell for a reason.) Incidentally, I had one of those ridiculous headlights powered by a “generator,” which meant a toothed wheel that wore down the sidewall of the tire just a little, so things were brighter than you’d probably expect on a lonely country road — which it’s not anymore, I assure you — at the stroke of midnight. If Joan Claybrook is reading this, I hope she has her cardiac medicine handy.

(Photo source. Aside from a rear basket and the paint job, this bike is pretty much the same as mine at the time.)


  1. McGehee »

    3 March 2013 · 9:56 am

    Google Earth will dang sure show off the slope on that road. How did you keep from ending up scattered across half an acre of mesquite?

  2. CGHill »

    3 March 2013 · 12:00 pm

    Not hitting the guardrail was the first part. :)

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