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Vintage Raleigh Roadster Part 4

Some recent upgrades to Janet:

A new rear rack (the proper size) with integral stand. From David Hembrow ’s Dutch Bike Bits

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The fixing wasn’t included, luckily the one off my old rack fitted

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The light is a battery powered LED, also from David Hembrow

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I also got round to fitting the front light, also a battery LED, onto the original Raleigh bracket.

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The stand lifts the rear wheel so the rack doesn’t look level in this picture, but it is when sat properly on the ground. I’ve also replaced the original grips with moulded cork ones, which are more comfortable. Thanks to the tip from Portlandize about using the hairdrier to get the old ones off. The grips were from Rose I’m quite happy with them, but wish I’d tried them on a ride before gluing them as ideally now I’d rotate them slightly more to give a greater variety of hand positions.

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I’ve also added to Raleigh integral bungees in black and white (but they are hidden by the panniers) This means I can put my D-lock on top of the rack. The old rack had a spring loaded top which I used to put it in, but the new one is flat (obviously for the benefit of any passengers (it is afterall Dutch).

To read about Janet’s restoration see:

Vintage Raleigh Roadster Part 1

Vintage Raleigh Roadster Part 2

Vintage Raleigh Roadster Part 3

It’s the London Tweed Run!

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It was a beautiful sunny day, although the sun soon disappeared behind the haze, but still it was dry and not too cold.

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A huge (possibly almost 500 as I saw someone with armband 477) throng of cyclists were already assembled outside of the Rugby Ralph Lauren shop in Covent Garden, by the time we arrived.

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It had been an early start for us, up at the crack of dawn to catch the 7.32 train to St Pancras. Despite all my trouble trying to book cycle reservations, ending up with multiple reservations, it was fairly straight forward in the end, as the train had a guards van. Unfortunately, the guards van was at the opposite end of the train from our seat reservations…

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Note to self if we attempt this again, cycling in heels may be easy, but walking the entire length of an inter-city train in them isn’t!

We were just affixing our official registration plates to the bikes, when Mark from i-bike-london turned up. I helped him fix his armband on, before he disappeared off into the crowd to socialise. After the obligatory faffing around for the group photo, shortly after eleven we set off, much to the bemusement of the passing tourists. It has to be said early Saturday morning in Covent Garden isn’t the best choice of venue fro a bike ride, broken glass from Friday night was everywhere. No wonder spare inner tubes were recommended! Whilst it may be an amazing spectacle having so many riders in a confined space, it doesn’t make for easy riding, being more akin to a wobbly slow bicycle race than a leisurely ride.

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While the stewards did an excellent job of politely stopping the traffic, we did have a few aggressive drivers that insisted on trying to bulldoze their way through the group. tweedrunnov2011038

The ride through Hyde Park Corner was rather hair raising, as was Sloane Square, but we made it safely to the tea stop in Kensington. Here we met up with Mark again,

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Lady Velo and @grobelaar,

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@scsmith and @samsgromit.

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London tea is never great (all that scum is rather off putting), but the cakes were excellent. We just had enough time to admire some of the vintage bikes (I was rather disappointing there weren’t any penny farthings)

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and other people’s outfits. Some had gone to a lot off effort and there were some very distinctive combinations.

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As we set off for the second leg, I put my camera away. The light was fading as the cloud had rolled in and it was time to enjoy the spectacle. Waving to the crowds isn’t something you get to do everyday. We wove around the back streets of Chelsea and Victoria and took in parts of Pimlico, but apart from recognising odd places here and there I was completely lost! Finally after doing a couple of circuits past the demonstrators outside the Syrian Embassy, we ended up at the Caledonian Club.

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Time to put my feet up!

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After more tea - or very posh whisky if that’s your thing, the prizes for best moustache, etc were awarded and a special edition Pashley Gov’nor given away.

What’s the collective noun for a group of Gov’nors?

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A stop for refreshments. Coffee and cake at St Pancras, before heading home.

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My footage from the first part of the ride - including our detour past Horseguards Parade, which wasn’t part of the route!

Style and Speed

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I know it doesn’t look it, but this guy was going rather fast on his vintage bicycle (hence the blur)

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but I did manage to capture the nice details on his jacket!

Vintage Raleigh Racer

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Locked up next to this rather nice vintage Raleigh racer last week when I was doing some last minute Christmas shopping.

(The vintage effect photos were taken on my iphone using hipstamatic)

See - it’s easy. All you do is put on your normal clothes and go for a ride (and take your dad along too - to hold you up if you’re a bit wobbly).
Why make it complicated?

See - it’s easy. All you do is put on your normal clothes and go for a ride (and take your dad along too - to hold you up if you’re a bit wobbly).

Why make it complicated?

Vintage Raleigh Roadster Part 3

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Say hello to Janet in her new finery! As well as a good clean she has had a few modifications…

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The most obvious being the new cream Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tyres. To be honest I have a thing about white tyres since being a small child, my first bike had white tyres and I was very disappointed when they went out of fashion and you couldn’t get them any more. Black tyres seem so boring and dull to me! They came from Spa Cycles in Harrogate, who must have (fortunately for me) had some old stock as they don’t have the reflective strip around the rim, which for a vintage bike looks more authentic. I was considering changing the handlebar grips, but the original cream matches the tyres so well it would be a shame to now.

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As you can see I’ve added a skirt guard. This came from ebay in Germany and is an elasticated one designed to go through holes in the mudguard. I didn’t want to damage the original mudguard so I used mini bulldog clips.

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Then there is the Brooks Lady saddle, which so far doesn’t feel at all like I’m breaking it in, but has been comfy from day one. Yes, it is much firmer than the one on the Bloom, but maybe because it is just as wide and supports my pelvis properly it doesn’t put any pressure on delicate parts! The saddle came from Rutland Cycling who are generally quite cheap, but rather slow.

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Then there are the small details, like a new bell from Cremoni on ebay Italy who has some great items for vintage bikes.

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A raleigh pump for woods valves (cheap as chips from Amazon)

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Now for the major surgery. She has had a new back wheel with a new Sturmey Archer 5 speed hub with coaster brake added. The original back wheel was a 40 hole Westwood rim, but that meant to add a coaster brake (or any gears for that matter) would require a vintage hub. Whilst getting hold of a vintage Sturmey Archer 3 speed hub with 40 holes isn’t too difficult, finding one with a coaster brake on it as well in the UK at least appears to be very elusive. So, I decided the simplest option would be to buy a modern 5 speed hub with a coaster brake and a new 36 hole Westwood rim. I got these from SJS Cycles, but credit has to go to AE Butterworth Cycles on Abbeydale Road in Sheffield, for building the new wheel and then splaying the back forks to fit the new hub (which was nearly an inch wider than the old one), fitting the new gears, fitting the new tyres and inner tubes, tensioning the chain, replacing the front axel and generally putting up with me bringing Janet back on a regular basis till we got everything sorted! (If you do live in Sheffield - I highly recommend them and they are very reasonably priced too).

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Although I prefer twist shift gears to clicky ones, I’m not overly impressed with the modern Sturmey Archer version (the original one I had on my mum’s RSW was far more elegant and even the later ones they did on the Grifter where much nicer) an in comparison to the Shimano Nexus one on my Gazelle Bloom, it is very clunky and not very nice to hold. It also turns the opposite way (up is down and vice versa), which I find hard to adjust to as I still need to ride the Bloom most days for carrying kids or luggage.

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Which leads on to luggage. I managed to get hold of a very retro “new old stock” saddle bag from ebay, which just fits in the small gap between the rear rack and the seat on its lowest setting. Here the drunken angle of the rack comes in handy! However, as the capacity is rather limited I haven’t really used it much although I may use it now the nights are drawing in as a means of attaching some rear lights which I can easily clip to the buckles.

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What i have found more handy are these panniers which also came from the same place as the bell. You can get real leather versions, but I opted for vinyl, mainly for cost, but as Janet is a sixties girl, artificial fibres are a must! Their capacity isn’t huge and after being used to being able to carry loads of stuff in my Basil panniers, I do need a lot more discipline with these. 

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But I think they suit her rather well, what do you think?

After riding her for a few months now, I’m still getting used to the coaster brake - especially training my legs to freewheel the opposite way round so when I brake the pedal is in the right position to set off! I’ve had problems with the rear mudguard which keeps going out of alignment and worked it’s way loose with all the potholes and I’ve still not managed to get the tension right on the hub cable, so after suffering slipping in first, it now slips in third!

However, she is a great bike and amazingly fast and sporty. Not quite like a racing bike, but surprisingly responsive and light. The ride position, compared to my Bloom is more aggressive and less upright. The 5 speed hub combined with the 28 inch wheels has pretty much the same range as the 7 speed hub on the Bloom and is if anything slightly easier uphill. I have the standard 18 tooth cog on that came with the hub and so far haven’t seen any reason to change it.

There are still a few things I haven’t got round to, I have a vintage style battery LED light for the front and an original Sturmey Archer clamp to attach to the lamp bracket, but unfortunately the hole in the new light is a fraction too small and will have to be drilled out. Hence, I haven’t done it yet. I haven’t managed to find any suitable retro rear lights and think for now I will go with Knog as they are easy to get on an off wouldn’t be on to spoil the look in daylight.

Raleigh 18

Eldest daughter’s Vintage Raleigh 18, which I think was produced from the late 1960’s to the early 1970’s. It is the forerunner of the Raleigh Denim, which was on my Christmas list, but never came, instead I got my mother’s RSW ;-(

A smaller version of the classic Raleigh 20 this is the children’s version for 7 to 11 year olds. Eldest daughter is only 5 and can just about ride it and to be honest if I raised the seat and handle bars it would be fine for me too! 

It’s not exactly in pristine condition and has had a very bad paint job over it’s original purple paint, but it is still a lovely study bike

Boden Cycle Chic


Plenty of cycle chic to be found in this Autumn’s Boden Catalogue.  I am quite a fan of Boden clothes, but I must admit I find most of the ladies stuff a bit dull and I generally by the kids clothes - one advantage to being small. People are always asking me where I get my clothes from and are always disappointed to discover they only come in kids sizes. Clearly Boden are missing a gap in the market there!

Boden Cycle Chic

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wearing a long coat on a bike

Plenty of cycle chic to be found in this Autumn’s Boden Catalogue. women long coat cycle chic boden I am quite a fan of Boden clothes, but I must admit I find most of the ladies stuff a bit dull and I generally by the kids clothes - one advantage to being small. People are always asking me where I get my clothes from and are always disappointed to discover they only come in kids sizes. Clearly Boden are missing a gap in the market there!

Den Gamle By

Den Gamle By or “The Old Town” is an open air museum in Aarhus and home to 75 historical houses, gardens, exhibitions, houses, shops, and workshops.

"The museum is a living and breathing experience of what it was like to live and work in a Danish market town, as it was in the old days."

And of course there is a bicycle shop!

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Complete with historic bicycles

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This one, in particular, caught my eye - a ladies loop frame, like my Raleigh Roadster.

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With a beautiful crochet string skirt guard.

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Leather saddle with cut out. Brooks have recently revived their versions of this design 

"In 1890 Brooks presented the ultimate line of saddles with ‘registered cutting, a sure preventive to all perineal pressure’."

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The sweep of the handlebars is particularly elegant, I feel.

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Minimal front mudguard

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Vintage Raleigh Roadster Part 2

Here is the second instalment in my plan to turn my vintage Raleigh Roadster into an elegant everyday commuting bike. You may recall I acquired Janet a couple of months ago. After a lot of elbow grease she is beginning to scrub up quite well.

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Following all the advice I could glean from the internet I started off by washing her down with washing up liquid (ecover), which I figured was a mild a detergent as I could find. However, it didn’t work. So I moved on to degreaser (neat). This had some effect, but really wasn’t shifting all the layers of dirt and grease, so I gave up on the eco friendly cleaners moved onto the hard stuff - white spirit. It has to be said even using a product that is harmful to almost all forms of living being (and my lawn certainly didn’t thank me for it) and fumes that could knock out an elephant, it took a hell of a lot of effort to get back to the original paint, but as you can see I got there eventually (well mostly, my patience ran out for some of the more fiddly bits).

The chrome I cleaned up using aluminium foil, as bronze wool recommended by many sites appears to be only available in the US (I now have a stash brought back by DB on his last trip to the States to finish off). I discovered I had a load of foil at the back of the cupboard that had been used at some point (but clean), so I didn’t have to use any fresh stuff. I found it pretty effective, although occasionally it can make noises which set your teeth on edge. It is also a technique which is tough on the fingers, so I wore gloves, which although it saved the skin on my finger tips, obviously didn’t help the stiff joints the next day!

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And so, all cleaned up, we spent a whole afternoon reassembling her, including several hours trying to find the right technique to get the chain back on, only to discover that the thread had gone on the rear axle and nuts. Presumably the only thing holding it together before was all the grease and dirt! Anyway, this discovery did force the issue, there was no point trying to see if I could manage on a single speed, before upgrading to hub gears. So, at the moment she is at the bike shop being transformed, so stay tuned for the next instalment, which hopefully won’t be another disaster and I will be able to report that the surgery was successful!

Riding a Vintage Racer

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This is my 1982 Rotary racing bike. My first “proper” bike. Despite my younger brother’s best attempts to trash it, it is in quite good condition. When I got it I was a little bit miffed that I had been fobbed off - my brother had got a beautiful black £90 Peugeot for his birthday and my dad had promised me a Peugeot mixte. I think mixte’s were a lot more expensive than diamond frames, as that idea was soon abandoned and I was taken off to Sale Cycles in south Manchester to look at this bike, which had been advertised in the small adds in the Guardian for £75. june2010_305 june2010_304

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My dad tried to convince me that it was actually a Peugeot with a different badge and was made in the same factory and some of the bikes in the shop did have a Peugeot head badge (although mine doesn’t). I was also promised mudguards and a rear rack (although I seem to recall paying for most of the cost from my pocket money in the end) as the bike was cheaper than my brother’s - things he didn’t have, although I have to say the thing that swung it for me was the bright red paintwork - as the genuine Peugeots came in some spectacularly crap colours that year!

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My father has restored it for my son (new wheels, tyres, mudguards, handlebar tape and the seat off his 1978 Peugeot ). My son is still rather intimidated by the crossbar, although I used to ride it when I was much shorter than he is, so the other weekend I ended up letting him ride my Valetta and I ended up with the Rotary.

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I must admit I was slightly apprehensive after not having ridden it for 19 years (nor anything remotely like it), especially the gear shifters on the down tube. However, within a couple of minutes it was if I it was only the other day I had ridden it, as it all came flooding back to me. I have to admit it is a fantastic bike to ride and it was quite amusing to be able to leave my son and his mate for dust with only the slightest amount of effort!

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[yes I passed my cycling proficiency test!]

The only problems I encountered where that I couldn’t use the drops sitting down as my knees hit my chest, although it was fine standing up. I also had problems with the front shifter and the chain fell off every time I changed up (we sorted that out the next day as the guide had got slightly bent). 

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I was worried that the steering would feel slightly twitchy, especially after the ridiculously relaxed steering of the Bloom, but it was surprisingly forgiving. I did, almost immediately, get into the swing of steering from the hips. It is something I find I do naturally, but on a big heavy bike like the Bloom, very large movements make only a subtle difference. On the Rotary, it is the opposite way round, very small movements make a big difference.

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The other thing I noticed (especially the day after, when I rode in my sandals with no heels) was, that although I can barely straddle the crossbar with my feet on tip toes, getting on and off was no problem. Without thinking I adopted the 45 degree lean position and mounted and dismounted that way. feb0117

[The guy on the left demonstrates the no-hands lean - just imagine the tilt being more exaggerated to get the idea]

I had wondered how I used to ride it when it was way too big. It is a technique which would be impossible on a heavy dutch bike as once they start to lean the weight is too much for me to handle and the bike ends up sending me flying! It was quite a novelty to be able to stop and prop the bike up between my thighs and have my hands free. I get very frustrated trying to do this on the Bloom as it usually ends in disaster, the slightest breeze is enough to upset the balance. Stopping generally requires at least one hand on the handlebars to keep the thing stable.

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We went out for a ride on the off road trail from Caton to Lancaster. The path quality was reasonable and mostly about 4m wide, the main problem to avoid was the frequent horse manure in the way, as the route is also a bridal way as well as a footpath and cycle route. I was amazed at how easy it was to cover the 5 miles to Lancaster (although it was flat) and at the end of the 10 mile trip, I felt I could’ve easily done double. Although I was a bit stiff the day after, I went out and did 5 miles to loosen up without much trouble.

Although my Rotary is about as far away from the Bloom in terms of geometry, I still found it a very comfortable bike to ride, something which puzzled me, especially when I cannot get comfortable on the Valetta. One think I did discover, which may have some bearing on this is the height of the pedal from the ground on its lowest point is only 10 cm, the pedal height on the Valetta is 17 cm. This low height means I can get the seat height right and still (just about) touch the ground even though the seat tube angle is quite steep. That 7cm difference on the Valetta means that I have to have the seat about 7cm lower than I should in order to be able to stop safely. I also find the leaning technique isn’t as effective on the mountain bike, again because of the additional weight it is much harder to control. 

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I must admit I enjoyed riding the Rotary so much I was very tempted to bring it home. Until, that is, I remembered the dreadful state of Sheffield’s roads!

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