Monday, July 7, 2014

1968 Raleigh Superbe

I just recently acquired another vintage Raleigh free of charge during my spring semester -  a "you can have'er if you can fix'er" kind of deal.  There are a number of cool, old bikes around Ann Arbor and I'm not sure how many of the owners are aware of just how valuable they are.  This one had been left outside for years with its front fork turned completely backwards, twisting the fender a bit.  This bike came with a front fork lock but the key is long gone.  The brake cables were seized up as expected, nothing a little WD-40 couldn't fix.  It turned out all this bike needed was a new front wheel so I threw on a random 26 x 1-3/8" wheel from a decomposing '70s Iverson bike.  Thankfully, the axle was thin enough to fit into the special Raleigh fork.  It was a bit narrow so I had to press the fork blades together a little.  After oiling up the moving parts and straightening the front fender, I discovered that this bike was already in perfect running condition.  The 3-speed Sturmey-Archer AW hub worked flawlessly and the shifter was already at the correct tension.  

 My two trusty Raleighs at the University of Michigan: 1968 Superbe and 1958 Sports

Unlike my '58 Sports, the freewheel of this new bike makes the proper loud ticking noise that AW hubs make.  The slow ticking noise while pedaling is also present.  It is pleasant riding a silent bike, but I'm actually not sure why the Sports doesn't tick.  It does skip on start every once in a while, leading me to think that the freewheel is just jammed up with gunk.  I am NOT about to disassemble the hub.  Hmm...

EDIT 10-13-14: Close-up inspection of the rust-pitted hub shell indicated that the '58 Sports bike has the SW hub much to my surprise.  It was introduced in 1956 as a replacement for the AW with a "super wide" ratio but was dropped mid year 1958 due to severe reliability issues.  Mine hasn't given me much trouble at all.  Well, this explains why the it's so silent. Also, the springless pawl design is likely the cause of the skipping problem.

 This is the bike after cleaning the frame off with WD-40. 

Both bikes offer superb ride quality and stability despite their differences.  The much lighter front wheel on the Superbe changes the ride quality greatly and the 19 or 19.5 inch frame makes me feel as if I'm perched atop the bike, as opposed to sitting inside it like the Sports.  It could just be me, but I feel like the 1st and 2nd gear ratios in the Superbe are closer than in the Sports.  That's unlikely, though.  The Superbe feels much more firm, but I'm not sure if this is due to the amount of loose, vibrating parts on the Sports such as the basket.  It is also possible that the Sports ran into something hard in its past life because the head tube is very slightly ovalized, or so I think.  The Superbe is in much better shape and apart from some surface rust removal for the chrome, I won't be doing any restoration work on it anytime soon.

Everything held up after a 4.5 mile test ride

I was certain the Superbes came with a front wheel Dynohub and headlight as standard equipment but I have no way of telling if this one did because this wheel isn't original.  The headlight mount on the stem is also missing which is strange because I thought most Raleigh commuters have one regardless of whether they have a headlight or not.  I did find an exact twin of this bike online though and it did not have a Dynohub, headlight, or light mount.  The factory-installed rack is nice, but the seat here is neither original nor comfortable.

Hopefully this is a safe place to leave it for a few weeks - not sure I trust this $7 lock.  

Besides riding it myself, I plan to allow my friends and roommates borrow this bike.  I trust they will treat it well when it's in their hands and even so, these bikes are pretty much bomb-proof.  I'll be getting a real lock for it once school starts.  Hopefully it does not disappear before then.  I should probably also replace the front tire before it explodes; judging by the condition of the bike it came from, that might happen pretty soon.

EDIT 7-19-14: Last Thursday during the trip here for the ZZ Ward concert, I visited the bike and moved it to another rack at the same building, roughly fifty feet away hoping people wouldn't think it was abandoned.  Today, I came to visit again to finally take the serial number and register the bike with the police.  Not only had my bike disappeared, but every other functional bike at this building's rack was gone.  U-lock or cable lock, they've all been cut.  Either some thieves came by with a pickup truck, or the U-M Police are slowly cracking down on unregistered bikes and ones left stationary too long.  I will call the police asking if they have recently impounded bikes and if not, whether they have received reports of theft within the past week.

EDIT 11-27-14: It has been found.