4/7/11

Huffy Wheel - Unsafe at any speed.

Kids' bikes have always imitated the vehicles of adulthood. In the fifties it was airplanes, due to the excitement of "the jet age". Also, bikes often had "gas tanks" that housed the batteries for the light, or maybe an electric horn. In the late sixties and early seventies, it was mostly cars and motorcycles. In my mind, Huffy always made the nuttiest gimmick bikes, like this thing: The Huffy Wheel.
Huffy likes to call themselves "America's first bike". This isn't a badge of quality. Huffys are the first bike any kid gets because K-Mart stocked little else and they were so cheap as to be disposable.

Huffys were shit. Frames were  welded together with uneven, messy beads that looked like metal boogers. Parts that should be cast or forged were stamped out of sheet metal, and the mouth-breathing staffers at K-Mart ensured that each Huffy was assembled and adjusted with the expertise that it deserved, which is none. Even if the parts were all screwed on the right way around, the bike would still be a rickety death trap because of the rock-bottom price point.

Check it out! It has a steering wheel like a car! Unlike a car, the steering doesn't self-center, so you'd have to look down to see where you were pointing the thing. Handlebars don't need visual reference to tell where they're aimed.

This steering wheel is like another of my favorite all-time shitty inventions: the perfectly round Apple mouse from the 1999-era Macintoshes. It was rotationally symmetrical, so you couldn't feel with your hand where it was pointing. You had to either look down or do "test wiggles" to see where your cursor moved. Well done, Steve. That's what I call "insanely great".

The Huffy Wheel also has a "drag brake", which is kind of like a parking brake on a car, maybe? Your car's parking brake only stops the rear wheels, which means that, if you're eighteen, you can use it to make lots of noise and possibly kill yourself. The Huffy Wheel has a normal coaster brake (push pedals backwards to stop) and a nutty "drag brake" down between your legs, which also stops the rear wheel for some reason, but with the added benefit of having only one hand on the steering when you use it. This way, you'll be off balance when your weight is thrown forward by a nice hard wheel lock, and you're pretty likely to lay the thing down with a pedal jammed into your ribs (unless, of course, the brake doesn't work well enough to do anything which is almost surely the case because it's a Huffy bought from K-Mart). Squealy tire noise or elbow full of gravel. Both are pretty cool.

The product shot shows the bike in midair, or maybe doing a wheelie. I wouldn't recommend doing either on a Huffy, unless you're goofy enough to want a bike with a steering wheel, in which case you get what you deserve.

12 comments:

Craig said...

All new Drag-Brake features patented Ruptur-matic action! Simply haul back on the t-handle and slide up the slippery banana seat and thrill as your scrotum becomes Mike Tyson's speedbag!

Phil Are Go! said...

Hah! The Huffy Moto-Eunuch.

Craig said...

I had a Schwinn Sting Ray.

That son of a bitch must've weighed 800 pounds, and the pedal crank was like 2 1/2 inches long.

I'm sure if you had Lance Armstrong's legs, you could make that thing go Mach 1, but I could hardly get it out of the driveway.

Phil said...

When good Mormans go bad.

Phil Jr. said...

Actually, I saw a kid riding one of those when I was young. He really seemed to be enjoying himself. So much so, I took a photo of him! Have a look here.

Phil Are Go! said...

He doesn't seem very happy. Are you sure he's riding a Huffy? He looks more like he rides a purple Sears bike with a banana seat and ape hanger bars.

Thanks, Other Phil!

Anonymous said...

huffys didnt used to be shit. they were fine bikes back in the day. now they are shit

Bill Pratt said...

I had one of these monsters. Looked cool and was manageable on the concrete city sidewalks of inner city Cleveland, but I about killed myself on several occasions trying to ride it on the pebble back roads when we moved to the country! I gave it up for a lame looking but solid standard bike...

Anonymous said...

I had one too, and the only thing I can recall being bad or should I say rough was going over rocks or uneven surfaces.. Otherwise the bike was light and didn't need too much steering to turn.

wrkoons@optonline.net said...

Had one and ACTUALLY still have it. Pretty much like it was in ?68? except it is missing the chain guard. It was a blast, wore out a few back tires with the drag brake and no did not kill myself using it.

Sloane said...

I had one too. Obviously did kill myself and this was decades before anyone even heard of a bike helmet. My chain guard is also long gone. Just saw one on ebay and it was nice to remember what the chain guard looked like. I wonder what makes them break and fall off. Fat cousin broke my high-sissy bar. I loved it and could ride 'no hands' all over town, but obviously not on gravel. It seemed like the frame was longer than other kids bikes, making it comfortable for a tall guy. I would do this trick where I'd get the front tire rotating, back tire stopped, and make a big swinging circle in the street. Ah - youth!

Unknown said...

I had one if the bikes, and had no problem with whatsoever, beat the heck out of it as a matter of fact. Sure, the sissy bar got bent, but it kept oon going strong! Wish I stiļ had it for my kds to ride. Sounds like the author wish he had this bike, but his folks would not spring for one.

Post a Comment