June 4 2011 Ride: Two for the Price of One, or The Raleigh Returns

The Beloved left at somewhere around 4am this morning to go climb a mountain and ski down, but some of us are not certifiably insane, and stayed in bed. When I finally crawled out of my nest of covers, the sun was shining brilliantly and the day was already glorious.The Giant Thermometer on the Fence was warmed by the sun, and nearing 90 degrees, at 10:30! Between the temperature and the beautiful blooms, for a moment, I thought my house had been picked up and moved to somewhere other than the Great White North. Somewhere one can lay on the beach and sip drinks with umbrellas in them, rather than existing under an umbrella.

I headed off with The Viva to the tire store, to finally put the new tire on my car after the blow-out last week. Since the tire store is near the Cedar River Trail, I rode through downtown Renton again toward the trailhead. This little path is pretty, but ends in a playground, so I had to ride back onto the road.

Given that I loathe riding in any traffic, I was glad to get back onto the Cedar River Trail. Though not as pretty as Soos Creek, it is still a lovely place to ride, especially when it’s slug-free. No more slimy invaders today: any who slipped out onto the path would have fried.

The left-over slug bits from my last ride were soon worn away, which was a relief for The Viva (I scraped the dried slug crust off my rear hub before I left). The trail was positively verdant, ankle-deep in buttercups. The Viva looked ravishing posing among them.

Out in the river, a man was fishing, though I’m not sure for what. The Viva and I were impressed by his back-to-nature attitude in the midst of the city. I rode about three miles up the trail, then returned to the car, for about seven miles total on the ride. As pretty as the day was, and as lovely as The Viva is to ride, I had other plans: The Raleigh needed attention, and I was finally going to drive the bike over to Ballard to get what it needed. I was hoping, of course, to do a nice long ride on The Raleigh, as well, so I didn’t want to expend too much energy on The Viva.

Ballard is a ridiculously long drive, as I believe I’ve mentioned before on this blog. Considering that I’m only about twenty miles from the Dutch Bike Co, the fact that it takes me over an hour to get there is indicative of the utter lack of decent infrastructure development in this region. Today I got stuck on the 520 bridge for nearly half of my ride, which is pathetic since the bridge is only about three miles long. But The Raleigh is worth taking to the best mechanic in the area for older bikes, and the best… is Fritz.

I think The Raleigh has a bit of a crush on Fritz, which is understandable, because his name is Fritz and he wears a cowboy hat when he wrenches. Nevermind that he’s young enough to be The Raleigh’s son. I mean if bikes had children. Oh nevermind. Fritz rocks. Here are Fritz and his buddy Travis, who The Raleigh also likes very much, doing what they do in one of the crappiest photos I’ve posted yet. I find it hard to ask folks to pose for “my blog,” which sounds totally pretentious and ridiculous to me, and am always embarrassed by the request. This embarrassment means that I often don’t get the photos into focus well. As you can see, neither of the boys were embarrassed. It’s just a me thing. They, in fact, claimed I was taking the photo of “some of the sexiest bike mechanics in Seattle.” I can’t verify this claim, as they are the only bike mechanics I’ve met in Seattle, but The Raleigh thinks they’re both adorable.

Despite the hat, Fritz was only able to do so much with The Raleigh’s existing rear caliper, and the front wasn’t much better. Clearly, I was going to need to replace both calipers. But it was nearly 80 degrees. I wasn’t going home without a Raleigh ride, crappy brakes or no crappy brakes. Fritz felt they were ridable, for the time being. I took his word for it, and headed off to the Burke Gilman.

After riding nothing but The Viva for nearly a month, The Raleigh felt very strange at first. When I purchased it, over a year ago, I had been riding a K2 hybrid “comfort” bike (that was anything but comfortable). Riding The Raleigh home from GHY after they assembled it, I thought perhaps I’d made a mistake. It was a bit of a bone-shaker, with zero suspension and rattles everywhere. The geometry of a Sports is strange, compared to a modern bike. Not a fully upright bike, neither is it as aggressive as a mountain bike or, obviously, a road bike. As I rode it home, I thought about the first time I drove what was my favorite car: my old 1983 Mercedes Turbodiesel wagon (now, unfortunately, sold. One of the great mistakes of my life, I think). It had that same, strangely bare-bones quality at first. But the car grew on me, and I came to appreciate the way it translated the joy of driving every time I took it out on the road. It was a car to be passionate about, and I knew that The Raleigh would be that sort of machine as well.

It took about ten minutes to get back there again with the bike. The beautiful day, the glittering river, and the warm breeze made it easy to fall back in love. The Raleigh, compared to The Viva, felt blisteringly fast (though I was passed by roadies nearly constantly, so I suppose that’s probably relative). The geometry of The Raleigh is absolutely perfect for my body. Nothing goes numb, nothing hurts. Or I assume nothing will once I break in the new Brooks!

It’s been too long since I last rode the bike to tell if the aluminum wheels made much difference in the ride, to be honest, though the bike is obviously lighter when I need to lift it. I do know The Raleigh felt nimble and maneuverable compared to The Viva. But oh my goodness, it was a very rough ride after those Fat Franks! Every bump went straight to my butt! Fortunately, this didn’t seem to be more than a mild annoyance, and I didn’t walk away with any serious aches or pains from the jolts.

With the new 20-tooth cog, instead of the old 18-tooth, The Raleigh plowed up hills nearly effortlessly. I was shocked by what a difference the cog change made! Though I had intended to do a 22-tooth, they were out the day we changed it, so I ended up with the 20. In the end, it has given me just the right amount of oomph on the low gear, and allowed me to keep that sensation of a magnificent high gear. I spent most of the ride in a very comfortable second gear, cruising along happily.

The trail was less crowded than it has been previously, which was a relief. There were several close calls with crazed roadies passing me with only inches to spare between us, but no one hit me. I rang my ding-ding bell whenever necessary, and as always, found it remarkably effective. At one point a woman passed me riding a bike with a sleigh bell attached, which rang constantly. I certainly knew she was coming!

The Raleigh and I stopped briefly at Gasworks park, but it was so crowded as to make photos nearly impossible. A rather portly jogger stood in front of me, stretching obscenely. Teenage girls barreled past, actually arguing about who was prettiest. Boys ran by wielding frisbees. It was park chaos!

I had nearly an hour and a half to ride the trail, which is something of a luxury for me. The Raleigh and I plowed on to University Village, about six miles from the start of the trail, and about seven miles from the Dutch Bike Co. There we stopped, when I had a brief blood sugar crash. For years I have maintained that I am hypoglycemic, though no test has ever confirmed this. Then I discovered that there may be a link between my illness and a hormone called Relaxin (yes, that’s really the name). In the insulin family, it is best known as the hormone released when women are pregnant, to loosen their ligaments for childbirth. I’m pretty sure I release too much of it, thus contributing to my loose joints. As there’s no test, I can’t prove this theory. It does cause symptoms much like hypoglycemia in pregnant women.

Anyway, I have found peach Snapple iced tea to be a perfect antidote to this problem, along with a couple fig newtons. Okay, I find peach Snapple iced tea to be the solution to nearly everything, including peach.. I mean Peace on Earth. I have probably had at least four bottles a week for the last three years. If I genuinely wanted to lose weight, I could almost certainly lose ten pounds just by eliminating Snapple from my diet. But then I would have to go through the withdrawal period, which I hear is brutal. Maybe it wasn’t low blood sugar after all…

The BikeCap performs its subsidiary function nicely here: hiding the fact that my ancient bike has a brand new Brooks saddle. In retrospect, slipping off the CatEye would have been a good idea (the basket came into the store, of course).

At this point, we turned around. The weather was still amazing, but I had to drive over to Bellevue, back across that evil 520 bridge, to pick up The Boy.

On the way back, we passed a large van parked at the side of the trail. The Bicycle Doctor, otherwise known as Kenny Hamm, the Doctor of Bikeology, was doing quick repairs for folks having trouble on the trail. The people standing there at the time assured me that not only had Kenny fixed their bike issue, he had done some additional adjustments to make their bikes ride even better. This just seems like a great idea, especially as he makes house calls! Kenny was happy to pose, gave me his card, and asked for an email with my blog address. No embarrassment there, either.

As I was standing admiring the Bikeology services, and chatting about the Raleigh with the good Doctor’s customers, a woman t-boned the well-battered bollard in the center of the trail next to us. It would be easy not to see it in the shadows, as it was painted gray. Fortunately, she rose unscathed, and her bike appeared to be fine. I suppose if one has to run into a bollard, doing so right in front of the Doctor of Bikeology is as good a spot as any!

My favorite moments on the trail were at the very end, and involved boats. I’m no boat expert, but this one looked to be a bit more vintage than The Raleigh even. Perhaps the Fifties? Korean War vintage?

Oh, but the topper? Here’s The Queen of Seattle, both coming…

And going…

Paddle steamers make me want to swoon!

New calipers have been ordered, so that I can stop doing Flintstone stops. Fritz will be installing those, and new grips (hate, hate, hate the current ones now that I’ve experienced the Portland Dans on The Viva) when they come in. Until then… no more Raleigh rides. Good thing this one was Epic! What a day… twenty-plus miles, two beautiful bikes, sunshine and a paddle steamer. What more is even possible? Mountain climbing… hah!

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Love to ride my bikes!
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9 Responses to June 4 2011 Ride: Two for the Price of One, or The Raleigh Returns

  1. raverson says:

    Indeed, yesterdays weather was truly spectacular! Felt good to cram as much fun and activity as possible into one day.

  2. My feelings toward the Raleigh Sports are very similar to yours! And coincidentally I also had an old Mercedes once. It felt like a pile of bricks and had non-stop electrical problems, but made me feel very safe and I loved it.

    BTW: Looking at the saddle height on your Sports (which is a 21″ frame, right?), I don’t think that you will be able to comfortably mount the Pilen. Check this out for a direct comparison!

  3. rideblog says:

    I saw that, Veloria. The Raleigh is a 21″. That Pilen is enormous indeed. The Viva is much larger than the Sports, of course, but it’s proportionately larger, so the saddle is just higher because everything is higher, if that makes sense. I do like the looks of that Pilen, though. It’s a handsome bike. I’ve been thinking about a Raleigh build, creating a more commute/light touring appropriate Sports (much like what Biking in Heels has done to her Sports, but with weight as a consideration too). I think the Pilen’s color and styling are right for that sort of thing. It’s nicely inspiring. I may start on that this summer, and take my time. I’m thinking… some old Sports frame rescued, repainted, and built up with lighter components but an 8 or so speed hub (I realize that would not be lighter :)). My Raleigh is now so near perfect, that I just want to make another one that’s even better!

    I miss my Merc. Though it was cherry inside and out, it developed a serious engine problem. I could have rebuilt the engine, but I thought I would be better off with a new car. I ended up with a Honda, which hasn’t given me a lick of trouble, and is boring as all get out. As I told folks at the time: I traded passion for reliability. I’m not sure it was a good deal.

  4. By touring appropriate, do you mean still an upright and step-through bike, but for longer distances? Is the main problem with using the Viva or Raleigh for this purpose that you max out the 3 speeds up hills, or is something else about them not ideal?

    To be honest, I think it will be difficult to find components that will significantly lighten the Raleigh from the version you have, unless you spend a ton of $$ on things like aluminum fenders, a lightweight modern crankset/stem/bars, etc. – and even then. The Biking in Heels bike is 45lb or so, and she used many modern lighter-weight components. Still, that’s no reason NOT to build up another Raleigh : )

    Oh and the buttercups in your post – !!

  5. rideblog says:

    Veloria, I’m just thinking more of a few more gears for hills (more than three, anyway. Five might even be okay. I don’t use the high gears much, as I don’t like to go very fast), aluminum wheels and perhaps lighter modern cranks. The fenders are neither here nor there, as the aluminum ones are not that much lighter. I would have to lose them altogether, and I wouldn’t want to do that. And frankly, as I’d want a stronger rear rack, it’s probably half a dozen of one, six of another. It’s more about getting a more performance-oriented bike than my current one, but knowing the geometry is perfect. Weight wouldn’t be a big issue, though I wouldn’t have two lights or a creel basket in this case, as Biking in Heels does, just because they’re not necessary and would be heavy for a commute bike. As for touring, I’m thinking of overnights and slightly longer day rides, not weeks on end. I don’t ever see myself wanting to cross the Rockies on a Sports :).

    I could do 40+ miles on the current bike, but I couldn’t haul my gear on a Pletcher rack very easily, nor get up slightly larger hills. I need a lower gear, but with only three speeds, I’d lose the higher one if I changed the cog any more. If I had five or more to start with, that would be okay. And I don’t want to harm the old girl by over-using her.

    The Viva is simply too heavy for this. It weighs a good ten or more pounds more than the Sports, and is just too slow. I like riding that bike, but would rather take the Sports up any significant hills. Or walk them :). The Viva is a play-around work horse, not a tourer or commuter at all. Don’t know if all that makes sense. I’m still playing around with ideas here.

  6. w1gfh says:

    Boys demand a close up of the new cog. Descriptive prose and pastoral scenes are lovely but we like hard core hardware shots as well. (Burps unashamedly)

  7. rideblog says:

    I will be happy to oblige, with new brake lever pics as well, when they are all done, w1gfh. I’ll get on that as soon as they arrive. Shipped out today, so it won’t be long.

  8. Corey K says:

    Excellent news. Which brakes did you go for?

    I used to live about 15 blocks north of the locks. I miss living there right about this time of year, when the days get so wonderfully long and light.

  9. rideblog says:

    Hi Corey. The calipers arrived today, so I’ll be heading back down to Ballard to put them on this Saturday. I got the Tektro 800’s, I think. They look basically like what I have, but will theoretically work :).

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