Friday, November 22, 2013

When Oil turns to Honey

In New England during the Winter, things slow down. Riding your 3 speed is slower. Not only is it harder to move because of having to be bundled up, but greases and oils thicken and can make it hard to simply roll your bike.

What was once a thin oil that would spill out of a bottle and work perfectly for a 3 speed hub, in the cold can stick things up. The change is drastic and enough to consider changing to a thinner oil if if you ride during the Winter months.

That being said, oil is oil and anything is better than nothing, but when it gets below 30 degrees, a thinner oil works better.

I run my Raleighs on oil. I use grease to assemble my bikes, but run 30 weight into the Bottom Bracket, hubs and chain. A good oiling before a ride can make all the difference in the world.

During the Winter months I use "Marvel Lubricating Oil" Different from the "Mystery Oil" that most mechanics are familiar with. The "Lubricating Oil" is for doing just that. Its thin enough to get into the hub and work. Its displaces water for less freeze up as well. The side of the can use to say "Good for,,,and Velocipedes" That was enough for me to give it a try. Actually it was the only oil in the house at the time.

Im sure that their are many oils on the market that will work as well. Checking the effect of the cold on your choice of oil can be done s easily leaving the bottle outdoors over night. Leaving the bike in a barn or a unheated garage has the same effect, it just cant be seen to be believed.

Choose a oil that is thin enough to do your job and don't forget to change back when the weather warms up again!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The View from a Raleigh

A day on a Raleigh Roadster is quite different then any other bicycle experience. Rolling along, head up, you will feel the difference in less time then you may expect.

The view from a Raleigh is higher. A better view makes for a better ride and a better day.

New England is loaded with history and scenery that has not changed in years.

I once read about the feeling that a Civil War reenactor would get, dressed in all wool and accessorized with everything down to the silver coins in their pockets and the correct time piece on the correct chain. Its called a "Civil War Moment" A complete shift back in time. When everything is the same including the view, there is nothing holding you to today. Jack Finney in his book, "Time and Again" wrote about this.

You can get this feeling riding a Raleigh Roadster here in new England. You find yourself in places that current time plays no roll. Swept away by the view from your Raleigh. There is a such thing as a time machine and it just happens to be your bike.

I love finding new, old places. For a sit and a view. The Raleigh fits so well. Other people notice. Smiles from strangers are always good!

The Roadster is a go anywhere machine. Good off road as well as on. We are so lucky to have so many old roads to explore here in the Boston area. Its possible to find byways that have not changed in 300 years.

The Raleigh rides well and rids you of problems. Sit back and enjoy the view.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Dump Bikes

Over the past years of posting to this blog I have mentioned that my love for the Raleigh started by picking the dump. Its true. Many of the Raleigh's I have owned were free.
Found and saved from being crushed, I gave these bicycles a whole new life.
Over the years I have collected photos of the bikes. I no longer own all the bikes, but I still have some of the photos.

These are some of the photos, but not all. I will share some more on another day, Until then, Always carry your camera!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"Raleigh" by Tony Hadland

Tony Hadland's book "Raleigh" tells all. A 370 page chronological account of the development of the Raleigh company. Answers to any question you might have had regarding Raleigh. From start to finish this book is a joy and something I have wanted for a very long time.
Loaded with hundreds of great photos and illustrations, Tony covers every step in time of what was one of the largest company's in the world. Bicycle or otherwise.
Coffee table sized, this book is fun and easy to read, both as a reference book and a good read from cover to cover.
Its a captivating story of how the love for the bicycle turned founder Sir Francis Bowden from a sickly man into a healthy cyclist and founder of the Raleigh company.
Important dates of development are cleared up from what over the my past years of me collecting bicycles had just been hearsay. For years I had talked to shop owners here in the US that were part of the Hamilton Osgood second coming of the Raleigh in the early 30's as my only source. It was if it was simply was not important for them to know. The Bicycle for them was to make money and not an art piece or a collectors item. The oldest shops Like Ben Olken's Bicycle Exchange and Bill Vandel's in New Bedford were proud to have sold the Raleigh, but had very little knowledge of its history.
Sales in North America in the late 1800's are covered in detail in this book. World bicycle history makes this book a treasure.
Answers to questions like why the iconic tubular fork crown looks the way it does is covered. How the frames were made and how manufacturing had evolved over time to keep up with demand. Simplifying construction without skimping on quality.

During the World Wars, the company was converted to support the war effort. Photographs of machinery and specialty bicycles are covered in this book.
Introduction of the Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub is covered in detail. Photos of early shifters and advertisements. Most of the early photos from catalogs I had never seen.
Managing the work force is covered and how Raleigh made is safe and fun. Sports facilities were formed for employes to join together on week ends.
My favorite parts of the book are the photos and illustrations of the Raleigh models from the 20's to the 30's. Truly a time gone by. Gear cased roadsters as well as lightweight racers in ads and reprints from catalogs are beautifully presented in this book.
The introduction of the Moulton and the RSW models are covered as well as the Chopper. Even the early Brompton and how Raleigh turned the designer and his design down in 1977 because they thought the design needed more work.
BMX and the Mountain Bicycle and Raleigh's attempt in England and the US to popularize the sport are discussed.
The most important question answered for me was "What Happened to Raleigh quality after the late 60's?" If you collect Raleigh's, you know what Im writing about. In 5 years the Raleigh went from one of the nicest roadsters ever made to a bicycle most mechanics dreaded working on. The answer is the TI take over.
The acquisition of Carlton in 1960 for the building of special lightweight frames. At that time Gerald O'Donovan joined Raleigh
The book has a section on frame building and Raleigh's specialty unit in Ilkeston. Run by O'Donovan, the book covers step by step construction of a 70's pro racing frameset. Reynolds tubing and explanation of the name,number designation is covered, (532,753)
Motorized Raleighs over the years are covered at the end of the book. Employing Sturmy Archer gearing, some of these cars and motorcycles are still in use today.
A chapter titled "The Art and Image of Raleigh" tells about how Raleigh advertised and worked its way into the hearts and minds of the cycling public. Color photos of catalog covers over the years follows in time trends and fashion.
The appendix has seral numbers of framsets built from the start of the company. The dating of Sturmey Archer hubs is also discussed. There is a great little section on the evolution of the head badge.

I kept my review small and easy to read, I have not nearly covered the full content of this book, It is just a tease to inspire you as a "Raleighest" to go and buy yourself a copy.
The book retails for $49.99 in the US and can be found on Amazon.

Thank You Tony Hadland for another great and important book on the bicycles we all love!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Three Speed, Four Speed or Five Speed?

Most Raleigh Roadsters came with a Sturmey Archer 3 Speed. Its hard to find any other gear on a stock Raleigh Sports.
I came across my first Raleigh Sports 4 Speed back in the early 70's. It was a 1954, 24" Sports that sold used for $50.00 at The Dover Country Store. Not sure exactly sure what the hub was, I went to the local Raleigh dealer and asked if they had ever seen one. They told be that not only had they seen a few, but there were also 5 peed hubs available. Dave at Needham Cyclery showed me an exploded view of the inside of the hub and assured me that the core could be removed without a problem and returned safely after inspection. He explained that it really wasent any different then a 3 speed and if the bicycle had been sitting that it would be a good idea to remove the core and give it a good oiling as well as a look.

What he did not tell me is that the 4 speed as well as the 5 speed cores could be exchanged in the 3 speed shell without having to rebuild the wheel. This was a whole new world and had me searching for hubs to swap the cores for the extra gears. Only true with the FW and the S5, The FM (Medium ratio) and the very rare FC (Close ratio) had their own hub shell.

As time went on I came across more 4 and 5 speed hubs. Experimenting with the both, I found that the most dependable hub gear was the old 3 Speed, or AW. The "Wide Ratio" would stay in gear under full load and off the saddle climbing. The 4 speeds low gear that used a different trigger control that had an extra click position. The lever extra stop was closer to the bar and required placing the shifter so that the lever could be clicked into gear and not be stopped by the handle bar. Because of the design, the shift lever had not nearly as much space that it could be placed on the bar so that it would work and stay in gear. It also sometimes required holding the shift lever to the bar while climbing or else it could slip out of gear causing the rider problem.

The Five Speed or S5 used two shifters. Most of the internal parts were the same as the Four Speed, but first and fifth gear were controlled from the left side of the hubs axle with a bell crank design. The story was that the British cycling public had modified the FW to work as a five speed before Sturmey Archer produced one. Using American made, Bendex parts, the four speed could be easily made into a five.

The cycling public here in the United States in the 30's were use to riding Fixed and Free gears so 3 speeds were more then what most cyclists needed. The 3 speed was a gear that the "Round Town" cyclists were looking for. Most bikes in the 30's came as a one speed with a 3 speed option. It wasent until after World War 2 that multi geared bicycles were offered stock. Shortly after that came the first derailleur bicycles that only offered 4 cogs in the rear. Those systems still used 1/2 x 1/8 chains, cogs and chainrings.

The "Planetary Gear" using a system of whats known as a Sun Pinion, Planet Gears and a Gear ring was first invented in the early 1900's. We have seen over the last 15 years a resurgence of the design. Hubs as the Rohloff Speedhub with 14 internal gears are commonplace. Belt drive systems make shifting cleaner and easier but not lighter. When all is said and done, the story remains he same, The Sturmey Archer 3 Speed is to me the most dependable gear system design.

100 years old and still going strong!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Raleigh Love

Chances are, if your reading this blog, you love your Raleigh.
Its would be hard to explain to non Raleigh Roadster owners how its possible.
It would be hard to explain to someone that doesn't ride a bicycle for fun how riding a Raleigh Roadster is done for fun. They just would never understand.
Its a good thing. The fewer people that know the joy of riding a Roadster on a beautiful country road, the more available bicycles. Owning and riding a bicycle that you just cant go out and buy makes the riding experience special.
I love the looks I get from folks on their Aero bikes, out trying to achieve their personal best,they look at me being carried along by the Roadster, usually smiling, without a care in the world. More Women get it then Men. Men look at me as "What are you trying to prove?" Women see that happiness is the answer.
Raleigh Roadsters are like that. The shinier the better. Black is Beautiful and with the chrome at is best, so go the smiles. From the rider as well as the people you pass. They may not always notice the bike, but some do.
I love my Raleigh's. All of them. The ones I have owned and the ones I now own. Photographing them for me can be as fun as riding them. I love the way the look and the way it adds to the New England scenery. Its just right.
Raleigh Love is not an acquired taste. It only takes one ride. It helps to understand that your not going to feel any "Snap" or response from the machine as you would riding a modern lightweight bicycle. Adding just enough power to keep the bike rolling is all it takes. Letting the bike take you for a ride rather than you taking the bike for a ride.
Like going back in time. The antique Roadster gives you a feeling of the way things were. Slower and with a better understanding of the beauty that surrounds you as you arrive at each spot you pass. You may look at your watch, but your not going to be looking at any "Power Meter."
Its true that anyone can love their bike for various reasons, but Raleigh Love is a totally different thing. But chances are if your reading this blog, you know that.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Winter Again?

The weather man on NBC this morning announced that Winter is here again. We all know better that Winter wont be here for over a month. What he was actually talking about was the snow and wind.
Winter like weather has me thinking about bringing in the good bikes and rolling out bikes I don't need to worry about holding on to for the future. Salt and sand on the roads can ruin a fine machine. It happens so slowly you may not notice, but it will.
Choosing the right bicycle for the job could be difficult. A bike you choose today may be a bike that 20 years from now may be a classic that you may wish you never ridden.
Winter road conditions and the chance of ruining my good bikes is exactly how I got into Raleigh 3 Speeds. The new style off a "10 Speed" and the desire to own one back in the early 70's had people bringing their perfectly good Raleigh's to the dump. They liked them enough to stand them up on their kickstands when they did.
Coming into the dump on any given week end day was like going to the bicycle shop. You never knew what you were going to find, but chances were good there was going to be something.
Over time the dump picked bikes became our favorite and the "Good Bikes" remained at home parked for the longer rides. Long before Californians invented the Mountain Bike, The Raleigh became our woods machines. A quick in and out means of transportation. Rigged for camping, our Raleigh's took on names. The Bugler was one of the first. The head badge had been removed so I replaced it with the logo from a Bugler Tobacco tin. A solder in a World War One helmet in a circle with a horn. It looked right. Leading the pack, crashing through the woods, it later became known as "Mobile Unit One"
Over the years there had been a few bikes I wish I still owned. Ridden into the ground, they remain as good memories.
I will never regret having used those bikes as I will never forget the places they took me. Places I never would have gone on the Good Bikes.
The Raleigh changed my life. There is nothing like saving a bike from the scrap pile and giving it the life it deserves. The return it brings is the best and a constant reminder that just maybe some of the best things in life are free.

Moble Unit One. Peabody's Woods, Dover, Ma. 1973

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Snowing and Blowing

I have often felt that I should higher myself out to places that need rain.
I think that I have had more planned events that have turned into soakers than not.
Ok so we need rain, I can live with that, but sideways blowing snow can wait a day for a few "Black Bike Riders" to enjoy an afternoon of New England splendor. Well, not today anyway.

For now, our ride will have to wait.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day Ride

Veterans Day comes but once a year. A day to remember our past and the Men and Women that served this country of ours to make it and keep it as we know it.
Veterans Day for us has been a day of celebration. Bring out out the old bikes for a slow ride through the New England splendor.

Our ride this year however will be postponed until tomorrow. Tuesday when the holiday is being forgotten until next year by most, we will ride.

The ride will begin in Lexington Center at 10:00 at Pete's Coffee on Massachusetts Ave. We will be riding the Battle road to Concord with stops along the way.

Bring locks, camera and cash for lunch at the Colonial Inn.

Hope to see you there!

Five Golden Arrows. Veterans Day 11-11-05