Friday, October 29, 2010

The answer to your commuting dilemma!

I continually come across blog discussions on topics such as which commuter bike is the best or how to best accessorize a bicycle to make it fit for commuting.  People discuss things like whether there is a good commuter bike out there for under $1,000 or which fenders to buy, how to achieve an upright riding position through $200 or $300 worth of accessories, etc.

It's always a struggle for me to avoid posting, in all caps, BUY A RALEIGH SPORTS AND BE DONE WITH IT!!!

The esteemed Lovely Bicycle blog took on this topic this week, and to my delight, advocated something close to this position.  Velouria has a greater willingness to modernize components and is more thorough in judging a bicycle ready to ride than am I, but it was good to see someone advocate for the scads of quality used three-speeds that are out there.

Here's exhibit A.  It's a 1974 Raleigh Sports offered for $150. New tires, new tubes, Sturmey-Archer hub fine-tuned and shifting smoothly.  Fenders for the coming rain.  Room to mount a $5 Plescher rack (which the seller will mount for free) and plenty of places to clip a light or two.  Bam. Done.  You're a bike commuter.

By the way, if this particular bike is calling your name, it's available from Mike (not me) at Vintage Bicycle Supply in Sacramento.  Contact me if you want his number.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sold! Farewell to Roebuck

After acquiring something like a dozen bikes over the past 15 months, I finally managed to part with one.  I sold my first bike!

Roebuck was the beautiful, merlot-colored, Sears three-speed I bought from a vintage dealer about a year ago.  My "newest" bike, it was made in 1984, when Sears used Taiwan manufacturers and marketed their bikes under the Free Spirit brand.

Once I cleaned it up a bit and got rid of the awful Free Spirit stickers, it was among the nicest-looking bikes in my collection. The color was fabulous and there was a kind of perfection to its ordinariness. With its diamond frame, matching fenders, chainguard and North Road handlebars, it always reminded me of the pictograph used on bike lane signs or in other situations where the design calls for a generic bicycle.

Once I fitted it with an Italian wine crate on the rear rack, it became a bike with tons of character and one that drew compliments whenever I rode it.

So, why sell a bike I liked so much?  That's a question I've been asking myself in the four hours since it sold. First of all, I have to say the sale resulted from a half-hearted effort on my part.  I don't think I expected a buyer to come along at the price I named; at least not very quickly.

But to explain why I listed it in the first place, I'd have to point to these reasons.

1) Things really are getting out of hand in the garage, shed, wine room and other bike storage spots.  The three of us now own 15 bikes -- 14, now -- and creating a bit of room seemed sensible.

2) The Nishiki mixte I bought at a yard sale for $15 with the intention of cleaning and selling for $100 or so is now looking more and more like a keeper.  I'm overhauling it in weekly installments (more on this process later) and I'm unlikely to want to sell it after I've put that much work into making it beautiful.

3) On some level, I  wanted to prove to myself I was capable of selling one of my bikes.  I don't think I'm at risk of achieving a spot on "Hoarders," but neither do the people profiled on the show.  So, you know, it struck me as a good idea to get rid of one more or less on principle.

4) As lovely as Roebuck was, it was very seldom ridden.  Its role as an upright, reliable utility bike was one filled by several of my other bikes.  The Raleighs and my Nishiki Citisport are hard to beat for upright commuting and a bit of shopping or errand-running. For idle wheeling through the neighborhood, there's the Schwinn Racer.  So, Roebuck kind of became a bike without a job after a while.

He did fill two unique roles, but in the end these weren't vital enough to save him.  First, he was the bike I felt best-suited to errands where he'd need to be left locked but unattended for a long period of time.  As much as I'd hate to have him stolen, he was probably the most easily replaced and the least expensively adorned in terms of saddle, tires, etc.  Second, the wine box made him perfect for light shopping, but I just don't do enough of that to merit keeping a dedicated shopping bike in the stable.

I did get some satisfaction from the pleasure Roebuck brought his new owner.  The buyer said he already had the same bike in a different color and wanted a matched pair.  Here, I decided, was a guy pretty close to my own bike-buying aesthetic. He returned from his short test drive beaming and handed over the money without a shred of reluctance (or haggling, which was a nice bonus).

So, farewell, Roebuck.  Here's wishing you and your new owner lots of happy miles.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What is this thing?

Does anyone know what this little doo-dad is on one (only one) of the seat stays on my 70s Corsaro 12-speed?  I've never seen one before and can't imagine what purpose it serves.

It's on the inside of the stay and it's maybe a quarter-inch long.  It's got a flattened end, kind of disc-shaped.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Signs of life

 Last month, there was a fairly serious grassfire on the bike trail I use every day.  It seemed to have started near one of the many homeless camps that lie behind the tree line and just out of sight.

I'm pleased to report that the native grasses are no pushovers... it takes more than a fire to keep them down.  Here's one of the first shoots making its way through the charred surface only a couple of weeks after the fire:

And picking up some steam:

And here is a nearby stretch just a week or so after that.

There is at least one grove of trees that looks pretty badly damaged, so the recovery will be longer term than the photos may suggest.  Still, it's neat so see nature launch its recovery so quickly!

bike trail trickster

I had to snap a photo of this guy who was riding backwards on the trail.  It didn't seem to be a short-term thing or a stunt for anyone's entertainment but his own... I honestly think he was making the entire journey in this position.

In keeping with the traditions of this blog, the photo is a poor one.  But it was basically a BMX bike and he was negotiating curves and turns pretty effortlessly.