Tuesday, September 30, 2008

1956 Raleigh Sports, the conclusion.

After the initial long ride with the Raleigh, I realized two things. My legs were definitely not used to riding a regular diamond frame anymore and I really liked the way it rode, but it was missing something. This bike was definitely not right for the upright cruiser position. Maybe it's the skinny tires (For me those are skinny, but I know some dudes who find those tires huge!) or the frame geometry, I don't know, but something was just not feeling right.

I hang out with a bunch that ride fixies and I must admit that I love how vintage road steel comes alive again with modern wheels, components and how attractive the purest form of the bike is. One thing that I find very cool is how they use flipped and cut drop bars. I found a pair of alloy drop bars and by using a pipe cutter tool, I trimmed off the excess. I then covered them with fake cork grip tape.

I was a bit worried. One of the reasons I had stopped riding diamond frames was because my hands would get numb quite fast. But so far the combination of the grip tape and gloves seem to work. I did splurge for the grip tape since I wanted a vintage look, $22CDN. What the heck, you only live once last time I checked.

I disconnected the Nexus hub since it didn't need the gears and I am replacing that wheel with a single speed coaster hub soon anyways. The ride is sublime, a bit nimble and that Brooks saddle is still as plush as ever.

So, what is this bike? A wannabe fixie? A violated vintage roadster? A piece of junk? I don't really care what people will think, I'm in love with this bike like you wouldn't believe. What caught my eye the first time I saw it was that dimpled fork. I have loved those forks since I was 10, I had a Raleigh Chopper. The fact that the saddle was also original equipement, that crane chain ring, the racing green, the faded hand painted gold pinstripes, all are factors that makes me able to sit and just look at it for a long time. It not only looks great, it rides great. I am very happy with the fact that I was able to keep the most important (for me) original parts, add some modern rubber and bring it down as close as I could to it's most purest form.

As of today, it sleeps indoors. I hope you enjoyed this build, the spend-o-meter has stopped at $48 CDN.

Until next time, ride safe and Godspeed.

Gerry :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

1956 Raleigh Sports project bicycle build, ride and review.

After correcting the small problems mentioned on my last post, I finished putting the bike together and went for a spin. The ride was nice and as expected. But I wanted to take it for a decent ride before I would declare my happiness to the masses.

A long ride teaches you something about a bike that a spin around the block will never do, especially if you have to be somewhere at a specific time. The first thing that hit me, or rather my leg muscles, was how tall the gearing was. The Nexus was in first gear and that thing was kinda hard to push up a hill. Now I understand why Nexus equipped bikes come with those tiny 36 tooth chainrings. Well I wasn't too sad about that. My first idea for the bike was to see if that hub was operationnal since it's going on a future project. Mission accomplished on that front minus the fact that I am still in the "educated gueswork" stage for adjusting the speeds on the Nexus.

That rear wheel will be replaced by a one-speed coaster hub. The other reminder that I got, after arriving at my destination, is that running smaller and higher pressure tires makes you more vulnerable to flats. Yep, got one. It's a good thing it happened right next to the Mile End bike garage.

Lastly, I have to talk about the Brooks B66 touring leather saddle that came with that bike. I've heard from many sources that those saddles were worth their high price( around $150CDN) and, after a few decent rides, I must come to the conclusion that they are right. Wow! What smoothness, comfort and smashing good looks! To think that the one I have is over 50 years old. This is the best saddle I have ever had on a bike.

Now normally this would be the end of this little project, however, it's not. I'm not done yet. I'm still going to change some stuff and I'll write about it next week. I just don't like those handle bars.

Until next time, ride safe and Godspeed.

Gerry :)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ride like you are invisible, you're not car proof!

The bike above, or what remains of it, belongs to a fellow volunteer at the Mile End community bike shop where I give some time. His name is Elton and he's a spirited young rider. This is his second crash this summer, that I know of anyways. Bike 0 Cars 2. Luckily he came out of it a bit shaken and bruised. The bike suffered a destroyed fork and wheel. No big deal, the kid is alive and well, that's all that matters.

Then a few days ago my friend Riley, another volunteer at the shop, got rear ended by a drunk driver and ended up in the hospital(The driver was arrested and charged.). Thank God he came out of it without any major injuries. A bad case of road rash on his hip from what I heard. Now Elton's incident may have been partly due to his enthusiastic way of riding, but Riley's was totally unpredictable and those are the scary ones.

I posted about safe riding a while ago and I want to use this post to again emphasize the importance of being aware, extremely aware, of your surroundings when you ride. Take for granted that most drivers don't have any consideration for you or your safety. A lot of them out there don't even know how to operate the heater in their car for crying out loud, but they are very good at multi-tasking with their make-up, cell phone and newspaper. That's until something on the road happens to break their concentration. Remember that even if you are in the right, the law of physics has always precedence over anything else, one ton of car will always win in a collision. Ride as if you were invisible, always.

I don't know if it's because my kids are in the same age group as the guys and gals at the shop, but whenever I hear about one of them getting involved in an accident, I feel terrible. Just as if they were one of mine. I've chatted online with Riley today and he did tell me he was OK, but my mind won't be at peace until I see him in person. I only wish that this post will help someone avoid getting killed or seriously injured so that something positive came out of those incidents.

Until next time, DO ride safe and Godspeed.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

1956 Raleigh Sports project bicycle build, putting it back together .

Putting newer components on older bikes has always a few surprises in store for you. In the case of the rear wheel, the vintage 52 year old frame did not measure up. The drop outs were too small for the bigger axle of the Nexus and the width of the new hub will need to be helped in there as well, it's a bit tight. There was no way around the drop outs however, I had to file them in order for the axle to make it in. I used a hand file since I wanted to keep control of steel removal! If you are doing this type of work, check your progress often, you don't want to take too much off. If you do so, there's no way to put it back. It took me 30 minutes to do both sides. Afterward, with a big flat head screwdriver, I was able to squeeze the new wheel in.

Next I Installed the tires on both wheels with my new 26 X 1.5 slicks. They fitted the frame and fork well with enough room for clearance on both sides. I also installed a chrome chain I had lying around from a previous build.

Now the Nexus is equipped with a coaster brake, but you will agree that two brakes are always better than one. So in that spirit, I installed a front brake caliper on the fork. I put on a set of V-Type brake pads on them for better stopping power. My riding style is that I always use the front brake to slow down and I actually stop the bike with the rear brake.

Before going any further in this build, I decided to do the best test there is to see if I was on the right track with every thing, a road test. This was not a waste of time. I found out immediately that the original pedals were crooked and that the rear tire was not fully set in the rim. The bump bump bump that I felt while cruising was the sign that something was wrong with the rear rubber. The front brake was working marvelously and so did the rear one. Every thing else was coming together as I had hoped.

After the test ride, I replaced the pedals with a pair I had lying around, reconnected the Nexus shifter to the hub, installed the last grip on the handle bar and started to gather up the accessories that will go on the bike.

Keep posted for next week's final installment of this build. With the brake pads added, the spend-o-meter now sits at $26 CDN.

For more info on caliper brakes, check here: brake article
For more info on installing a chain, check here: Chain how-to
For more info on installing pedals, check here: Pedals how-to

Til next time, ride safe and Godspeed.

Gerry :)

1956 Raleigh Sports project bicycle build, tear down!

When rebuilding or restoring an old bike one of the first things you need is a good working area and place for storage. You need a dedicated shelf or box to put every little piece you take off the bike. You'll be saving yourself a ton of time and headache medication from looking around for stuff later on. Keep everything for now. Even though you might think you won't use a certain part, you just don't know what might happen down the road.

This is especially true about custom jobs like the one I am attempting. Tearing down the bike was pretty straight forward. I removed the wheels, fenders, chain, brake calipers and cables. These parts were not going back on the bike. I then removed all the brackets, seat, seat post and handle bar. These went on the storage shelf. I was left with the frame, bottom bracket assembly with cranks and the fork assembly.

I removed the fork from the frame and I was very happy to find that the bearings and cups were in decent shape. These old bikes did not hold the bearings in crowns. They have all individual bearing balls. One must prepare for such a thing when dismantling a fork. Lay down a blanket on the floor or a big empty bucket because these little suckers will fly all over the place. Reassembly is pretty straight forward, make sure you have the same number of bearing balls on top and at the bottom of the fork head set. Lay down some grease in the top cup on the frame and on the bottom one of the fork. Insert each ball bearing, grease the cup under the frame and on the one you screw on the top of the fork. Carefully insert the fork and be ready to screw it in right away. Did I mention that this was a bit of a messy job? It is. :)

I was also going to repack the bottom bracket with grease. But this one is equiped with cotter pin crank arms. In order to remove these, you must hit the cotter pin out. I partly removed the nut on the cotter pins and whacked them 2 or 3 times with a hammer on each side...nothing happened. No movement at all. That's the way of the cotter pin crank, it's a 50/50 chance that they are seized every time you need to remove them. The only other way for me to remove them is to drill out the pin. Now I am on a time limit for this build and the bottom bracket seems fine. No looseness anywhere and the thing cranks over pretty smoothly. So I decided to let it be.

Next step was to go over the frame with a Scotchbrite pad dipped in soap water to remove some house paint splashes and to generally clean the frame before applying a coat of clear lacquer all over the original finish. I also cleaned the chrome parts with a steel wool dipped in Mother's polishing cream. Another part that required some attention was the seat. The Brooks B66 leather saddle was not in bad shape, but the hide was starting to become a bit dry. It was wipped with Dubbin at least four times. The result was pretty good.

Next I located a stem and handle bar in my pile of parts. I really don't like the riding position of the original. Now that the frame is ready, it's time to figure out if those new parts fit on the frame...and that's for next time.

For more info on a complete bike tear down, including fork removal, consult my blog on the subject: http://bikeoverhaul

I bought two lights for the bike so that now sets the spend-o-meter at $21 CDN.

Til next time, ride safe and Godspeed.

Gerry :)

Saturday, September 06, 2008

1956 Raleigh Sport project bicycle build

Well I haven't been the best of blogger lately. A crappy summer and all of a sudden the weather is nice. I've been selfish and spent my time riding and enjoying the nice weather. Yesterday I got my hands on 2 bikes that I plan to turn into one. So in trying to gain the forgiveness of my faithful readers, I will share this build with you. :)

So the story goes like this, a friend of mine had a pile of bikes he wanted to get rid of and called me to come and pick them up. I had no clue what he had, neither did he, but I rushed to his place and I was quite happy with what I found. The first was the CCM cruiser. Despite it's very bland looks my eyeballs zeroed in on the rear hub immediately, a Nexus 4! Four inner gears with a coaster brake, even the shifter was there, I couldn't believe my luck. That's until I turned my head and saw the Raleigh. Wow, the Brooks leather saddle caught my eyes right away and just by the general looks of it, I knew I was dealing with some very sweet vintage British iron. The rest of the pile was brought to the community bike shop.

When I first got my hands on these, I had a very vague idea of what I wanted to do with them. I had hunted for a Nexus for the past 3 years to put on one of my custom bikes, but now all those wheels are built up and painted. I wanted to try out the Nexus a bit before rebuilding an entire wheel for one of the customs with it. So I finally decided to use the Raleigh as a test bed for the Nexus and build it up. I took the CCM cruiser for a spin to make sure that the hub and shifter worked properly before disassembly. To my great relief, it worked fine.

Whenever you set up yourself up to start a project like this, there are many things to take into consideration. It's not just a case of slapping some parts from one bike to another. You most also decide to what extent you are willing to go. For this build, I decided I liked the original finish too much to repaint it, besides I have neither the means or the time to recreate the original art and decals put on there by the workers of Notthingham 52 years ago. I will simply lay a few coats of clear over the existing finish. I will also keep the signature Raleigh dimple fork, one of my favorite features of these bikes.

The Raleigh is equiped with 26 X 1 3/8 wheels, at first glance this size would seem to be the same as any 26 inch wheel, wrong! 26 X 1 3/8 is a little taller than balloon cruiser or mountain bike 26 inch wheels. The frame is also not wide enough to accept 26 X 2.125 whitewalls. I have no intention to lace the hub to the original rims, this would be time consuming and there is also the fact that there is one or two kinds of tires that fit on 26 X 1 3/8, that is if you can find them. I have gone and bought two 26 X 1.5 slicks that will fit inside the frame and fork.

The other thing to consider at this point, are the axles of the new wheels going to fit in the frame and fork? Axles today are pretty big compared to back then. I will use a quick release hub in the front, the smaller diameter axle will fit so I don't have to grind the fork stays openings. I will also have to verify that the back drop outs are wide enough to accept the Nexus hub.

There are a bunch of things to consider when doing this type of custom bicycle build, but in the end it's all worth it. I will post a progress report within the week...promise. The spend-o-meter now sits at $13 CDN.

Til next time, ride safe and Godspeed.

Gerry :)