Sunday, October 22, 2017

Finishing Out the Weekend - Raleigh Sprite 5-speed

Another really warm, dry day today. We've had a good run of days since early last week. It really does seem like early September here still.

I took out this Raleigh Sprite 5-speed today. I love the bronze green paint on this bike - it has a lot more "bronze" to it than some of the later bikes.

 One thing I have been urging people to do is to forget their Fitbit, Garmin tracker, cadence sensor, etc. when they ride, and to just ride "unstructured". I've been suggesting more and more that people simply ride, without worrying about speed, cadence, timing, distance, or similar.

That is to say, "just ride". If you need to drop off the mail or pick something up, do it. But do not forget that riding is also an end in itself. You do it just for the experience, and not to complete a certain number of miles, or manage a certain cadence, or burn a certain number of calories.

So sure, bring your cellphone in case you have an emergency or need help. But don't ride around looking at a sensor, and don't "record your ride for data". Ride these old bikes in the old way.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

It was a very warm, dry day here today. I took my 1958 Raleigh Sports for ride around the area.

There is not yet much fall color, even though we're now nearing the end of October. It has been a warmer-than-average fall. That's fine with me - plenty of ride time without having to worry about heavy clothing.

The 1958 Sports has many quality touches from Raleigh, before they cheapened aspects and details of their bikes in the 1960s. This bike is likely due for better tires and maybe some better brake pads this winter, but we'll see about that. That is something that can be done once the cold settles in and there are fewer rides to be taken.

That's all normal though. There's always work to be done on the bikes, especially in the off-season, when everything gets a good cleaning any necessary repairs or replacement parts. These are 100-year bicycles and far-outlast their rubber parts.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Not So Colorful Yet

The weather started grey today, but by late afternoon it had cleared. I took my 1958 Raleigh Sports for a ride around the area because the weather had turned out to be pretty good.

 One thing that has surprised me is that the fall has been so mild so far. We had cool weather in August, and some of the Red Maples had begun to turn their usual fall colors. But then in September, we had very warm weather, followed by a warm October start as well.

The result is that here we are half way through October, and there's not much fall color yet. It's hard to tell if all this means a mild winter or not. We shall see.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Damp Evening Ride - Raleigh Sports

It was damp and grey this evening, but not really wet enough to prevent me from riding. I took out my 1974 Raleigh Sports for a ride around the area to pick up some mail and look at some houses for sale.

The chilly, damp weather is the Raleigh's natural, English environment.

The B&M Lumotec Classic and the battery-powered lamps together work well enough to see in the dark. The original Sturmey tail lamp works well.

The orange-colored street lamp looks the green look a little odd on this bike.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Columbus Day Ride

The weather turned very warm, and very humid on Sunday, with the same conditions on Monday. There were a few showers around for the first time in quite awhile, but it stayed dry enough to ride.

I took out this neat little Raleigh Twenty. It's a fun bike.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Moving Backwards in Time with Parts: "Retrograding" a Project

Sometimes you build an old bike project, and later go back and edit your work. Sometimes those edits involve "going back in time" or "retrograding" the parts on the bike.

 Used to describe a person, "retrograde" as a noun can be a severe insult. But in this sense, I use it as a verb to describe work on an old bicycle: my 1941 Schwinn New World. At one time, "retrograde" as a verb meant to travel back in time with whatever it was you were working on.

I think that's a great word for those projects where you start off with some more modern parts, and over time end up migrating with the project back towards original or period-correct parts, or even just original parts from around the same era.

I see no shame in this, though it does get costly if you're buying all your parts twice (one newer set and one older set). Let's take a look at the 1941 New World project.

First, I previously had on this bike a set of aluminum, Weinmann brake levers from the 1970s. They worked well, but I eventually started wanting something a little closer to the original Schwinn-built brake levers. Those originals cost $100+ per set for a nice set. But what about something that looks a lot like the originals, costs less, and is more of an "older" lever than the Weinmanns?

I also had a set of 1990s-era Schwinn reproduction grips. What if I could locate an old set of original Schwinn grips that would function and work on this bike? Sure enough, I eventually found a relatively nice set of post-war Schwinn black grips that swapped right onto the bike.

In addition to "oldness", 'retrograding' a bike can also bring the project to a more consistent, overall condition. The reproduction grips worked well and were nice looking, but were perhaps a bit toonice for this 1941 Schwinn. These old Schwinn grips are just the right condition for this project.

Bike projects evolve to reflect each owners' inclinations. At 20, I was hellbent on original and correct. Fourteen years later, I'm more flexible, but still demand a coherent and "old" type product. So I "retrograde" some of my projects. I go back and decide "old stock" may be just what I want in some cases.

This is never at the expense of safety, but it is more something with an eye to the project as a whole. I want something fun, presentable, classic, and consistent.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A Dry, Summer-Like Day

Today was dry and summer-like. I took a short road trip with the Mrs., and then got back in time to go for a ride on my Raleigh Sports.

It's a great bike, and it's good to enjoy as much of the nicer weather that we have left in the season.

I took a tape measure to my various bicycles the other day, to see just how consistent my set ups are (seat height, handle bar height, seat-to-handle bar reach, etc). It turns out they're all very, very close in all measurements. After you've been riding for long enough, you settle into a certain "fit" on the bike. If you've been riding a long time, check the fit of various bicycles you own. If the bikes are of a similar type, you may find that you've actually been re-using the same measurements a lot. That's the sign that you've found a nice set up for yourself.

Monday, October 2, 2017

New Kickstand for Raleigh Sports

Well after 13-14 years, the Trygg double-legged kickstand on my 1974 Raleigh Sports finally started coming apart. It had developed two cracks near where the legs mount. It served well, and for a long time. It also helped me commute on the bike, because standing the bike straight up on the stand allowed me to park it in a number of places you might not otherwise be able to use.

So I bought and mounted this ESGE Raleigh "Type A" kickstand. I love these 1970s-era aluminum stands. They are designed for the Raleigh Sports frame and are well-made.

 As you can see, there's a little flattening to the chainstays, which often happens when someone tightens down a kickstand. I over-tightened the Trygg when I put it on many years ago. I was more concerned with stability than anything else because the Sports was my only vehicle in college. In retrospect, I over-did it, though I will say the stand was always very stable and never let me down. The new stand mostly covers the flattening, and the damage isn't really all that bad.

I added a rubber tip to help preserve the stand end a little bit. As a tip - you can mount a rubber tip to your kickstand to give the end a little more grip and to help keep the stand from getting chewed up by pavement. You can get it to stick with a little Aquanet-type sticky hairspray.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Side-by-Side: 1958 Raleigh Sports and 1970 Raleigh Sprite

Side-by-Side: 1958 Sports and 1970 Sprite


 Let's compare two classic Raleighs, both based on the same "Sports Light Roadster" frame/platform. The story for this Side-by-Side begins in the 1950s. In those years, Raleigh was at the height of its powers - building a high volume of generally high quality bicycles in a wide variety of style.

The black bike above is a 1958 Sports with a four-speed FW hub.  It's a luxurious, well-made bicycle that is in great shape after almost 60 years. It looks like it could easily do another 60, and then some.

During the course of the 1960s, Raleigh's quality declined. Corporate governance demanded lower production costs.  By 1970s, Raleigh was still making tons and tons of bikes, but they were cutting a few more corners. These are still good bikes, but the ultra-luxurious touches of the 1950s had started disappearing.

The green bike is a 1970-ish Raleigh Sprite. The Sprite is also well-made, but there are a few differences we can explore.

We notice how similar these bikes are from afar. They're the same style of frame, same style of fenders (apart from an extra brace on the Sprite rear fender), same saddle type, same riding position, and same basic mechanical layout.


The '58 Sports has an upside-down shifter. This particular bike would have originally had a plain, painted-face shifter. However, this Sports has a nicer, "window" shifter specially made for the 4-speed FW hub. The faceplate is luxurious and nicely decorated. It works well.


On the Sprite, you immediately notice the Sprite has an S-5 hub and the oddball dual-stick shifters. They function like friction shifters from a road bike, and the goal was to head in that direction. It's an interesting touch, and there are "semi-stops" in the travel of the shifters. They do, sort-of, let you know when you're in the gear position. However, the shifters easily travel past the stops. You essentially need to memorize your shifter position on the drive/clutch side.  


 Above is the 1958 Sports fork. I wanted particularly to point this variation out, because many people miss it. Notice that the drop outs are actually round in profile where they meed the fork blade tubes. The tubes were cut clean off and the drops brazed in using a round-mouth profile.

Let's get even more detailed - the 1958 Sports fork drop-outs have hidden recesses in them that affirmatively seat the axle nuts. The axle nuts have shoulders on them to specifically lock into those hidden fork dropout recesses. 

Above: the 1970 Sprite has the more commonly seen "slice and braze" style of fork dropout. The tubes were sliced such that a tongue protrudes on two-sides of the fork blade tube. Then the drop out is brazed in using a sandwich method.

No fork dropout recesses here - they're plain drops and plan nuts. But you do get the funky red "R" acorn nuts. Both systems work fine, though the 1958 forces the wheel to lock into position, whereas the plain Sprite dropouts allow for a little wheel tilt. 

Brakes and Pulleys

Here's an easier one. The 1958 Sports uses the double-ended, proprietary caliper brakes. 

 And the 1970 Sprite uses more convention brakes that take a single-ended cable.

 Above we see a luxury touch: the Sturmey Archer cable pulley wheel actually mounts directly into a braze-on piece attached to the frame. No clamps here - we've got something nicer.

And where's the Sprite pulley? There isn't one. The Sprite's cables run through nearly-full-length housings to stops way down on the seat stays. No pulley wheels needed, but the cable resistance is a little higher.

Stems and Chainguards

The 1958 Sports has a common, bulky-type Sports stem. It's boxy, and sort of heavy, but it's nice. The chrome is really outstanding.

Here's a place where I think the Sprite actually offered an improvement: a nicely profile stem with an hourglass contour to it. Chrome is still nice.

Now for something a little more arcane - the 1958 Sports has a basic, but sturdy clamp-on chain guard.

 And the Sprite: chain guard bolts right into a nice set of braze-ons. Both systems work fine, but the Sprite is a little cleaner in this regard. Sprite lacks pump pegs, whereas the Sports has pump pegs. I've added frame pump clamps to the Sprite. The pump on the Sports is really nice.


Both bikes are high-end Raleighs from their respective eras. There are no losers here.  Overall, I think the Sports is a little nicer, but the Sprite is a little quicker with it's extra top-end gear. 

The biggest letdown for the Sprite is the friction-style shifter, which is something that never should have been marketed. They should have thought up something involving positive "stops" or "clicks", but it's a little too late for this game now. You get used to the friction shifters, but you always end up preferring the handle bard click shifter like the Sports has.

Don't be afraid to buy either - you'll do well with both of these types of bikes.