Monday, May 23, 2016

58 Years from 1958: This Isn't Even My Final Form!

I have recently completed many updates on Gwendolyn, my trusty 1958 Raleigh Sports. It may seem strange that the bikes that I ride the most such as this one, The Ross, and Gilbert, are ones that I seldom write about anymore when you see how many new projects have been coming my way. The Lotus will probably end up going this way, too. I think it is because these are my most-ridden bikes, I make it a priority to get everything working right at one time, only taking them out of service once in a blue moon to perform a large batch of updates or general maintenance. And, as I wrote in the last post about the Lotus, once everything is dialed in, there really isn't anything that grabs my attention.

Such was the case for this bike. Ever since I saved it from the dump, ever since my bike hobby started, I have found this bike the most natural, most pleasurable to ride. It's always surprising how fast and effortless the ride is. I have never stopped riding it. Even after building many other bikes that were technically better in every other way (especially braking), I still feel the happiest while riding this one for whatever reason. For example, while the Lotus is my best bike in every practical aspect, the feeling I get for it is more of a deep appreciation than love.

If you are ever curious how often somebody's bike gets ridden, just look at the bottom bracket area. It is one of the hardest areas to clean and it also gets dirty easily. It seldom brushes up against any clothing and nobody ever looks at it and says "oh that's dirty, I should clean it." My Raleigh is never left to sit for more than a few days at a time and it also never gets washed, so this is how it looks ...

Two years after the restoration, the bike is starting to visibly succumb to everyday wear and tear. Rust is returning to previously-cleaned chrome surfaces, as predicted. I commented at one point shortly after restoring it that while I was keen on touching up paint chips in the beginning, I would probably get lazy later on as the scratches became more numerous. I can't say there was a definite point when that happened, because I still do take care not to bash the bike against anything and I touch up major things, but it was almost as if one day I looked at the bike and suddenly there were little marks all over it. I left it out in the rain one night and every place the paint had been chipped off and the chrome wore thin turned orange. I was like ... No!!!

I then noticed that the chain guard was looking a bit beat up and there were smudges on the top tube from my shoe supposedly touching it, although I had no recollection of any specific instances. I had only bopped the front fender against a curb once, but now it had so many scrapes!

The chrome on the front rim is starting to rub off from heavy use, which isn't totally a bad thing since that would technically improve braking performance, eventually. The rims aren't wearing thin or anything so I'm not worried about it. Not visible here is the surprising amount of rust that covers the inside of the rims. They have been like that since I got the bike so it's not like the rims were pristine pieces of original equipment anyway. I'm not sure how much of their strength is compromised, but they still roll completely straight on their original spokes so I plan to run the original rims until they cannot be used anymore.

One time over mid-winter break, I had to run some emergency errands and didn't need to use my other winter beater to tow the trailer. I needed a step-through frame because I had to carry the crate and the Sports was the only bike up for the task. So, an entire winter of trying to keep this one out of the salt went out of the window and after 2 miles, it looked like this ... Not pretty. I made sure to ride this one on rainy days after the salt had washed off the roads so I could give it a rinse.

Anyway, one recent update is that I have started using the original rear wheel with the SW hub again. It has been working flawlessly ever since I looked inside it last year. Zero slippage in any gear and no excessive looseness or tightness in the bearings. Now that I am more used to the AW, the ratios of this hub are noticeably further apart which can be slightly unpleasant on flat ground where I have to limit my speed and stay in 2nd gear, but I do appreciate the extra range when riding up and down hills. The KMC gold chain is still going strong. Last winter, the one on my Superbe started rusting like crazy and it suddenly occurred to me that the reason why the first replacement chain I gave this bike didn't do the same the previous winter is because it was the nickel plated version. That one also lasted 2,000 miles with almost zero maintenance. Note taken. I have been buying nickel plated chains for applicable bikes ever since that discovery.

Another update is the switch from Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tires to Vittoria Randonneurs. I managed to find a pair in the correct size. I'd been wanting to give this bike black tires for a while, plus, the gumwall Delta Cruisers were going on another bike. I heard many things about the Randonneurs being the most bulletproof road tire one can buy. In the words of one reviewer, "this tire laughs at goatheads." Another reviewer said that the tires were slightly less grippy than the soft Delta Cruisers but lasted much, much longer. That was a compromise I was willing to make. My impressions so far are that the tire is very smooth-rolling and comfortable at 45-50 psi - dare I say, even more so than the gumwall Delta Cruisers. The extra puncture protection is a bonus since you never know what sharp particles are scattered about the street. I haven't exceeded the limits of traction yet so I'll just say that it's as good as I will need on a rainy day. I like these tires so I will most likely be riding them until they wear out. If the other reviews are anything to go by, the next time I have to worry about buying tires for this bike will be in the distant future.

Other updates. I have added some more period-correct goodies to the bike, such as the shifter and black-housing reflector. This is at least the fifth shifter that the bike has had, if the one I received with it was its first replacement. It finally has the correct one and it looks and functions beautifully. As for the reflector, I found out that they started switching to the white-housing ones in 1960 or '61. The only remotely-reasonably-priced black-housing one I could find had a gold R in the middle. The originals didn't have that but I thought it looked okay so I went with it.

Interestingly enough, I feel like the black tires and black reflector make the bike look more serious. The earlier bikes came from the factory decked out with many practical options, and the 1970s bikes with their minimal decals, drab colors, and reflective-strip tires also looked like serious business. For some reason, the 1960s Raleigh 3-speeds that most often came to America with flashy seat tube stickers and limited attachments appear almost toy-like to me. I have a post coming up soon featuring two of them in case the imagery is not clear here. I think most advertisements I have seen from various periods support this. Gumwall tires also exaggerate the "cute" factor.

There's a lot going on at the back of the bike. I now have a 1980s Brooks B66 saddle that was advertised as being NOS but really wasn't. It was in nice shape but a previous owner had over-softened it. I had to punch and lace the bottom to stop it from splaying out. I also have this cheap saddle bag that sort of dangles between the seat, seat lock, and rack that holds a saddle cover, multi-tool, and adjustable wrench every time I go out. I move the tools around each time I switch bikes. It's nice to have the bag in case I don't attach the pannier. As for the pannier, I have mentioned them before but did not know at the time that they aren't water resistant. The contents in the main pocket tend to stay dry but one particularly rainy day, I put my phone in the small zippered pocket and nearly drowned it. Well. Anyway, I usually leave a grocery bag in the pannier to carry food that may leak out of its bag as well as bungee cords in case I feel like bringing home a pizza. It's been over a month since school ended and I've stopped wearing a backpack while riding. Having the weight off me is so nice and will be increasingly appreciated as outdoor temperature rises.

The headlight still holds a Nicelite LED bulb but some day I want to figure out a standlight/filter switch system and also go back to an incandescent bulb. There will be a separate post dedicated to this when it happens. I actually need to figure it out soon because with the additional circuitry, the voltage regulator might not be necessary at which point I can move it to the Superbe once it gets its old Dynohub back.

Despite this being a mostly grab-and-go bike, I still sometimes like to sit and stare at it. And despite the fact that I do sit and stare at it, I seldom look at it closely enough, hence my surprise when all of the chips in the paint became visible. I'm a weird kid.

I suppose I should explain the title. Now that pretty much everything is "dialed in," as I often say, I don't foresee any major changes aside from the lighting system. The reason why this isn't the final form is that as I have said a few times prior, my el cheapo Rustoleum paint job from 2014 isn't the strongest finish and the decals aren't exactly complete or correct, either. When I finish school, I want to strip this bike down again and have it powder coated. I also want to have the fork bent back to its correct shape since it is pushed back ever so slightly. I know there may be some guilt toward "erasing the history books" again but seeing that it's no longer original, it shouldn't matter as much to me. Plus, this bike deserves it. 58 years of hard work and the bottom bracket hasn't even been cracked open. Who knows how many dead bugs are floating around in that oil.