For the last month, I've been performing some rather needed updates on all three of my bikes. The weather is warming up and the money is flowing in; not that the weather has anything to do with the amount that I ride, but I felt like it was about time. Below is what my room frequently looked like: at least one bike and many tools and components strewn about. This photo is from the day I installed the reproduction Raleigh reflectors.
Throughout the wrench-a-thon, the bikes have more or less remained in rideable condition when they had to be (or at least one was rideable at any given time) while I waited for parts except for Gwendolyn, the '58 Sports. Without further adieu, here she is.
Your first thoughts must be "Wait, where did the gumwall tires go and what's she doing wearing those old (imitation) Dunlops?" Well, let's start from the beginning.
First, I wanted to move the tail light from the seat post to the back of the rack. Since I often carry groceries on the back of this bike, I didn't want to be invisible at night due to the box blocking the light. I drilled a hole through the housing with my X-acto and screwed it all together. A simple job I've done many times before and a couple more times after this. Also pertaining to groceries, I wanted to strengthen the rack to prevent it from bouncing left and right.
I bought two new rack stays that were meant for a specific brand of rack so I had to drill holes further toward the middle. I don't intend on ever removing that ugly sticker so I decided to bolt through it. I then used cushioned P-clamps from the hardware store to secure the rack to the seat stays. The entire assembly is extremely rigid so the load capacity now depends on how much I can balance myself. The bolts attaching the original rack stay were completely stuck so I just cut it short and bent it upwards under the rack. Also, you might notice that I removed the rattly, old Wald 198 basket and installed a brand new Wald 582 folding basket. It's much more quiet and less in-the way. I was tired of catching the old basket on doors and stuff. I've been meaning to do this upgrade since last year. It's a bit hard to see in the photos, but I finally wrapped new duct tape around the U lock.
Here's a small interruption. I got a work stand a few weeks ago in the midst of this mess. I figured it would pay for itself with the trouble it could save me, especially with all of the bikes that I flip. This stand has a maximum weight capacity of 44 pounds, which is exactly what this bike weighs so I decided to try it out. The stand leaned a bit but held up reasonably well and what gave me the most trouble was my lack of upper-body strength.
I was almost not willing to pay $60 for a basic work stand but this was the cheapest one I could find with a metal-and-not-plastic T-joint at the top (left). I figured that was essential since the cheaper stands strained under the weight of a 36-pound Schwinn, as one reviewer said. The middle joint here (right) is still plastic but that's just to keep the stand from spinning which doesn't really matter to me since I enjoy having the swiveling ability in my small work space. Anyway, I reckon this stand is more than half as good as a $120 Park Tool stand so I think got a good deal.
I finally decided to give Gwendolyn new brake cables. The front one was mostly alright but the rear had stretched out so much that the tension nut no longer traveled far enough. I had to space out my pads with a ton of washers. I'm not sure, but maybe one of these cables are original to the bike. The housings are different. Thank goodness for stainless cables, though. Other than being stretched out and very smelly, these 30+ year old ones still seemed extremely strong.
These are old photos from the restoration last summer, but you'll notice that instead of being secured with anchor bolts like most other bikes, classic Raleighs up until sometime in the '70s used double-ended cables with a pear-shaped piece at the caliper end. These were extremely safe and tough because they could not slip but it's impossible to find those anymore. Something that mystified me was how they got the rear cable into the adjusting barrel, as neither end of the cable fits through. The only conclusion I can draw is that the barrel was actually slid onto the cable, along with the ferrules and housing, before having the end closed off. Wow, these must have been a pain in the butt to service.
By some stroke of luck, I stumbled across a Bikeforums post regarding this old hardware and found out people make these "knarps" that bolt onto the cable, making the old caliper compatible with regular cables. I also used the original ferrules because they fit into the brake levers to keep the cable exiting straight. Lastly, I used new cable clamps with actual bolts in them since the originals were tired and kept sliding and scraping the paint. What kept me waiting so long to do this was that it actually took three weeks for the second brake cable to arrive. By the way, I tried to buy silver cable housings but they ended up being gray. Oh well.
And now for what you have been waiting to hear about. After I got back from spring break, I took the bike for a long ride since I missed it so much after a week. I noticed that it was a little bit more difficult to turn the crank backwards at a stoplight, as I always do to get ready. I rode home and didn't think much of it, thinking a little bit of oil later would solve the problem. The next time I took the bike out, the hub became so stiff that when I wheeled it forward with the kickstand down, the crank pushed it back up. I knew I could not avoid opening the hub.
I sent out a call for help on Bikeforums, stating everything I'd been doing to maintain the hub and wondering if I'd been doing something wrong regarding lubrication and the hub was just gummed up, or if it had indeed bitten the dust. One kind soul offered to send me his malfunctioning SW for parts and I forgot to give him my real last name so he addressed the package with my first name combined with my Bikeforums username. Luckily the guy at the office knows me since I order so many things. We had a good laugh.
After the bike had been sitting for a while, I noticed that the inside layer of the shifter cable was starting to work its way through the cable stop. I guess this is why I had to keep adjusting the shifter cable and if the hub is broken, this may have had a hand in it. I put a ferrule onto the cable to fix this problem.
So, yeah, I will be disassembling my SW hub to check it out and maybe replace some parts if needed. To keep the bike going, I used the original wheels and hubs that were lying around left over from my '79 Superbe restomod. The Dynohub has a different shell but still works the same way. The rear 3-speed hub is the ubiquitous AW, which I had actually never used long-term before despite my infatuation with old English 3-speeds.
The last thing I did was properly attach the rear fender. Earlier this school year, the bolt on the front rattled loose and got lost on the road, forcing me to use a stainless steel cable tie. I worked really well and the fender did not move a single bit but it was still pretty temporary. I used a leftover bolt from the Superbe's Pletscher rack which was far too long but it was the shortest one I had that was long enough and skinny enough.
I took ol' Gwendolyn out for a test-ride immediately after finishing everything and after at least two weeks of letting it sit, I had forgotten how very nice this bike rode. Even though the 5-speed hub on my Superbe has the ratios of the AW plus a granny gear and an extra over drive, there's still something about this bike I've failed to put a finger on that just makes it want to get up and go. The AW's ratios didn't change the ride as much as I thought it would and although I loved the SW's complete silence, the bright ticking of this hub was rather soothing. The old, cracked tires rode pretty smoothly and there's something to say about "perceived" smoothness as opposed to actual smoothness. My old Raleighs have always been nice riders but due to the noisy accessories attached to them, such as baskets and locks, the racket makes the ride seem a lot more harsh. Today, during my commutes to and from work, I managed to dull out the sounds in my head and I realized my Superbe is still super smooth. Same with this bike: since the new basket is much less noisy, the ride feels smoother simply because it sounds smoother. This isn't surprising.
It's so nice to have this bike back on the road. I haven't missed it since it's been parked in my room the whole time, but I sure have missed riding it. The '58 Sports is still my favorite bike out of the three I have at school and it's my best-riding bike for unknown reasons. I'm not sure, but I think the look of the black wall tires on this bike is starting to grow on me. It makes it look more ... professional? I don't know. Anyway, I'm happy.