Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Summer Rides: 1974 Raleigh Sports 3 Speed

The Raleigh Sports is the common light roadster produced in Britain and imported in large numbers into the US. The reason for their success, in large part, is their very nice balance between weight, handling and features. Whereas traditional, rod brake roadsters have longer frames and looser handling, the Sports is more a happy medium between a tighter road bike, and the looser rod brake roadster.

I suppose they have that "Goldy Locks" element of being "just right" for many riders.My particular Raleigh Sports is a 1974 model with a few upgrades. I bought the base model Sports in 2003 for $30 after my modern wonderbike of 27 speeds was stolen during a blackout following Hurricane Isabel. While I was pretty unhappy the previous bike was stolen, the incident may have proven to be a blessing in disguise, as out it came a bike I will most likely keep for the rest of my life. I've a strong attachment to this Sports and I've put thousands of miles on it in the past 10 years, all the while gradually upgrading components.

The bike is a great example of my philosophy involving vintage bicycles. I like to upgrade bicycles using "period" features, though I'm not dead-set on getting parts from the exact year or exact month as the bikes production.  This offers a "middle way" between using easier to acquire modern parts and looking for a dead-perfect vintage part that may never turn up. You get the vintage handling and looks then, but without all the waiting of having everything "1974", or whatever the year of your bike.

People familiar with Raleigh Sports upgrades may notice I've opted to run steel Raleigh "Westrick" rims. While it is true they do not brake or weigh as well as modern CR-18 aluminum rims, I tend to prefer more "period" characteristics in my bikes. The CR-18 rim is a common upgrade, and those rims are pretty well made, even if I have chosen to remain with the Raleigh rims.

This is just about as upgraded as a Sports gets. It took me years to put together a package I like on this bike, but I am pretty happy with it. The Bronze Green paint is attractive and the condition is nice. It's always good to take this one out for a ride.

Friday, July 12, 2013

1935 English Hercules 3 Speed Model G All Black

The Hercules is essentially done. I say "essentially" because I may have another part or two to replace, and perhaps a few minor adjustment to finish. But basically this is the bicycle.

It's a 3-speed internal gear hub with a quadrant shifter and rod brakes. The model was available both with plated trim and with black trim. This particular example is the black trim variation. It runs on 26 x 1-1/2, 650b, tires. The metric width is 40 mm, and that is similar to the roadster tire width in the 28 inch size.

The tire brand is Kenda marketed under the Sunlite distributor.  The rims are steel Avro Westwoods. The spokes are replacements, DT Swiss type with 14mm brass nipples. The hubs are original. The brake pads are unused, old stock British. The pedals are reproductions without reflectors.

The chain case is an original Hercules chain case from the 1940s or early 50s. It fits the frame fine because they apparently did not change the dimensions. The running gear has been swapped to a new chain and a 20 tooth rear cog. The original 18 gave gearing that was too high. The fenders are the deep-well "valence" type. The saddle is a modern Brooks leather and the bag is a canvas and leather Banjo Brother Minnehaha bag. I like the old style look and the small size of it. I recommend it for anyone wanting a vintage-style bag without spending a lot of money.

The bicycle rides like a big, old touring car. You sit very upright and very high. The bottom bracket is high off the ground and the frame is a large, 24 inches from bottom bracket to seat tube top. When you combing the bottom bracket height with the big frame, you'll actually find you're looking down at the tops of vans and pick up trucks on the road. You tower over a regular sedan or coupe.

The 650b tires run great, especially at around 45 fps. 50 seems a little hard for the roads I ride. They are a great mix of cushion and roll. They ride faster than an American balloon tire but give more cushion than a Raleigh Sports 650A type.