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Few of us forget our childhood bike. In all its shiny, tasseled, banana-seated glory, it brought us pure joy and our first taste of freedom. Lately, it seems, our collective love affair with bikes is being rekindled, with adults around the country feeling a passion for cycles they haven't experienced since their youth. The objects of their affections? Old-fashioned commuter bikes -- the kind you ride sitting upright, with sleek frames, wide handlebars, and leather handgrips and saddles. Their combination of utility, beauty, and efficiency inspires both design lust and nostalgia.
Schwinn is producing vintage-style models with lighter, modern materials. The Jenny ($400, rideschwinn.com), right, with a rear rack for shopping bags, is almost identical to the Breeze, minus the rusty chain your original model might have by now.
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Leaders of the Pack
In postwar America, two bike makers ran the road: Schwinn and Raleigh. "The way I see it, Schwinn was big in the suburbs because of the bright colors and wide handlebars," says Chung Pai, owner of Landmark Vintage Bicycles, in New York City. "Raleigh was more of an urban choice, because it was sleeker." Bikes similar to the 1970s red Schwinn Breeze, opposite, far left, and blue Raleigh sell for $400 and up at Pai's shop (landmarkbicycles.com).
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Like an Alfa Romeo on two wheels, this single-speed bike is Italian and agile. $950, adelineadeline.com.
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Raleigh Classic Roadster
This homage to the three-speed you know and love is sleek, but sporty enough to handle hilly streets. $520, raleighusa.com.
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French bikes of the 1950s and '60s inspired the pared-down design of this three-speed model. $559, linusbike.com.
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Pashley Princess Sovereign
With a rear rack and mounted basket, this five-speed can handle a kid seat or groceries. $1,295, adelineadeline.com.
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The strong but lightweight diamond frame of this model dates to 19th-century racing bikes. $850, publicbikes.com.
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Nostalgia in motion, this sunny cruiser has seven speeds (so you never have to work too hard). $400, rideschwinn.com.
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Whether you're toting produce or paperwork, the right carrier is key.
This lightship collect ion basket uses a rattan weaving technique made popular by 19th-century whalers. $42, bikemania.biz.
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Saddles and Bells
Saddles add comfort to your ride; bells add safety (and, of course, fun).
1. English brand Brooks has been making saddles for almost 150 years; the B17 is designed to be breathable and extra supportive on long rides. $109, topangacreekbicycles.com.
2. The Japanese Aluminum Bell produces the perfect ding. $14, velo-orange.com.
3. The black Origin8 Spring-A-Ding adds a dash of style to handlebars. $15, landmarkbicycles.com.
4. The Japanese brass Bell has a satisfying reverb. $15, velo-orange.com.
5. The Summit Ding Dong's name refers to its doorbell-like tone. $8, adelineadeline.com.
6. It's tiny, but the Sound bell has a big voice. $15, velo-orange.com.
7. The Crane Karen Spring Strike has a nice, clear chime. $11, adelineadeline.com.
8. The Taiwanese Temple Bell is one of the loudest of the bunch. $8, velo-orange.com.
9. The Action Rotary Chrome Bell rings like an old fashioned phone. $12, landmarkbicycles.com.
10. Designed in 1927, Brooks's B67 S is still one of the most comfortable saddles. $115, topangacreekbicycles.com.