Sunday, November 23, 2014

Winterizing the 1958 Raleigh Sports

Although it doesn't seem to be sticking around yet, winter has finally decided to rear its head here in Ann Arbor.  We've had a bit of snow for much of this week, and biking to class and work has been a delight (more so than usual) at times.

I was lucky enough to have work on the day of the first real snow, as you can see in this low-quality image from my phone.  I took a few super long detours on the way home, looping around a few of the local parks on the non-plowed snow.  There were footprints that would have thrown me off my balance but as expected, my Raleigh didn't even come close to leaving me on the ground.

I started out being a little nervous about the salt that was all over the ground in places, but I had forgotten how much the ol' girl loved the snow.  Something about the frame geometry of these old sports roadsters, combined with the extra weight, makes them "Superbe" for snowy day commuting.  The only thing I'd want to improve is the braking power of the original steel wheels.

Also, I'm not used to wearing multiple pairs of pants, but I might have to start doing that.  As you can see from the photos above, most of the lower, front-facing surfaces get covered in snow due to it being sucked through the fender and sprayed out the front.  This includes my legs.  I realized halfway through the ride that the snow was melting on my pants and then freezing again, making for some rather uncomfortable "shin guards." I'm not sure how, but this didn't seem to bother me throughout the entire previous winter.

After the cleaning.  I should have taken some before shots. 

So, by "winterizing," I meant preparing my bike for the winter weather, not for storage! There's no beauty in a fine machine if all it does is sit.  Since this weekend was virtually free (the result of a particularly heavy week at school), I decided to treat my Raleigh to a semi-thorough cleaning to ready it for the salty, snowy winter.  My apartment building doesn't have any water spigots outside, so my only accessible water supply was the one in my room.  I parked the bike in the hall outside the door and brought out my tools.  I had previously covered the hubs, crank, fender tips, and bottom bracket area in WD-40 Corrosion Inhibitor.  I hadn't actually washed the bike since restoring it last summer, so everything was covered in a thick layer of grit by this time.  I was thinking that if salt water soaked into the grime, it could hang onto the bike and cancel out the effect of the corrosion inhibitor if any paint was chipped off.

Throwback to last winter: transporting models in a laundry basket.  
On the left: carrying frozen food and a pot to a dinner event this year was much easier.  

I'm not sure how visible it is in the above left photo, but the rear hub and wheel (save for the braking surfaces) were covered in a thick layer of black goo because of all the oil that I put into the hub, only to have it leak back out again.  Perhaps more noticeable is the fact that the rear spokes are black, while the front ones are gray as they should be.  Anyway, I tried to clean all surfaces the best I could with WD-40 and then soapy water, careful not to get too much of it on the carpet.  I then flipped the bike over and cleaned the wheels and rotating assembly.  Working in the hallway was far from ideal, as I would have preferred to have the bike on a lift outside in order to properly disassemble, scrub, and hose down the parts.

I'm thinking of getting a pair of Wald folding baskets, although I'll keep the old one for the winter - if I ever do fall over on the drivetrain side, the basket will keep the indicator chain from being smashed.  

Many people walked by, staring at my partially-disassembled bike and ever-growing mound of black paper towels.  The entire hall smelled like WD-40 - I bet by the time I move out next summer, the carpet in front of my room will be soaked with it.  I inspected my questionable paint job on the inner fenders and bottom bracket, surprised that none of it had even chipped off.  What a relief.  As I finished up, I gave the chrome, bottom bracket, and fender tips a new layer of corrosion inhibitor.  I decided to leave the front mud flap off because I had a chunk of frozen slush get stuck in the fender last week, unable to slide out due to the way the mud flap was secured.  I figured the rear mud flap was more important anyway, intended as a rubber cushion to protect the paint in case the rear fender got bumped against a brick wall (which happens sometimes).  Anyway, I hope the salt in the next five or so winters doesn't eat away too much of the bike - I hope to have it professionally painted or powder coated after college.

In efforts of making my evening commute a bit safer, as the Dynohub doesn't stay lit while I'm stopped, I wanted to add a bright light on the fork, near the axle.  This would also help illuminate the road ahead.  I wasn't able to mount the new light low on the fork so I tried putting it higher up.  It still felt like it would shake loose so I gave up and put it up on the stem.  This particular light feels decently well-made, but it's not particularly bright.  We'll see how well it fits my needs.

EDIT Nov. 24: For the third time in the year that I've had this bike, I installed new brake pads.  I bought Kool Stop Continentals, the kind that most people recommend for old 3-speeds.  I bought the Eagles last year thinking that the plow tip would help, but they only made the calipers flex and reduce the force I could apply.  I couldn't even install the front ones the right way because the caliper was so close to the fork.

I Hope To One Day Have Braking Power: Part 3

The Continentals still need breaking in and they're super loud.  Many people have had this problem and suggest bending the calipers for toe-in alignment, but the previous owner of this Raleigh did that long ago.  The Kool Stops just keep on screamin' away.  On the bright side, the brakes now are more powerful than ever when dry, but it has yet to rain for me to test them out for real.