Thursday, April 28, 2011

So now I own a Raleigh Cameo...

With Deathtrap still in parts in my garage and realistically destined for the bin, I bid on and won a Raleigh Cameo on eBay last night. I will pick her up at the weekend.

This time there's not a lot to do to make this a perfect ride for me. The paintwork is in pretty good condition for the bike's age; apparently there are a few scratches and bits of missing paint, but this bike is at least 25 years old. The current owner - only the bike's second since new - believes she's a 1972 model.  I'll find out more when I have a good look at her in the flesh, or rather, metal.

I'll be changing the steel wheels for alloy 700C wheels and putting on my cream Delta Cruisers that are sitting in a box in the garage. Also going onto the wheels will be my 8 speed Shimano hub. The brake calipers may need to be replaced to allow for the 700C wheels. I may have to replace the crankset to find a good match for the hub gearset, but that's OK as the cranks are a bit rusty and pitted. I'll also repaint and install the chain guard that was on Deathtrap, as it's a copy of the Raleigh chain guard used on the loop frame/hub gear version of the Cameo. And that's it, apart from swapping the saddle and grips for my Brooks ones.

This time I paid a bit more than $56 - almost $230, but I suspect this is a much classier prospect than Deathtrap.
It does strike me that in owning this bike and the Pashley I will have two rather similar bikes, whereas now with the mixte and the Pashley I have two very different bikes. The Raleigh's geometry and setup is quite different to the Pashley's though, and I think she will weigh quite a bit less. At least I hope so! :-) 

I just hope she's physically a good fit. I think she's a mite smaller in frame size than Petunia, which is what I'm looking for, according to measurements supplied by the seller. Otherwise...oh well, she'll be going back on eBay!  I'm holding off giving her a name until I ride her and consider how well she suits me.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Deathtrap is dead in the water - new bike project needed!

Well. I spent last weekend stripping Deathtrap's bits from her frame in preparation for powder coating it. I could only do so much as I was missing a couple of relevant spanners/sockets, so took the partly-disassembled bike around to a friend's. Steve has a fab garage and full-on tool set. He put her frame in his vice and together we took wheels and other parts off. But... we hit a snag. The stem wouldn't be parted from the frame. It appears, somewhere deep inside, that rust has taken its toll. We followed appropriate processes for removing the stem - undoing the bolt at the top, tapping it with a hammer to release it, then pulling and - nothing!

Copious applications of WD-40 and an hour or two for it to sink in didn't help either. The wretched thing is stuck solid.

To make matters worse, Steve noticed that where we'd put the frame in the vice to hold it steady, it had dented. The steel used to build the frame is horribly cheap and light it seems. He reckoned he could feel the top tube bending under his fingers when he pushed it hard enough.

Is it worth persevering in that case? I'm looking at spending hundreds of dollars on new components, and attaching them to a very cheap frame. I think I'm being a bit daft. Although the frame size is good for me and the lugwork is lovely, it's not a good solution.

So poor old Deathtrap, her stem still eternally attached, is heading for the bin. There's stuff all worth salvaging except the chaincase cover and the mudguards.

Back to square one. I'm now looking for vintage bikes on eBay that might not require a full rebuild but will be the right sort of frame to utilise my 8 speed hub.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cambridge Raincoat Company - stylish on a bike!

Trolling around some cycling blogs this week I noticed the ever so glam coats from the Cambridge Raincoat Company. What a marvellous idea- fashionable, comfortable coats in lovely colours, designed for women who want to ride upright bicycles. They look so good you don't even need a bicycle as an excuse to buy one, and they are made in the UK, not in China or Taiwan or anywhere else the stitching is likely to be shoddy.  I love this purple (orchid) colour coat:

This is the version with reflective tape on the coat - but if you choose you can have it without. I hope Cambridge doesn't mind me 'borrowing' their photo but it's too nice not to show.

I hate riding my bikes in the rain. I tend to avoid walking in the rain unless I have a really big umbrella, as more than simply getting wet I hate getting raindrops on my glasses as I actually can't see when that happens, which makes for dangerous cycling. 

These gorgeous coats are only 135 quid - that's somewhere around $160 in Aussie money at the moment I think; for the money, much nicer than trendy sports raincoats which don't cover enough of you up, and better fitting for cycling than ordinary raincoats.  I'm trying hard to justify spending the money as I love purple! I might even ride on rainy days with one of these to keep me dry. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Fashion and two wheels

Yesterday I received a catalogue from one of my favourite clothing chains, Blue Illusion. While most of their clothing isn't pure cotton or wool, the style of much of it is perfect for me; lovely cardigans with out-of-the-ordinary touches, and I bought the ultimate little black dress last spring that dresses up with high heels or down with bovver boots.

Anyway, back to the catalogue. My husband handed it to me, and my first squawk of delight wasn't about the clothes, it was about the bike on the cover.

Now it's not a super duper upmarket charmer like a Pashley or Velorbis, but it's a nice enough 80s vintage bike albeit in a frightful shade of pink akin to freshly sanded piglet. I squinted to make out the appears to be a star. It's been rebuilt and looks like it has all new parts which makes me think that Sydney Vintage Bikes or Melbourne Vintage Bikes did it up and sold it on eBay and....

I must have been muttering to myself because my husband was roaring with laughter: "You are the only person I know who would get a clothing catalogue and look at the bike instead!" 

Heh heh.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Meet my new bike, "Deathtrap".

Well, she won't be a deathtrap when I've finished with her but oh, dear! Right now she's lethal.

The poor darling still has her original 1980s brake pads fitted. I suspect that once upon a time they were rubber, and by some peculiar alchemic reaction the rubber has turned to a material harder than titanium. Only the front brakes work, and when they work, they just about throw you off; they are akin to a horse bucking.

I only rode my new mount around our courtyard, and that was enough. I was going to put air in her tyres - hoping that the poor old perished things would actually hold air - and ride her around the block, but one pull on the brake lever, with me almost falling off sideways onto hard pebblecrete, convinced me otherwise.

While she is armed with an ancient Shimano 3 speed shifter, only gears 2 and 3 work. You can't select bottom gear. I suspect the poor thing has had zero maintenance for many years. The brakes alone, which are seriously maladjusted, tell me that.

The ten seconds I spent pedalling in a circle told me a few things about her, though. The first was that the frame is a nice fit. I got onto Petunia first, and circled her around, noting my body and arm position, and how I was sitting. I then mounted little Deathtrap - she will have a proper name at some point - and felt an immediate comfortable difference in my seating and riding position.

I also noticed the difference in quality. Even just standing beside each bike and wheeling them along, Petunia is miles classier; she feels smoother, heavier and more luxurious, although curiously both bikes weigh much the same when I pick them up. Deathtrap feels lighter to push, tinnier, rougher. Mind you she has cheaper components on her, like those unbranded killer brakes.

Here are a few pics of the pair for comparison.
You can see here that Petunia has a much longer frame. And in this one, that the setup is quite different re saddle height etc. (Surprisingly when I got onto Deathtrap the saddle height was just right for me it seems.)
Because Petunia's geometry is quite different, I ride her with the saddle quite high to get the correct stretch for my legs. And finally, a side by side:
Little Deathtrap doesn't look too shabby here with a bit of a gleam on her. Her paint is actually a faded red metallic; the true colour - candy apple reddish - can be seen on the underside of her frame. You can't see in this pic that the mudguards are rusty on the edges.

I think with all new components and new paint - ie a total rebuild as everything is rusty - she will be a little star. She has some very pretty details on close inspection, like this lugs on the front forks:
It's not terribly visible here amidst years of grime but these pretty shapes have been outlined with gold paint - you can see it more on the edges of the lower lugs.

And here, on the back bracket, I like the shapes and curves:
T'other half laughed when I told him I'd nicknamed her Deathtrap, and suggested Venus, for Venus Flytrap, or Belladonna, for deadly nightshade. Given her paint job he jokingly said Gillard as well but I think this bike has too much potential to be named after our annoying, banal Prime Minister.

As I was handing over the magnificent sum of $56 for this bike, I spoke to the woman selling her, Alison. Alison had bought her on eBay not long ago for her mudguards and chainguard, which she wanted to put onto her 10-speed bike. They wouldn't fit, so Deathtrap went back to market. Alison thought it funny that I also wanted those items, but mainly wanted the frame. She was happy to hear I had plans to make the little bike a nice ride.

What I can't believe is that Alison actually rode Deathtrap, or so she told me. "It goes well," she said, "I've ridden it a bit." And survived, clearly. I wonder if she, like me, only rode Deathtrap around her courtyard. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

A new bike project

I've come to the sad conclusion that no matter how I position my saddle my beloved Petunia is a frame size too large for me at 21". Riding her for anything more than a trip to the shops isn't the comfortable experience it is on Penelope Pashley. Nobody ever said vintage road bikes had to be comfortable, but forever changing position to try and get the right balance between saddle and handlebars, and a slightly sore back at the end of it all, isn't a long term plan. I've adjusted and adjusted the position of my saddle to no avail.

Petunia was bought as a road bike and converted to swept-back handlebars, to be the sit up and beg mount I'd always wanted. But it doesn't work. The geometry is just wrong. Her head tube is very straight up, and she's built for drop bars, which she had when I bought her.

I hate the idea of selling her, as I do love mixte bikes, but I think it's time for her to find a new home. I'll be swapping her Brooks saddle and grips for something less salubrious and putting her on eBay. I hope I can recoup what I bought her for; lovely vintage bikes like Petunia are quite pricey these days considering their age.

I had bought a Shimano 8 speed Alfine hub with the intention of rebuilding the back wheel and turning her into a hub-geared bike (another thing I'd been longing for) but the gears will go onto another bike now.

Because I've just bought a clunker on eBay, a sad-looking creature in need of TLC, in fact a total rebuild. I bought this Roadmaster Lady Bird 3 for the princely sum of $56 today. She's the most awful colour, and those rims look like steel, so 35x700C alloy rims will be the go when she gets the 8 speed gearset put on. And creme Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tyres, assuming I can actually find some here in Australia. They are certainly in short supply over here!

But best of all she's a 17" frame - more suited to short little me.

I've priced a respray ($220 including sandblasting and powdercoating, although I may have to pay more to get the delicate seagreen colour I want). Realistically I bought her for her frame, as I believe it's cro-moly (I'll find out tomorrow when I pick her up) and it's lugged. Not outstandingly lugged with exquisite details, but prettily enough lugged to make it worth the $56 plus the respray. Anyway I don't think I can live with that orange. Maybe with chrome mudguards it's a possibility but not the way it is right now with the brown mudguards and chainguard.

She'll need new handlebars as the existing ones are quite rusty, and if I can afford North Road bars it will be lovely, otherwise I'll settle for the nearest and cheapest thing from my bike shop. A new stem will probably be in order too, and if I can find one that allows me to raise the handlebars a bit higher and slope them down a bit, I think we're nearing a perfect setup.

She'll need new brakes I suspect, as I'm sure the brakes she came with will be less than fantastic, 1980s Roadmasters not being the greatest of quality parts wise I gather. Roadmaster used to be a grand old bike name in the 1940s-60s but when manufacture moved from the US to China and Taiwan, quality took a nosedive. Still, the frame should be fine.

There are lots of cheapish ladies' bikes on eBay at the moment, but I chose this one because she already sports a three speed gearset. I know I'll be able to put the Alfine on her without too much faffing around and having to buy too many new bits like chainsets. I know her chainguard fits her; it's an odd-looking chainguard but has a certain quirky vintage quality to it.

Here's an example of a done-over Roadmaster Lady Bird 3 by Melbourne Vintage Bikes, and I hope they won't get upset with me 'borrowing' their photo. They do restore old bikes very beautifully, as do Sydney Vintage Bikes - however I can't afford the fully restored bikes none of which come with Shimano 8-speed hub gears...which means I'd still have to pay for a wheel rebuild. I think the colour below could be described as 'Freshly Peeled Pig" - as pinks go it's not my style, but this old lady now looks like a grand ride, and as good as new. Interestingly although she's certainly labelled Lady Bird 3 she has derailleur gears - probably 5 speeds.

With the right shade of paint, new components and my Brooks stuff I think my new purchase will turn into an elegant and nimble ride too. I hope. I keep comparing the photos above and thinking how beautiful Petunia is, and wishing she was just that little bit more comfortable to ride. Or I was taller. Or something.

If anyone has some names of places to go for good quality components that don't cost the earth, please let me know. I'll be looking for the Schwalbe tyres, alloy rims, decent brakes and a rear rack. I have some good mechanics ready to do the wheel rebuild. I'll worry about lighting later.

Tomorrow afternoon I'll be test riding my new purchase. Yes, I broke my golden rule and bought a bike without riding it first, but for $56 if I hate it I can sell it again! Hopefully it'll survive the test ride and so will I :-).