Bike Different

When routines are disrupted, surprising changes take place.  With the COVID-19 pandemic creating so much fear, sorrow, and loss, it’s sometimes difficult to focus on what still remains.  My own cycling patterns have changed.  I’ve had to “bike different” (sorry…Apple) now that human behavior has been altered by the crisis.

Some of the changes are good.  I’ve noticed that I now want to ride a bike that can handle a lot of “different” situations, and can give me a relaxed riding position as I go about altering my usual routes.  With pedestrians “taking the lane” I needed to find other routes for my usual commute.  And, I stopped doing many of my leisure ride jaunts due to crowding on narrow paths.  A not so good change is how many aggressive drivers are out on the road, as compared to the previous amount of way too many.  All of these shifts have meant that I’ve been riding my Rivendell Appaloosa much more frequently.

I had originally built up the frame with a full complement of vintage SunTour components, including a Cyclone rear derailleur and a Sprint double crank, with a Superbe front derailleur.  That system worked perfectly, except for not offering low enough gears for the bike to become a regular grocery hauler and errand bike.  I had reserved it only for pleasure rides, it being fairly pleasurable!

So it was time for a triple crank.  I wanted to continue using vintage SunTour but couldn’t find a SunTour crankset with the right BCD to allow for smaller rings.  Fortunately, this Sugino AT triple fills the bill with its interesting spider and self-extracting crank bolts.  After all, Sugino is the actual manufacturer of SunTour cranksets, so its kind of still SunTour anyway. I set it up with 45/38/28 rings, but still had to add 3 spacers to the 127mm bottom bracket spindle to provide enough clearance with the Appaloosa’s wide chain stays.  The bike is definitely meant to be used with very small rings, kind of mountain bike style.

I could no longer use the superb Superbe front derailleur, so needed something to handle the triple crank.  I decided to “think different” and try out a SunTour BlueLine front derailleur, designed for a double and for larger rings.  It works perfectly with this triple crankset.  Many times I’ve found that components work as not originally marketed.  This BL derailleur is just one example of a vintage component that works outside of its targeted range.

I also replaced the pretty constructeur rear rack I had originally installed with this heftier model taken off a 1980’s touring bike.  Because of the Appaloosa’s long chain stays, I added some extra brackets to get the rack stays attached to the frame.

I’ve been using this Brooks Cambium C-19 saddle, which is quite lovely, and the shape is reasonably comfortable.  However, the rough pattern in the non-leather cover causes chafing.  I’ve been hoping for the saddle to wear smooth over time, but so far that hasn’t happened.

And, part of biking different means alerting walkers and runners to my presence in a more pleasant manner than “on yer left”.  So the Riv has a new brass bell, courtesy of Velo-Orange.  I’m not sure if its reverberating ring is any less alarming to pedestrians than my vocal warning, but it looks nice.

It’s definitely more challenging to cycle right now.  It’s more challenging to do all of the things we normally do.  But, by biking different, I think we’ll come out on the other side of this pandemic with a new found respect for non-vehicular modes of transportation.

Pandemic Stress Release: A Few Product Reviews

I’ve been thinking about the different ways people cope with stress as we go through this difficult and unprecedented (for most of us) time.  For me, cycling, walking, gardening, and having the opportunity to work have helped a great deal.  But, when all of that fails, it’s time to go shopping!

First up was a pedal replacement for my 1975 Centurion Semi-Pro.  The bike came to me with these amazing Barelli Supreme cartridge bearing pedals, which were designed for toe clips.  As I no longer ride with toe clip pedals, I removed them and installed some low-end Wellgo pedals that were sitting around in my shop.  While moderately acceptable, I wanted to find some quality pedals that could provide more comfort for my aging feet, which have become sensitive to pedal pressure points.

After looking around for options I settled on these Velo-Orange Touring pedals.  I was looking for a pedal that was of medium size, durable, and with good grip for rain riding, as well as offering a better distribution of weight across the pedal body and cage.  As you can see from the above photo, these pedals feature two adjustable pins on the outside of the pedal plus ridges on the cage to help lock your shoes in place.  You can easily pop out the reflectors, but since I love reflectors, I left them there.

They install with an Allen wrench, not a 15mm pedal wrench.  As with many cartridge bearing systems, the pedals did not spin as freely when initially installed, as cup and cone pedals will.  But, I’ve been cycling with them for about a week now and they have loosened up a bit.  Most importantly, they are amazingly comfortable pedals, offering support for my whole foot, not just around the cage.  My feet are happier.

Next up was a saddlebag for the R. Ducheron bike I’ve been restoring.  The bike has no rack braze-ons.  With its beautiful new paint job (see below), I decided not to even consider mounting a rear rack with clamps.  The bike has a small custom front rack designed to support a rando bag, but for my kind of riding, I needed a more substantial bag to handle errands, commuting, and shopping.

Cue this Carradice Cadet saddlebag, which I purchased from Ben’s Cycle, located in Milwaukee and established in 1928 and now owned by the third generation of the family.  Ben’s is a wonderful online source for many cycling related products.

I wanted a saddlebag that would not be wider than the bars, but would still hold all that I needed.  A tall order, for sure, but this Carradice Cadet bag fills the bill with its 13 litres of interior space.  The bag closes with a draw string, and the cavernous area is best organized with smaller containers for tools and supplies.  But, it meets my requirements and will be put to good use, being also waterproof.

A related product is these V-O saddlebag loops which clamp on to the saddle rails.  I was surprised that my Rebour-blessed Ideale saddle didn’t have loops, but fear not:  these V-O loops when installed look like they have always been there.

Next up:  a wax/polish product designed for restorers of vintage machines.  I first heard about Renaissance Micro-Crystalline Wax Polish from one of my favorite sites:  VintageBicycles.com.

I’ve been working on a number of projects lately, including a 1977 Jack Taylor tandem, as well as the R. Ducheron bike featured above.  I’ve been looking for a product that would help to preserve these older machines.  This wax/polish was initially formulated by the British Museum’s research lab as an alternative to regular wax which contains beeswax and carnuba, both of which contain acids which can harm a painted finish over time.  At least that’s its claim.

In practice, this wax will make any already nice paint look show-stopping.  The above photo is the R. Ducheron frame after a few applications of Renaissance wax.

So, I wondered how this wax would work on a highly compromised frame, such as the above 1970’s Mercian.  These before and after photos show that Renaissance wax/polish does help to revitalize faded colors, in addition to protecting the the finish over time.  I’m going to try out the wax on the 1977 Jack Taylor tandem I’ve been (slowly) restoring.  More info to come!

A Tale of Two Three Speeds

Last fall I relocated our offices to the Laurelhurst neighborhood in Northeast Portland.  Now, I commute to work in a lovely and historic part of Portland’s awesome east side, leaving behind the stressful and gnarly traffic surrounding our old Victorian on SW 5th near PSU.  I usually commute on one of my daily riders, but also keep extra bikes on hand at the office for errands and lunchtime rides through the neighborhood, including my two favorite 3 speeds:  a 1950 Raleigh Sports Tourist, and a 1947 Peugeot PH55.  I restored both bikes many years ago, but the Peugeot was a more involved process because many of its original parts were missing.

The restoration process involved sourcing a vintage 650b wheelset and fenders, as well as handlebars, stem, brake levers, saddle, dynamo, lamps, and saddle.

My goal was to come as close as possible to the bike featured in this 1947 Peugeot catalog, and to err on the higher quality side when possible.

I think I achieved this objective and am happy with the way the build came together.  The NOS Ducel dynamo lights work well without excessive drag.  The bike is much lighter than its Raleigh counterpart, weighing in at a respectable 28 lbs. compared with the Raleigh’s 45 lb. bulk.  This is because the tubing is high quality Rubis, and the bike features many alloy components.

The Peugeot’s drive train is all original, with a 19-24 “Twister” freewheel, Simplex TDF rear derailleur and Peugeot 46T crankset.  That puts the gear inch range, with its 650b wheel size, at 50 to 63.  Very narrow and with no low or high gears.  The Simplex TDF shifts just fine, but needs a bit of correction both shifting up and down the gear range.

The Raleigh’s drive train is, of course, a Sturmey Archer internally geared hub, mated to a 46T Raleigh crankset, which is fully enclosed in its full length chain guard.  The AW hub with its 17T cog gives a gear inch range of 52 – 93.  A much wider range than the Peugeot, but mostly very high, especially given its bulk.

The Raleigh has steel rims, as compared to the Peugeot’s lightweight alloy Super Champion rims.  Both wheel sizes are similar, and both bikes feature full length fenders.  The Raleigh’s are steel (of course!) and somewhat mangled from years of use, and the Peugeot’s are lighter weight alloy.  All of these elements contribute to the significant weight difference between the two bikes.

1950 Raleigh Sports Tourist

So, what bike wins my vote?  Believe it or not, it’s the Raleigh.  While it is MUCH more challenging to conquer hills on the Raleigh, the comfort and quality of this machine is no match for its highly competent counterpart.  The bike kind of self-propels once it gets going, due to the inertia of the heavy wheels.  And, the convenience of shifting whether stopped or not adds to this bike’s appeal.  It’s the bike I most often select for neighborhood jaunts, even though I may have to stand up and stomp to get it up the hills.  It’s a pleasure to ride and gives me a great workout.  And, it’s a reminder of what it’s like to experience the quality and craftsmanship of this era’s legendary Raleigh marque.