Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer Officially Begins

Summer officially has begun. We have reached the longest days of the year, and there is no better time for dry, warm weather.

This 1948 Raleigh Dawn Tourist continues to run well. It is heavy, but still well-balanced and pleasant to ride.

It has a light, but this time of year, don't need it much. I have plenty of daylight to ride in the evenings, which is my favorite time of day this time of year.

 These original pedals are absolutely great. The Raleigh logo on the rubber is even well preserved.
 I ultimately opted to drop the original, long arm shifter. It was really a nice touch, but the shifting was a little dodgy and the lever was pretty loose. This 1950s shifter is slightly newer, but very reliabe and in like-new condition.

I am enjoying this and the 1946 Hercules Model C a lot these days. The rod brake three speed is really a wonderful type of bicycle.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

"Hands and Feet": Hybrid Braking Set Ups on Vintage Bicycles

 Hybrid Brakes: Coasters and Cables in the U.S.

In the United States, among other places, the coaster brake was was the braking system of choice for many years. Coaster brakes seem to have been popular in very flat places, like the Netherlands, and in the United States (which is sometimes flat, and  sometimes not).

 The advantages and disadvantages of the coaster brake have been discussed many times, by many bicyclists and mechanics.

I will not go through all that, but I will say that from the 1920s through the 1960s, if a company wanted to sell bikes in the United States, it had to look seriously at adding a coaster brake.

While not all consumers in the U.S. had coaster brakes on their bicycles (all-hand brake bikes certainly existed), most did.

The classic American balloon tire bikes almost always had coaster brakes. A few had a front brake, but many had only the rear coaster.

American light roadster bikes also got in on this. This 1940 Westfield Sports roadster has a rear coaster brake, a New Departure Model D.

It accelerates and brakes like any other Model D, though the lighter bicycle makes it easier to pedal than a full weight tank bike.

However, the original owner added a Philco handbrake to the front. This creates a 'hybrid' brake system where one has a coaster brake in the back, but a traditional hand brake in the front.

Today, many experts advise you have a hand brake to assist with braking using the coaster. However, the American market focused heavily on bicycles with only coasters.

Westfield also made an all-hand brake model, the Sports Tourist, while Schwinn's New World bicycles could be bought with a coaster, two hand brakes, or a combination of brakes.

English Variation: Rod Brake and Coaster Brake

This Hercules Model C is somewhat peculiar in that it is an English bicycle with a hybrid braking system.

This bicycle originally came with a single speed, Perry coaster brake in the rear, though I have swapped this for a Sturmey Archer TCW coaster brake 3 speed.

While the English made bicycles for sale in Britain with this brake set up (they actually marketed them to pipe smokers, so the rider could smoke while riding), the set up was never as common as full, front and back rod brakes.

The result here is a peculiar mixture of a front rod brake (truly English in style) and a rear coaster (very much American).

My suspicion is that this bicycle was not marketed for a pipe smoker, but that it was a variation of Hercules Model C meant for the U.S. market, where a coaster brake would be a good selling point and would make the bicycle more familiar to Americans, who were used to a coaster.

It should be remembered that in the 1930s and 40s, Hercules was one of the largest exporters of British bicycle to America, in many years exceeding even Raleigh in exports to the U.S.


The verdict here is that the hybrid system is somewhat peculiar, but not bad. Many people like the smoothness and precision of a good coaster brake, but also want the greater stopping power of a front brake. Bicycles like these let you have some of both, though the system is not perfect. These bicycles offer an enjoyable feature of mixed braking devices and add some variety to the usual dichotomy of 'coaster brake bikes' and 'hand brake bikes'.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Good Weather and Good Bikes

Here we are, with a weekend of 85 degree weather, lots of sunshine, and some of the longest days of the year. In January, we'll long for days like these. For that matter, in the humidity of August, we will long for days like these. Nature offers no better condition for riding.

I've been tweaking and riding the 1948 Raleigh Dawn Tourist. The bike is stately and the ride is pretty leisurely. It's heavy, but it handles reasonably well and is enjoyable on the road.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

1948 Raleigh Dawn Tourist On the Road

The Raleigh Dawn Tourist project is essentially done. I have some more minor clean up, but it's 98% done.

The bicycle combines the dimensions of a Raleigh Sports-style frame, but with the heft and extras of a full, rod brake roadster. It goes relatively well and has the feel of a sort of touring car. It's a joy to ride, though a bit on the heavy side.

The original, long arm shifter did not shift terribly well and was quite loose, even after complete cleaning and repair. I do have several really nice, 1950s-era shifters on hand, so I'm using one of those.

 The rear rack is quite heavy, but pretty sturdy as well. I get more use from this Banjo Brothers Barrel Bag, however.

The extra daylight this time of year gives me a little extra time to work on bikes like this, and to get them on the road. This final photo was taken around 7:30 P.M., and there was still plenty of daylight to get in some road time.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

1948 Raleigh Dawn Tourist

Here are a couple of shots of the 1948 Raleigh Dawn Tourist project. I took these on my cellphone, so the quality is iffy. I plan on getting some better pictures later.

These rubber grips came from Indonesia via eBay. I was skeptical of the quality when I bought them ($15 or so for a pair). However, the quality is very good. The rubber is heavy duty and the features are relatively well-defined. These grips are winners, in my book, at around $15 per pair.

It goes without saying, this bicycle is very heavy. It's a touring car of a bike. But again, I will get some better pictures later.