I <3 my Raleigh

This post is short on photos, unfortunately; but Shawn took a bunch and promises that some will end up on his blog within the next few days.

Earlier this week we decided to take a ride on our Raleigh 3-speed bicycles (my Sports roadster, his Wayfarer) on Thursday, because Shawn didn’t have work and the weather was predicted to be good, and he really wanted to take the Wayfarer out for a ride after putting new handlebars on it. I was a little wary–after all, I haven’t ridden that bike in about a year, and before that I hardly ever rode it since I got the mixte in 2008. But, hell, why not?

Wednesday night I checked out the bicycle. The tires were flat and a lot of it was dusty, but the bike otherwise looked fine. I went to reinflate them and noticed that the valve of the inner tube in the front tire was at a crazy angle. Well, that’s no good. So I flipped the bike over (oy, it’s heavy), took the wheel off (it’s bolted on), used my new steel tire levers to take off one side of the tire, wiggled the tube so the valve was straight, inflated it, got it back on. Done, yeah? The tire was old, though. It was the one that was on the bike when I got it in 2006, and who knows how long it had been there. Some parts looked rusty, and the bead was showing in places. Yikes.

Thursday morning Shawn and I get ready and get our stuff together, and I take the bike outside…and it’s flat again. Damn! Luckily Shawn had an extra inner tube, so there I was, flipping the bike over again. I decided to take the tire levers and the correct-sized wrench with me, just in case. And thankfully, I didn’t have any more flats, but when Shawn and I got to North Portland Bikeworks later that day, I bought a lovely new Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tire. And then I took the bike outside, flipped it over, took off the wheel….practice makes perfect, and I am totally prepared for a front flat on that bike. Except that due to the new tire, I probably won’t get one for a while. Knock on wood that I don’t get a rear flat, as dealing with the hub gear doesn’t appeal to me. I’d have to walk it to the shop down the street. The rear tire isn’t a Delta Cruiser, but it’s much newer than the front one was.

After I was done fixing the flat, Shawn and I took a bunch of photos of us and our bikes in the courtyard of our building. I can’t wait to see them!

And then it was time to go for a ride! We meandered through NE Portland towards N Mississippi, where we stopped at Bikeworks. I bought the new tire and a light that would attach to my bike’s front basket. Then we went to Overlook Park, and then the Skidmore Bluffs, which due to the nice weather had several clumps of people with their bicycles. After grabbing some pizza in Kenton, we biked to Vancouver, Washington! We took the I-5 bridge. I prefer that bridge, by far, to the I-205 bridge, but damn, do I wish the sidewalk was wider. You want to enjoy the views from the bridge, but you can’t, because you’re too busy trying not to bump into anything. I think my basket cleared it by a foot on each side, tops. But the I-5 bridge leads almost smack-dab into downtown Vancouver, where we visited the Niche winebar, owned by Lea, the lady-friend of Shawn’s friend Todd. We had some lovely wine, and got to chat with Todd and Lea. They’ve been to the Netherlands, and Todd let drop that he was thinking of selling a Dutch bike he bought there. That made my ears perk up, for sure.

After getting a tour of the old theater (in the process of being renovated) next door, we biked over to their house, where I took a look at the Dutch bike. It’s not one of the better-known bikes from that part of the world, like an Oma or Gazelle, but an RIH. The frame was a lady’s loop-frame, but the “loop” was not as exaggerated as what I’m used to seeing on Dutch-style bicycles. It has a rear rack, and a skirt guard, and a rear wheel lock, and a 3-speed hub, and drum brakes. It doesn’t have a generator hub (damn!) but it had a “bottle” generator, the kind that rests on the front tire and gets turned by that. They tend to be less efficient and not as bright, and I’ve heard that if your tire is wet they doesn’t always work. I rode it back and forth in the alley a few times before handing it back to Todd, who had to hang it up from the ceiling–and it’s heavy!

He says he wants about $200 for it, and he’s in no hurry to sell it. Coincidentally, that’s how much I want for the Miyata. Maybe, maybe…it’s terribly tempting.

This is all Velouria of Lovely Bicycle!‘s fault. She got me interested in loop frame bicycles. I always thought they were pretty but impractical if your daily riding is over six miles or involves any major hills. I guess I still feel that way about the hills, but it would still be plenty fine for longer rides around town, as long as I wasn’t in a hurry.

On the trip back over the I-5 bridge, we stopped (less worry about traffic that close to midnight) and enjoyed the views. I spotted Rocky Butte, the rotating light at the top was the dead giveaway.

We just barely didn’t make a train that would have considerably shortened our trip home (the ticket machine wasn’t taking my debit card), so we had a longer ride home than originally planned. We did still take the train part of the way home, a different line from a different stop. We were tired! We’d biked over twenty miles on old 3-speed bicycles.

So, thoughts on riding the Raleigh for the first time in a while:

It’s not nearly as slow or hard to pedal as I thought it was, and now I feel bad for saying such terrible things about the poor bike! But, I was biking with Shawn, who was also on an older heavy bike. If I were with lots of people, or alone, I probably would have felt slower. Shawn points out that I’m a more solid cyclist than I was when I first owned it, I bike far more miles on the average trip than I did then. True enough. But I’m not likely to take this bike up the Alameda Ridge or up Mt. Tabor. (Well, I’ve taken it up Mt. Tabor before…and I had to stop three times to catch my breath!) On the pedestrian bridges over the freeway in North Portland, it was often easier to just get off the bike and walk it.

It is not a ninja bike…it rattles. A lot. It does have old-school steel fenders, after all. Who knows all of what is rattling on the poor thing. The hub makes a sound too, but it ranges from silent in first gear, to a quiet “tickety-tickety” when coasting.

The Raleigh feels oddly nimble, for lack of a better word. I don’t know how much of it is how upright I am, or the swept-back North Road handlebars, or that I don’t have any toe overlap, or that I’m capable of putting a bit of my foot on the ground while still in the saddle. But I was comfortable taking turns much sharper than I do on my other bikes, despite the rather large amount of weight in the front basket, which can make the handling awkward.

Despite being good at pedaling with the ball of my foot on my other bikes, even when not using toe cages, I find it hard not to bike with the arch of my foot on the Raleigh, because that’s how I pedaled on that bike. I seem to have settled on a spot just behind where I usually pedal. It’s a minor thing, but I definitely noticed.

And now I’m thinking of doing a proper renovation/restoration of the bicycle, partially because Shawn pointed out that as of this year, the bike is fifty years old. And that leaves me in awe, in a way. How many other mechanical devices can last so long with so little upkeep? The only thing that comes to mind is maybe the better-made sewing machines, when the parts were all still metal.

The Raleigh still has the original housing (and possibly cables) for the front brake and shifter. The shifter-trigger was replaced at some point. The rear brake has been replaced, but I think the front one is the original. I know the front wheel is new, because I bought it at Citybikes after I had a minor (and totally self-inflicted) crash and broke a few spokes (and probably a toe) in 2006, but the rear wheel is almost certainly the original. The frame is in pretty good shape, although the part on the seat tube that said “SPORTS”, which is the official name for this model, has almost totally worn off. The fenders are dented all to hell, and rusted in places. The gorgeous logo on the back of the rear fender is wearing off. I replaced the saddle it had when I got the bike, it was really falling apart, it has a no-name older leather saddle on it now. The chain guard has been off the bike for a while, the places where it was attached came apart and it fell onto the chain. I really want to put that back on, because I got plenty of chain grease on my right sock yesterday. It’s also dented and the logo is wearing off.

The Wald basket, and the bell from New Belgium Brewery, I definitely put those on myself.

There’s gotta be someone who sells decals to replace the ones the bike came with. Right? Not sure how I’d fix up the paint job, the original one was baked on, or so I’ve been told. I wonder if a flat black paint would work. Maybe in spots, but probably not the whole bike.

I did say this post would be short on photos, but I love this one so much:


And there are a few close-ups of parts of the bike on my flickr account.

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9 Responses to I <3 my Raleigh

  1. adventure! says:

    “But I’m not likely to take this bike up the Alameda Ridge or up Mt. Tabor.”

    But, darling, we did go up the Alameda Ridge yesterday!


  2. Zoë says:

    Awwwwww, the Raleigh! I am pretty sure that’s the bike I got a flat on that time I was, uh, mostly naked.

    This makes me feel a lot better about how freaking tired I was the day I rode 40 miles on a 3-speed in France.

    It makes me so happy that you’re still loving that bike ^__^

  3. SM says:

    Best of luck with restoring the Raleigh April. Nicely written review. Makes me feel optimistic about riding my ’72 Raleigh as soon as all this snow melts.

  4. SM says:

    P.S. I like the Panda shot to, which I haven’t quite mastered yet.

    • I recently got a newer cell phone (still not a fancy phone by any means) that takes okay pictures, and is easy to hold with one hand. So I pull it out, and push the button on the side that turns on the camera, hold it above my head, and push the button to take the picture. Sometimes the shots work, sometimes they don’t, but they’re fun! I can’t do them with my actual camera because it’s too hard to hold one-handed, I can only do them with my phone.

  5. Pingback: Raleigh Improvements | April likes bikes!

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