Friday, February 19, 2010

Is this what they mean by "breaking in a Brooks?"

I was thrilled that the Raleigh Superbe I just bought came with its original Brooks B72 saddle.  It showed its 35-or-so years, however, and was dry, cracked and showing as much brown as black.

Nothing a little proofide wouldn't fix, I figured.  And, if a little proofide is good, then a lot must be better.

I applied it pretty liberally to the top and underside.  I left it overnight and then wiped off what was left on the top.  The saddle looked 100 percent better.  It no longer felt dry and it looked vintage, as opposed to decrepit.  My new bike was ready to deliver to the capable hands of Theo, restoration expert.

So, I rode the bike down my driveway to where the car was parked... maybe 80 feet.  On the way, I felt two distinct drops... first the left cheek, then the right. 

This is what I saw when I got off and checked it out.


So, here's my question to you experienced bike restorers and Brooks users.  Was this my fault?  Was the saddle so old that this was bound to happen, or did my liberal use of proofide accelerate the process.  Worse yet, should I lose another 30 pounds before attempting to sit on an old saddle again?
Here are two more views in case it helps you detectives:


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Raleigh Superbe

Here's the latest Craigslist find and the latest addition to the stable.

It's a Raleigh Superbe, made in England in -- still guessing here -- the early to mid-70s.  Its Sturmey Archer three-speed hub shifts smoothly and all the parts, including the dynamo fork light and the Brooks B72 saddle, appear to be original.

More to come on this beautiful bronze bike, including post-cleaning/restoration photos and a bit of drama.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Louis Garneau trunk bag

I've been riding with this bag since last summer.  There's a lot to like and really only one drawback of any significance.

The stuff to like:

  • It fastens with four Velcro straps in an idiot-proof manner.
  • It has three outside pockets, putting your phone, repair tools, keys, etc. within easy reach and eliminating the need to root through the main cargo compartment.
  • There's even a cool pair of straps for holding a pump. 
  • The main compartment is insulated and very roomy.  It's more than enough for lunch, work papers or a change of clothes.
  • And, the compartment expands via a simple zipper.  Once expanded, the thing could probably hold a mid-sized pumpkin -- should you need to transport a pumpkin for some reason.
  • Finally, and maybe best of all, it retails for around $35.
The drawback:

It's a bit floppy when it's not full.  This bugged me at first, and I went so far as to use foamboard strips to give it a more rigid structure.  This definitely made it look better on the back of the bike, but the trade off was (slightly) diminished capacity.

After I read a couple of reviews of $150 bags that included this same complaint, I eased up on the Garneau bag significantly.  Capacity requires flexibility, and flexibility is going to translate to a certain amount of sagging on the rack, apparently.

I'm still coveting a Sackville or Carrdice bag, but until I spring for one of those, I'm going to use the Louis Garneau pretty contentedly.

Now, about that capacity...  I took it to the grocery store and decided to see what it could do.

Here's a look at the groceries in the cart... will they fit?

They did, including eggs, a pound (!) of deli ham, a huge tube of polenta, a loaf of bread and a huge bottle of cooking oil.  I considered buying brie and fancy olives purely to impress you dear readers, but in the end bought the real stuff.

Here's a couple of shots of the loading in progress.

The bread and bananas had to ride outside, under the handy mesh thingy that snaps at the four corners.

I won't say it was the most stable load in the history of bicycle-grocery relations, but it did get home, safe and sound.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I couldn't resist passing along this advice from a recent article in the Sacramento Bee on winter cycling...

Most of the article is the same recycled stuff about shorter days, wet pavement, etc.  But this bit about special clothing to deal with the "low" temperatures caught my eye:

To survive from, say, November to April, cyclists have to learn to roll with the conditions.

That means learning about layering, about pulling on and peeling off garments, depending on changing conditions. That means covering up legs when the mercury dips below 65 and slipping insulated booties over shoes when it's below 45. It means arm warmers, vests, jackets.

So take that Boston and Chicago cyclists!  We sometimes have to endure temperatures below 65.  Fortunately, we have scuba booties and the like to help us cope.

Now I stipulate that my work schedule allows me to commute on my terms and I don't usually face the pre-sunrise weather that some of the Bee's intended audience may encounter.  But arm warmers? Insulated booties? 

I'm new to cycling and I reserve the right to someday adopt practices that now strike me as a tad ridiculous... but the day I need insulated booties -- or an advertising-strewn lycra spacesuit -- is the day I find a new activity.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Robin Hood on CL

This one is a little outside my budget, but it's very tempting.

I'm pretty sure it was a sub-brand of Raleigh, right?  But check out that head badge and what looks like an ancient B68 Brooks saddle.

If you have an extra $250, you can grab it up here.


Birthday bike!

When we were newly dating, Jan sent me a card with an inscription that provided a big clue to her feelings.

"You're more fun than a new bike!" it read. 

I was beyond pleased.  It summed up her fun, youthful take on things perfectly and it confirmed I wasn't alone in thinking this new relationship might be headed somewhere. 

So today, almost 15 years later, I'm putting that evaluation of me to the test.  Jan is getting a new bike for her birthday!

It's actually an old new bike, built in our beloved Chicago in May 1969...  a bright, shiny red Schwinn Breeze!

It's remarkably well preserved for 41 years old.  Its red paint still sparkles and the three-speed hub shifts nicely.  You can see how Schwinn promoted it back in 1969 here.

She hasn't seen it yet... it's waiting for her in the living room.  Stay tuned for an update on her reaction.

Here's a closeup of the spotlessly clean chain ring and guard.