June 11 2011 Ride: Braking Away

Ever since I purchased The Raleigh almost two years ago, I have been dissatisfied with the brakes. The rear brake was so pathetic as to be practically homicidal. This year, after much debating, I put beautiful new aluminum rims on the bike. While that did much to lighten it up and make the handling stable, it did not fix the braking issue. This was because, while the steel rims were slippery when wet or greasy, the real braking issue lay in… the brakes. Gasp!

This led to my latest bike-related purchase: a pair of Tektro 800 dual-pivot calipers. They arrived on Thursday, and I drove them down to Dutch Bike Co. on Saturday, for Fritz to work his magic. I also brought along a pair of rubber grips sent to me by one of the actual gentlemen on Bike Forums, for free, that are made to look just like wood grips.

Unfortunately for his coworker, Fritz was busy selling bikes (can you imagine? With me in the shop? What was he thinking?), so it fell upon poor Travis to install the brakes. Fritz had claimed this would be a quick job. I think when anyone, even the Fabled Fritz, claims something will be “quick,” everyone is doomed.

First of all, the company I purchased these from sent me two rear calipers. Functionally, as I understand it, the front and rear calipers are the same. The difference is that a front caliper has a longer connecting bolt. I was concerned that Travis wouldn’t be able to put these on the bike, therefore, but after much drilling and filing, he was able to succeed.

While he worked, Travis and I chatted. Though he doesn’t wear a cowboy hat as he wrenches (he sticks with a rather natty newsboy-type cap), Travis plays fiddle. I love fiddle! “Go get your iPod,” Travis said, and then proceeded to finish The Raleigh while enjoying some of my extensive collection of Bluegrass. He also accidentally put a large dent in my front fender, while attempting to install that not-front brake. He was very apologetic and banged most of the dent out, even though I repeatedly pointed out the actual condition of my fenders, which I can only describe as “crap.” The photos really don’t do these fenders justice: they are dinged, dented, and covered in patch-up paint.

When the brakes were finished, and adjusted with the old KoolStop pads to rid them of all squeal, we were out of time. It had taken well over an hour, and Travis had a show to do later that evening, with a few more bikes to wrench before he left. So no grips. Upon closer examination, he felt the wood grain grips were too long for my old North Roads handlebars, and so he’d have to cut them down. He suggested I keep them for another time, and replace my current horrid cheap grips with decent Dapper Dan’s. I like how round, not ergo grips allow me to rotate my hand position as I ride on The Raleigh, so I ordered a set of non-ergo Dapper Dan’s to add later.

And off I went to the Burke-Gilman Trail again. My goal was to ride rather hard and fast (as these things go, Raleigh Sports-wise) to go at least 15 miles in the hour and a half I had left until I had to leave for The Boy’s last baseball game.

First off, The Raleigh wanted a picture in front of the magnificent trompe l’oeil garage door made so famous by The Viva’s ravishing portrait there. Though the light wasn’t quite as pretty, The Raleigh looks fetching indeed.

Oddly, the trail was virtually deserted. I’m not used to having the Burke Gilman to myself. The day was marginally nice, with frequent sun breaks, so I found this emptiness quite strange. Had everyone gone to hear Travis fiddle? As Travis is just as adorable as Fritz, this seemed wholly possible, though not probable.

Though we didn’t find buttercups until much later in the ride, The Raleigh enjoyed this stretch of daisies. I can, like most daughters (and some sons) of flower children, remember making these into fragile chains to wear in my hair on sunny afternoons. It was brutally difficult, and I recall many frustrating hours spent in this pointless activity. So much for flower-based nostalgia.

Yes, that’s a new bottle of Snapple. You wanna make somethin’ of it, punk? No, I’m not defensive! I can quit any time!

How about the distraction of The Raleigh posing in front of Lake Union again? I always think this is a pretty shot, from any of the myriad angles available.

A few feet away, someone has helpfully provided Lake Union Field Notes, painted onto the trail in a spot where observers are less likely to be mowed down by crazed commuters and roadies in those creepy matching unitards male cyclists like to wear with their unzipped jerseys on hot days.

Shortly after we took this shot, The Raleigh and rode past Husky Stadium, at the University of Washington. The Mystery of the Empty Bike Trail was solved: it was graduation day. At least half the residents of Washington state were parked in the stadium lot or streaming into the building wearing dresses or black polyester dress pants. I was puzzled by the sheer number of mountain and road bikes parked at the nearest bike rack to the stadium as well. I couldn’t figure out how, dressed up as most folks were, they had ridden those bikes over to the ceremony.

After a good six or seven miles, The Raleigh and I surpassed where we’ve actually ridden before on the Trail. Passing the U Village shopping mall, we spotted this building, which looked suspiciously like a bike shop:

Despite the total lack of signage, I managed to discover that it IS a bike shop named Counterbalance Bicycles. Truly observant observers will note my cheap chain lock on The Raleigh in this picture. It seemed unlikely to me that my ancient bike would be stolen from the bike rack in front of the bike shop, though one never knows. I thought it highly probable that someone in the shop would notice some guy out there ripping off my bike with a pair of snips. Anyway, Counterbalance had some very nice modern bikes, including Jamis and Soma. They also had a huge selection of Brooks saddles. The great irony is that when I needed a Brooks for this very bike, they were out of the one I wanted, so I ended up at… Dutch Bike Co. Of course, now I’m glad I did. Everyone at Counterbalance seemed very friendly, though, so I don’t think I’d have done badly there either.

Finally, I knew I would have to turn around and head back. As I turned, I passed a man riding a Specialized Allez who seemed to be starting his ride. I motioned him to go ahead of me, as I’m a tad slower than a Specialized Anything. He started, then wobbled over to the side of the trail. I inquired politely if he was okay, and noted that his front tire looked a bit flat, and then off I went. A few moments later, I heard a voice say: “This does seem like a nice pace,” and there he was.

We rode together the rest of the way into Ballard, which was further than he’d intended to go. If he was thinking initially of hitting on me, he never hinted at it. We talked about our families, vintage bikes and his dream car, a Tesla Roadster. I discovered he works at Microsoft, and his daughter goes to preschool next door to my campus. All in all, it was a very pleasant afternoon ride. Usually, I prefer to ride alone, but I have no complaints about riding with him. As we parted, I asked his name, which sounded like Mado, but as it was unusual, I can’t now remember it. At any rate, if you’re reading this, I had a lovely ride with you!

I did point out that he would be riding a bit more slowly than usual. He noted that any bike will go “as fast as it’s pedaled.” I’m not really sure that’s true. I mean, I guess theoretically, I could get the Raleigh Sports up to 25 miles an hour, like my old Panasonic road bike, but… well… I’m no physicist, but actually I just don’t think it would happen. Unless I was in a tornado, like the Wicked Witch of the West.

I have been pondering a lot how much effort these old bikes involve to ride, as well. They are deceptively fun and easy to pedal, but think about this: I could have ridden The Panasonic, on a perfectly flat trail, at about 23 miles an hour, pretty easily. So in an hour, I would have covered 23 miles, right? But to cover that same distance on this bike, pedaling constantly, I’d have to spend nearly two hours, doing the same amount of pedaling. In the end, to build up my endurance for my Ireland trip, I think distance isn’t really as critical as the effort expended and the time spent riding. Twenty-five miles on a modern hybrid will necessarily be faster than the same distance on a vintage bike. What I need to do is ride for a longer period of time, and get in some hills while I’m at it, and I should be fine in Ireland.

About 17 miles total.

The day’s biking was finished, and as soon as I arrived back at Dutch Bike, I ran inside and fetched my iPod, which I had left sitting on Travis’ bench by accident. Travis had already left to go play his gig, but upon returning to my car, I found this on my windshield:

Those boys at Dutch Bike are too sweet!

So now The Raleigh rides perfectly. I took it down the hill today to the local drugstore, where just last month I took The Viva. The drugstore had closed (I always wondered how it managed to stay open at the back of a dead strip mall!), but The Raleigh performed like a trooper, stopping perfectly.

In a final bit of news, I have begun the process of creating my Dream Bike (hence referred to as… uh… my Dream Bike). It will feature a Raleigh Sports frameset, fenders and chainguard, all repainted in a dreamy blue, because it’s a Dream Bike. I’ll add a modern internally geared hub and front dynohub, retro-y lights, a new bottom bracket and crankset, new pedals, new seatpost, saddle, stem and bars. When finished, it will essentially be a modern bike built around a Raleigh frame. I’m very, very excited about this project. I’m sure the retro grouches over on the Classic & Vintage section of Bike Forums will soil their collective pants over this, but shhh… we just won’t tell them. It’s my Dream Bike. It moves like a shadow through the imagination… an indefinable drifting bike of mist… and besides, it won’t be done for ages, until I buy all the parts.

Oh, and just to show how much I value you folks… here’s that cog shot that w1gfh requested:

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Love to ride my bikes!
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13 Responses to June 11 2011 Ride: Braking Away

  1. Erin B says:

    That sounds very like my dream bike too. Aside from the color

  2. Erin B says:

    Are you going to update this Raleigh or get a second one?

  3. rideblog says:

    Erin, I have a new frame (“new”) coming from a generous BF member for the cost of shipping and a plank of smoked salmon :). That way, THE Raleigh can stay as it is, and Dream Bike can be totally guilt-free. I would feel horrible doing anything that drastic to The Raleigh, which is funny, considering that it’s in rather crappy condition, paint-wise and I’ve already upgraded many of the same things as I’m talking about with the new one. I just like having one “vintage” 3-speed, I guess.

    Besides, it’s something to do.

  4. Erin B says:

    Wow! I’m amazed that you find nice helpful people on there. I don’t spend much time on BF and mostly end up scared off by the trolls

  5. w1gfh says:

    Bless you for the gratuitous cog shot!!!!! I see: it’s black (I prefer) and not silver (might look dorky), so that tells me I can look for a similar 20T model. Thanks oodles, Snarkypup!

  6. rideblog says:

    w1gfh, it’s no problem. That’s the one they gave me, but all the ones they had were black. Have fun!

  7. rideblog says:

    Erin, it’s been hard lately to sort them out. I get more pissed at the normally nice guys who don’t stand up for folks than I do at the obvious trolls looking for “fun.” But you aren’t the only one, trust me. I’ve been gritting my teeth there lately.

  8. Corey K says:

    “I get more pissed at the normally nice guys who don’t stand up for folks than I do at the obvious trolls looking for “fun.”

    Some of us normally nice guys don’t see nasty poster-baiting/bashing threads until after they’re locked.
    Not that even a few stern voices usually have much purchase against the Madness Of Crowds.
    Look at those threads as proof that freedom of speech means the idiots are self-identifying.

    Glad to see the Raleigh is finally reaching it’s potential. Dinged fenders and all, it looks like a nice ride.

    Congratulations!

    Corey K

  9. rideblog says:

    Corey, I hold you firmly out from the fray. And I know what you mean. I’ve stumbled into stuff after it’s over too. I’ve met some very, very nice folks on BF. That’s the reason I’m still there at all.

    The Raleigh is amazing. Once the new grips are on, it will be an all-brown riding machine!

  10. Ah functional brakes! Glad you finally have them.
    So does this mean you are already in possession of your project frame?

    BTW a Raleigh Sports should be faster than most modern hybrids. So if you’re not going to get another roadbike (i.e. drop bars) there are few options I can think of that are zippier.

  11. rideblog says:

    Hi V. The Project frame should be mailed out to me by early July. I trust the person who’s sending it to do what he says. He’s one of the nicest people on BF, so I feel good about it. I’m super psyched. I would anticipate this bike being much faster. My current Raleigh is slower I think because of the weight, and because of the limits of a 3-speed hub. Having a wider range to choose from should enable me to speed up. In the end, though speed is the last thing I’m worried about. I mostly want to be efficient and comfy!

    It only concerns me for Ireland because I don’t want my co-worker to kick my butt too completely! But he claims he’ll be gentle with me.

  12. w1gfh says:

    I forgot to ask, did they change your chain too when they changed the cog?

  13. rideblog says:

    w1gfh… I don’t know. I think so. I believe they did. I’m going to say yes.

    I don’t know. They did have to adjust the distance from the fender to the crankset, somehow. I remember that.

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