Thursday, January 21, 2010

Riding the Twenty - First Impressions

I rode the Raleigh Twenty into work yesterday - first time doing a significant ride.  I received the Brooks B-66 on Saturday last week and in a couple minutes had it mounted to the seatpost.  I'm hanging on to the original so I have a complete original stock bike, despite the rip in the saddle.

Anyway, I was up and out the door at 6AM yesterday, no rain, broken clouds.  The Twenty travels at its own pace, for sure.  The previous owner had the rear chain cog replaced with a bigger one which effectively lowers all the gears.  This was an attempt to have it do better on hills.  It does that.  With the bike in first gear, you really get spinning.  The problem though is that when you are going on flats or downhill, you have no upper end.  Since most of the hills between here and work are not that significant, I'm really tempted to reverse it back to the stock cog in the back. 

There is a bit of a shudder to the brakes in the rear.  This is due to some oil that has gotten onto the rim from the Sturmey-Archer hub.  They are a bit like fountain pens - they work great, but are a bit messy.  You've got to be willing to deal with the mess.

The bike is pretty heavy.  And you feel it in the hills, unless you drop the gear down and plod along.  I was in no rush and it was a fun ride to enjoy.

On the way home, I stopped off at the Bellevue I-90 map kiosk for a breather.  A younger couple from Beacon Hill stopped and asked me which was the best route into Bellevue.  We talked for a bit about the "vintage bike."  I got a few looks from drivers.

Many years ago, I drove a Volkswagen Thing (Type 181 to those of us who actually owned one).  Riding the Twenty is like driving the VW Thing.  It's not a car that you'd use everyday or do cross country drives in... but it sure was fun and got lots of looks.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Raleigh Twenty Elite "Torch" - WORKING

Great news!  I got the original Elite headlamp for the Raleigh Twenty working without major surgery.  It was really difficult to tell whether it was a broken switch, the lamp, batteries...  After doing quite a bit of testing, I eliminated the bulb and battery issues.  I felt sure it was the switch.  Bad news because the switch box was a enclosed unit with fancy spring mounted brass contacts.  It was afixed to the casing by pop-rivets, which meant to get it apart would require basically breaking it beyond what I could repair again.

But after a bit of fiddling this morning with some heavy duty aluminum foil, it turned out NOT to be the switch, but the fact that there was quite a bit of corrosion at one of the contact points.  I thought I'd cleaned it enough to allow electricity to flow, but I guess not.  I bypassed the corrosion with a strip of foil taped to the outer casing and - presto - lights on and the switch works fine.

Now, let me say, the torch uses "D" batteries (which I've pretty much tried to eliminate from the house in favor of "AA" and "AAA" wherever possible) and they are HEAVY.  The output of the lamp is not very good compared to modern LED systems.  But, DAMN, does it look sweet up there!

Pictures soon...

UPDATE 1/17/2010

Here are some closer pictures

Here is a head on view.  Note the face of the lamp is glass in a chrome ring.  There is an "eyeshade" over the top.  This ring/glass assembly is held onto the body of the lamp by two flip clamps on the right and left side.

 Here are side and back views.  Note again, the back cover is held in place by another larger flip clamp.  The square thing on the back is a slider space that goes over the bracket on the head tube of the Twenty.  It just slides on and off using the little handle!

From the top down, you can see the "big red switch."  It takes a bit of force to move it, but there is a satisfying click when it goes into place.

OK... now with the back door open.  Notice the corrosion on the door.  Someone left the batteries in too long!  The bottom panel where the batteries sit is also corroded - right side worse than left.  This is where I took a strip of heavy duty aluminum foil and connected the base of the right battery up the right wall of the box and taped it down.  Worked great!  Notice also the connectors on the top.  They are brass and spring loaded to hold the batteries in.  Also pretty slick - an extra lamp compartment on the bottom!! And the bulb works!  All of the fasteners in the lamp are either rivets or fold over tabs.  You can see the piece on the back door that holds the lamp to the bike is held on with four fold-over tabs.  This thing is HEAVY with the "D" cells in it.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Rain, Rain, Rain

We've been having some really wet days around here and it has kept me from riding in to work. There are a few brave souls out riding, but I have spent my ride time working out on an exercise bike and doing core exercises. Current mood: Upbeat about the summer!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPod Touch

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mercier Bordeaux-Paris Road Bicycle

This is a Mercier Bordeaux-Paris from probably around 1984 or so.  I came across this bike at a local thrift store.  I was shocked that anyone would even donate such a bike and grabbed it immediately.  I love finding stuff at thrift stores... they are like never ending garage sales - and the proceed usually go to benefit some cause.

The graphic to the left gives the dimensions of the bike and angles.  It is a pretty tight geometry designed for road speed.  The front of the pedal toe clip will catch with the tire if you are not careful.

When I got the bike, it was absolutely filthy, flat tires and the bar tape was cotton and basically just a mass of glue with threads stuck in it.  It took forever and a ton of Goof-Off to get the bars clean.  The decals on the bike were pretty rough and shredded (I guess this is common with Merciers).  There was enough decal when you looked at both sides to make out what they said though. There is a pretty large scratch in the right side of the seat tube (as you are sitting on it).  But I left the paint original.  It is a stunning royal blue - I've never seen another bike like it.  I took pictures of all the decals and sent them to Michael Swantak who ran a company called Velographics.  He replicated the entire set including the decals on the stem.  The only decal I did not have was the one  on the head tube.  We decided to make a generic Mercier logo label.  It is probably not what was there originally, but there as no way of knowing for sure.

I replaced the brake and shifter cable housing with snow white ones.  The gum brake hoods were shot.  I found a set of white Campy hoods from a place in England.  Took about a month to get them in.  I put new tires and tubes on it and spent a lot of time cleaning and waxing it up.  Once I got the gunk off the handlebars, I wrapped them in a nice cushy white cork wrap.

The bike has an almost full Campy gruppo - brake levers, brake blocks (including shoes), shifter levers, front and rear dérailleurs. I've never had Campy before, so I'm not sure what level it is. I had a person at Recycled Cycles in Seattle take a look at it and he told me that Campy does lower end stuff as well as the high end stuff its known for.  I think this is comparable to the Shimano 600 gruppo I'm familiar with.  It has Nervar cranks.  I tacked on some no-name pedals with Christophe toe clips and white leather straps.  I prefer toe clips to the newer clip in pedals

It has a Campy front hub laced to a Mavic 27 x 1.25 rim.  In the back, it has a Helicomatic hub laced to the same rim as the front.  It has a Helicomatic 6-ring cluster that ranges from 24-14 teeth.  The front chain rings are 52 and 42.

The front fork is the same color as the body of the bicycle.  I have an Italian bike of the same vintage (more on her later) that has chrome forks and seat stays and it looks fabulous.  This one looks good too, but I wonder what it would look like with chrome.  The top of the fork head has a Mercier logo embossed in the metal - nice touch.

Sheldon Brown's site has a nice write up on French bikes.  You can read more about the uniqueness of the French velocipedes there.  In particular, he has a whole section on the Helicomatic hub.  Doesn't sound too good, but I've never had problems with it.

I'm going to keep this bike as kind of a museum piece. Once, I thought of donating it to a local bike shop to help a school fund drive.  That didn't work out, so I decided to ride it for a while (that is why it looks so dirty right now).  It rides great!  But, alas, it is just too small for me.  This is a 56cm bicycle and I ride a 59cm for the most part.  I just found myself too hunched over and it was painful  on longer rides.  I have a dream of someday opening a cycle shop and if I do, this will be one of the wall decorations!


Double South

It was a spectacular weekend here in the Pacific Northwest.  The temperatures were a balmy mid 50s during the day and the sun was out for good portions of the days.

I was up at 6:30 this morning for a loop ride around the island.  It was dark when I started, but grew light enough by the time I finished that I could turn off the NightRider.  I did a loop of Mercer Island and added on another round of the south end for a ride I'm calling "Double South."  Unforunately, I do not know how far it really was because my cyclometer was belly up when I started.  I hit a huge bump on the north end of the island by the Lid Park and it started working, but I didn't get a final mileage.  I'm going to guess around 18 miles overall.

I felt great finishing up and the knee held together fine for the rest of the day.  I need to build my commitment to riding on these nice days.

Highlight of the morning:  Mount Ranier standing tall and white with snow in a bright salmon and coral morning light.  Absolutely spectacular!  I must start to bring a camera on these rides.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

My New Raleigh Twenty

OK... THIS is a pretty cool bike.

Over the holiday break, I came across a coffee brown Raleigh 3-speed, 1980 from the looks of it and it was the ladies version.  It was at the local Thrift Store and I picked it up for a song -  $35.  It has cleaned up real nice.  So I got the idea that I could find a mate to it and my wife and I could ride around the neighborhood on matching vintage bicycles.  Well in by searching, I came across a guy back in Madison who runs a bicycle shop called ReBrit and he had a mate to the one I had!  But also during my searching, I came across a vintage Raleigh Twenty folding bicycle on craigslist.  It wasn't a mate, but it also wasn't as expensive as the one in Madison.  It was a Raleigh and it was local and, dang was it cool looking. 

Anyway, a few emails later, I kind of put it aside.  I mean, I have 17 bicycles in my place right now, not all mine, but that's a lot of steel tubing.  Our man with the Twenty got back to me and lowered his price -  substantially.  It was a deal I couldn't refuse.

So here she is!

In almost perfect vintage condition, even with the Elite "torch" on the front.  The headlight doesn't really work - yet! 

The saddle is an original Brooks mattress saddle, but it's got a pretty unsightly tear in it.  Boy, would a B-66 look nice on it!  But it would cost me almost as much as I spent on the bike.  It's got a new chain on it and I think the master link is causing a bit of noise as it rides.  The tolerances between the chain and the frame are pretty tight.

So after doing some reading about the Raleigh Twenty on the web, it seems most people modify them - alloy wheels and new rubber, possibly replace the bottom bracket.  This bike is so original though, it kind of seems a shame to mess with it.  I need to decide what I'm going to do with her.  Will I actually ride it?  I have good bikes to ride (Surly and Faggin)

Anyway, I'm excited to have it.