Rain Rider

Super LeMans

Centurion Mixte – not prepared for the rain!

Living in Portland, Oregon means that riding in the rain is going to happen, even if unintentionally.  It can rain at any time, it seems.  And, it can rain for a long time (like now!).  After over 30 years of bike commuting through Portland’s winters I have developed my own methods to help ease the transition into winter riding.

First and foremost is to tend to the bicycle itself.  Fenders are a must if you want to arrive at your destination looking moderately decent and relatively dry.  Full coverage fenders are ideal.  Even if your bike lacks eyelets, you can still mount full coverage fenders with P-clamps, but only if you have adequate clearance at the brake bridges to accommodate fenders.  Unfortunately, due to the cycling industry’s recent racing-craze, many regular cyclists ended up purchasing “road bikes” which were really NOT road bikes, but bikes designed for racing, with high gearing, no brake clearance, and no eyelets or rack mounts.  If you lack brake bridge clearance for fenders, then you will be stuck using clip on fenders, UNLESS you convert your bike to a smaller wheel size such as 650c or 650b, which I have fearlessly done.  A conversion will not only give you the option for full coverage fenders, but you will also be able to use fatter tires, which are much better suited for riding through rain and on rough roads strewn with debris.


Next are brake pads and rims.  A rainy winter can eat up a set of brake pads.  It’s good to check your pads before winter starts, and replace them if they are worn.  I also regularly inspect my pads and clean them with alcohol, and remove any specks of rim material from them using a pick.  Bad or hard brake pads will destroy your rims, so when in doubt, buy some new (soft) pads and get them installed properly.  After especially muddy rides, I hose down my brake pads and rims, using a gentle spray of water, and I also clean everything again with alcohol several times throughout the winter.  So far, I haven’t had to replace any rims due to wear.  That’s a pretty good track record for over 30 years of winter commuting.

The bike’s drive train will need cleaning and lubrication more often during the winter.  Check your chain for wear.  If it is stretched, then replace it.  You may have to replace your cassette at the same time.  I have seen riders break chains, often while climbing or vigorously accelerating, which can cause you to crash.  Chain life can be greatly increased by using a front fender with a long mud flap, which will keep debris off of the chain and crankset.


Without full coverage fenders, my Terry’s BB gets really dirty.

Riding through the winter can also really mess up your bottom bracket, even if it has sealed bearings.  I recently had to replace a Shimano BB that was only two years old because debris and moisture had made their way past the bearing seals.  When I tried to remove the crank arms, I found that they had rusted to the axle of the bottom bracket!  These were nice aluminum Sugino crank arms.  After that experience, I now remove and check the crank arms at least once a year.  Again, a super long front mud flap helps keep junk off of the BB and cranks.  Many riders make their own out of plastic water bottles, or other suitable found objects.


With long mud flaps on my winter bike, its bottom bracket stays really clean.


Panasonic MC 7500 set up as winter commuter, with Jandd Hurricane bag.

Another idea is to simply use a beater bike for winter riding, such as this mid-80’s Panasonic Mountain bike that I have converted to a city commuter.  The Jandd Hurricane bags pictured above are not only waterproof, but can hold just about anything.  A simple 1 x 7 drive train and extra long mudflaps, makes maintaining this winter bike very easy.

If you decide not to ride through the winter, here’s a nice blog post from Georgena Terry explaining what to do to safely get your bike back out on the road again.

Now, you also have to keep yourself relatively dry and comfortable.  I have a number of cycling rain jackets, but my favorites are a newer Shower’s Pass, and an older heavier weight Sugoi for super cold conditions.  I usually wear rain tights for my commute and change clothes at work, but if you want to look less bikey upon arrival, then you’ll need some kind of rain overpants.  The only overpants that I can really tolerate wearing are my ancient Burley rain pants.  They don’t ride up my jeans, they don’t inhibit motion, and they are no more steamy than any other higher end overpants I have tried.  I especially like the zippers at the seams which allow full access to my jeans pockets.  I am curious to try the rain chaps I have seen, but haven’t sprung for them yet, and am waiting to see how other riders like them.  If you are using them, please share your comments.


Specialized Sub Zero gloves

For gloves, I keep one set of fully lined waterproof gloves in my kit, shown above, but I usually wear my favorite winter gloves – Diamond Mountaineering gloves.  By washing them periodically with Nikwax, the gloves will stay dry in a downpour for about 45 minutes.  They have good wind protection, and keep my hands warm even when it is really cold, yet still provide full dexterity.

I would love to hear other cyclists’ winter riding recommendations and experiences!

A Peugeot PR 65 Arrives from France

Bluemel's Fenders

When I spotted what looked like a complete and all original 1978 Peugeot PR 65 on Ebay, I was thrilled.  Even though the bike would have to be shipped from France, I had purchased bikes from the seller before, so I wasn’t worried about its journey across the Atlantic.

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However, when this package arrived, looking like a giant turtle, it was with some trepidation that I began the process of opening its contents.

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The amount of labor involved in packing the bike was probably only exceeded by the amount of time it took me to get all the protective wrapping off.  However, even part way through the 1 1/2 hour process, when I finally caught sight of the paint and components, I was pleased.

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The bike came through just fine, thanks to the protective materials used.  I wasn’t sure whether the component group would match the PR65 in this catalog, but as it turned out, all of the parts are original, including the polished Mavic 700c aluminum rims, high flange Normandy hubs (with helpful 1978 date code), Stronglight TS 3 arm crankset (very pretty), and a complete Simplex drive train.  The frame is built with Reynolds 531 7/10 tubing and Nervex lugs.  I believe it is the only Peugeot mixte frame built with Reynolds 531.

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This bike came with a small TA front rack which mounts to the Mafac brakes and the fork crown, as well as lovely Phillipe porteur style bars.  The Phillipe logo is in great condition – its the image of a racer seen from the top, bent over his narrow racing bars.

The seller also installed drop out protectors to help insure that the fork and rear drop outs did not get smashed during shipping.

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Even so, the rear drop outs were slightly misaligned such that it was difficult to install the rear wheel.  A little “wanging” solved that problem.

All these photos were taken before restoration, a process I am now beginning.  In the meantime, this little Peugeot is hanging out in my shop with her sister.

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1970’s Peugeot Mixte Porteur

peugeot-mixte-531-porteur-1Here is a a 1970’s Peugeot Mixte frame made from Reynolds 531 tubing that I purchased from a French seller several years ago.  My goal in building the bike up was to recreate a Peugeot PR65, whose photo is shown below, and whose style is evocative not only of Peugeot’s legacy and its consistent focus on women riders, but also of that amazing decade known as the 70’s. 1978_11 The PR65 Mixte model seemed to exist only for year or two.  I love the porteur bars and the cable routing, not to mention the super nice components. 1978_10 This 1978 Dutch Peugeot catalogue reveals that the frame was built with Reynolds 531 7/10 butted tubing and Nervex lugs, brazed below 600 degrees using silver, with brazed on cable guides.  Components included a Stronglight 48/38 crankset weighing 650 grams, which is lighter than modern day Ultegra and Dura Ace cranksets.  The rear derailleur was a Simplex SX410T with a 30 tooth cog capacity, and the front was a Simplex LJA302. L1010522L1010523L1010536

I decided to go all out and use Simplex Super LJ derailleurs front and rear.

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This frame’s Reynolds 531 transfers were in excellent shape, and the bike shop sticker from the shop where this bike was first sold is up in the Pyrenees, on one of the Tour de France routes.  Drop-outs are by Simplex, and the fork is fully chromed underneath the paint.  No model number is indicated on the frame, and I am not aware of any other mixte frames that Peugeot built during this era with Reynolds tubing.

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I used vintage Mafac Racer brake calipers, and a Pivo stem mounted with new Velo-Orange porteur bars. I had to spread the clamp a bit.  The shifters are Suntour ratcheting bar ends, which are great to use with these bars because they are close at hand.  Believe it or not, I used Raleigh’s steel brake levers because they feel much more solid and sturdy than the flimsier Weinmann and Dia-Compe levers of this era.

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peugeot mixte 531 porteur 008The wheelset is an early 80’s Shimano 600 set, with Wolber Super Champion Gentlemen 81 rims, and I managed to find some NOS Bluemels fenders complete with front mudflap.  I don’t want to talk about the hours spent installing and adjusting the Velo Orange front porteur rack.  Let’s just say that a certain amount of pain was involved.  The tight clearances also made it necessary to carefully adjust the fenders to avoid rubbing.

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I ended up swapping out the Zeus crankset shown on the left post with this Stronglight, which has smaller chain rings and is better suited for the kind of riding I do.  I have had fun commuting and grocery shopping on this bike.

Small Ortlieb panniers fit fine on the Velo Orange front rack.

Peugeot PR65

After a rainy ride the bike stayed dry and clean thanks to the Bluemel’s fenders.

It takes a little while to get used to hauling a front load, but after a few rides, it starts to feel natural.  Now that the bike has been thoroughly test ridden and vetted, it’s time to put it up for sale.  It’s hard to properly price a bike like this.  Many hours went into creating it, and many dollars went into the parts, and most importantly, I hope is the value of the creative process.  But, the flood of low-priced Chinese-made bikes in the U.S. has created an expectation gap among bike consumers, and there is a real lack of understanding about why it is possible to buy a cheap bike from their LBS, and what the real cost of that cheap bike may be.  But, that rant is for another blog post.

More photos can be seen on this FB Album.