Sunday, October 18, 2015

Where Have You Been, Ol' Gwendolyn?

It's a bit refreshing to be back on here after a month, not in the least because it means I finally have time to do things other than school and work. The past few weeks has been a whirlwind of activity: grinding it out in the architecture studio, meeting new people, working weekends, and losing lots and lots of sleep. I'd have lost my head already if I didn't love my job and my field of study so much!

Anyway, to the point of this post: I haven't written about my favorite bike in months and so much has changed!

First of all, I stuck on some vinyl decals in July. They apparently came from Thailand so the "Genuine English Lightweight" crest between the Hi-Ten and All-Steel decals was missing. The edges were pretty conspicuous in some places because of the thickness of the decal. Since these photos were taken just today, dust has already had time to gather around the sticky edges of the decals, making them even more ugly. I knew going into this that it wouldn't come out the prettiest; I figured that since I might want to replace the sub-standard paint job with a powder coat down the road anyway, it wouldn't make sense to shell out the big bucks for nicer decals. Plus, I really only wanted to give my 1958 Raleigh Sports its identity back.

The down tube decals were clear in the middle as opposed to white like the originals, but that ended up not bothering me either. Since the overall color theme of this bike is black, chrome, and gold, the gold-only decals look alright to me.

Thinking back, I could have done some trimming around some of the decals with an X-acto blade. Also, I have about had it with cheap lights. This tail light is sufficiently bright but things keep going wrong with it. Thank goodness for the helmet tail light.

About the same I put the decals on, I switched the rear cog to a 21-tooth, bringing the gear ratio down to 48/21 - pretty much equal to my preferred 46/20. I also gave the bike a new KMC Z410 gold chain. The first chain I ever bought, the silver Z410 from last March or April, lasted through more than 2000 miles of hard riding and very poor care. I think I only cleaned it twice and lubed it three times. Sheldon Brown himself said that well-maintained chains usually last an average of 2000 miles (as in before stretching 1/16" over the length of one foot), I'd recommend the Z410 to any non-derailleur-geared bike. You may also notice the white indicator cap over the axle nut. I finally found someone selling these for a half-decent price. They are different and slightly thicker than the Sturmey-Archer originals but that's even better. I thought I was going to receive a bag of 7 caps but the seller threw in three extra. Looks like I'm set for life! I'd be interested in making some metal ones, though.

For you sharp-eyed folks who noticed in the first photo, yes, my Raleigh Sports now has a Brooks B72 saddle. It came on a Raleigh Sprite that I bought for $50 so I reckon it was a good catch. One of the rails had snapped but it was in a place where I could hold it together with the seat clamp. I would have preferred a B66 because that's what the bike came with from the factory but for one, I couldn't pass up this deal, and second, Raleigh started giving the standard Sports B72s in the '60s so I figured it was close enough. I added a lock to keep people from snatching it and a rain cover tucked underneath just in case. The saddle is dated 1988 and has been more or less properly worn in and not dried out. It's stiff but not hard and the shock absorbing qualities are making me rethink my desire for heavy, full springs like those on a B66. I rubbed a bit of Proofide in before riding on it. Overall, I like this saddle a lot and it is pretty much on par with my expectations of an old Brooks saddle. I think I'll go back to the clapped-out mattress saddle for the winter so this one can live a longer life.

In the midst of the period-correctness (not really) binge, I installed the 1956 shifter I took from the Rollfast. Looks quite nice, I have to say. It has some side-to-side play but nothing that affects cable pull and the longer lever looks like a mini version of the brake lever behind it. I also bought some old-style Raleigh handlebar grips. I felt a hint of remorse while cutting off the old Shimano 333 grips I knew so well, but they had hardened to the point of being slippery plastic and the left one kept coming off.

I mentioned the difference in ride quality between the cream and the gumwall Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tires in an earlier post. While the cream tires feel cushy and smooth at the full 65 psi, the (painted-on-in-factory) gumwalls were noticeably stiffer. Again, I'm not sure if the contrast is more attributed to the differences in wheel construction of both bikes. I have started running the gumwalls between 45-55 psi and ride has smoothed out noticeably more without slowing down. Actually, I think it might feel faster now ...

I noticed while taking photos how dirty this bike is. Dust clings to every surface that does not regularly rub against something else. This is no doubt because I ride the bike most days of the week and never wash it. On top of that, I've stopped riding it in the rain just because I have other bikes that stop more safely when wet. I guess I never really clean my bikes unless they get truly muddy or salty because what's the point if they're just going to get dusty right away? Again, this bike was made to be ridden!

To sum things up, Gwendolyn and I have been loving the upgrades. A lot of times, commuting to work or school will be a sort of mindless hopping-on, the way riding an old 3-speed should be. Nothing to prepare, nothing to worry about. This is not to say that I don't take in and enjoy the ride - actually, the other reason why I grab this one most of the time is because it still offers the most delightful ride out of any of my bikes.