Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sir Walter R.

The blue Columbia has been talked about quite a bit here, but there is another bike in the shed, a 1974 Raleigh Sports 3 speed with a number of upgrades I've made since 2003. In September 2003 I had a Specialized bike with kevlar anti-puncture tires and 30+ speeds. It basically was the ultimate city commuter bike to get back and forth to Georgetown's campus. That month, a hurricane struck DC and knocked out the power for 2 weeks. While the power was out, I ventured down to the campus to recharge my electrical stuff, and when I returned to the campus rack to get the Specialized bike, it was gone. The campus police told me a delivery boy or possible hipster had stolen the bike. They were not hopeful it would ever return, and sure enough it never did.

Once the power returned, I ventured online in search of another bike. I wanted an old-style bike that looked like a bike, not a novelty. I bought, for $30, the 1974 Raleigh, which was still a pretty basic machine. Over the years I put a lot of miles on it and added stuff to it. It is sort of like a Swiss army knife- something for every occasion attached. It was built in Nottingham, England. Robin Hood once escaped on a similar bike from the Sheriff of Nottingham. The movies omit this because Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe would never be caught on a bicycle.

It has an internal gear hub, which means it can shift and adapt to the terrain, but all of the gears are self-contained within the wheel's center itself. It is adjusted via a shifter lever on the handlebars. It shifts more or less instantly and can be shifted while standing still.  It forgives indecision.

 The front wheel (above) has a frictionless power generator hub. As the wheel spins, a magnet generates power and sends it up those grey wires to the head and tail light. The lights are turned on via a switch attached to the underside of the tail light. The cool part is that whether the lights or on or off, you don't have to pedal any harder. I actually have ridden at night and it works alright.

It also has a big bell and a saddle bag. The bell sounds like an elevator bell, and hte bag is about the size of a gallon milk jug. It holds a lot of stuff. I usually keep spare tools and emergency supplies in it.

The bag even has a British flag on the flap, which is a lapel pin I bought at the Crystal City mall. It was modestly overpriced, as opposed to everything else at the mall, which is double priced.

The center of the wheel/hub is pretty fat, as you can see. It houses the 3 speed gears. The tail light is also visible. The white stripe is for visibility, a trend that started in the black out of Britain when the Germans were attacking during WWII. I have also put a bigger rear cog/gear on the chain so it can climb better.

The headlight is a chrome one. However, I replaced the bulb with a modern halogen bulb, which maximizes the 3 or so watts the wheel magnet puts out. It also has a bullet "hood ornament" on the front fender. It has hand brakes, which work alright.

The saddle is leather and made in England as well. The springs are meant for dealing with rough road. You need to be moon crater resistant on the DC-area roads.

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