Reading Sheldon Brown’s site had infected me with a curiosity about the Raleigh Twenty. After reading about it on his site, I realised that these things were everywhere. After looking on eBay I realised that I could have one of my own for around £20-30 and I promptly took that offer. The Twenty gave me the opportunity to completely strip and re-build a bike for the first time. I had done almost all of these jobs before, but never all at once and on the same bike. After a weekend or two of work, I had re-painted and completely refurbished the Twenty and found it to be a delightful little bike, with the added bonus of it being worth practically nothing allowing me to leave it locked up outside without worrying about it. The Twenty was primarily used as a loaner bike, so I could still use the bike to get around when I had guests. When I later came to acquire a Brompton, the Twenty no-longer had much to do, so I sent it off to retirement at my father’s house.
Whilst I was quite happy with the Kona Africa Bike, I was becoming aware that it’s hybrid geometry was somewhat limiting on longer rides, where after around 20 miles or so in a single day it would leave my legs really very tired. I was aware that the right geometry, roadster geometry, would allow me to use my leg muscles more efficiently on longer rides. At the time I wasn’t planning on changing bike again, until I saw the Raleigh Tourist De Luxe (DL-1) on eBay at a price too good to pass on. Whilst not a huge departure from the Kona, the slightly different geometry was much more comfortable on longer rides, whilst also making it easier to put power down when setting off from stationary. The DL-1 also represented my first experience with Brooks saddles; whilst not exactly comfortable at first, I would later come to put a Brooks on every bike I rode.
- Rod-brake handlebar, plastic grips and drum-actuating rods replaced with Raleigh North Road handlebar, BBB stitched leather grips, Shimano V-brake levers and Sturmey Archer drum brake cables.
- New larger sprocket to lower the gearing and new Shimano Nexus chain due to increased size of sprocket
- Front-wheel rebuilt with Sturmey Archer X-FDD drum/dynamo hub replacing the original X-FD drum brake hub.
- B&M Lumotec Retro front dynamo-powered headlamp.
- Imitation Raleigh Record-tread roadster tyre replaced with Schwalbe Delta Cruisers in cream.
- Rear B&M D-Toplight Plus dynamo tail-light.
- B&M Lumotec Retro headlamp moved to top of headset via a new bracket.
- Carradice Pendle saddlebag.
- New-type Sturmey Archer shifter to replace damaged classic lever.
- New axle and planets for Sturmey Archer X-RD3 rear hub.
Over the Easter break I was fortunate enough to be able to have a play around on a Pashley tricycle, a Picador Plus from around 1990.
The tricycle had an Italian brand leather saddle which had a texture like suede. It was quite pleasant to ride on.
The Picador Plus has 20 inch (451 mm) wheels, the same as the Raleigh Twenty. The rear wheels do not have brakes at all, with the front wheel having both a caliper and a drum brake to make up for it, opening up the possibility of deliberately skidding the front wheel.
Unusually, the trike uses derailleur gears, a 5-speed freewheel controlled by a friction shifter. Having not used a friction shifter before, I found it to be a bit of a pain. It is probably more a sign of the trike’s age than a deliberate spec choice.
The gears needed a bit of work to stop the chain being derailed onto the axle in the highest and lowest gears, but it wasn’t so bad after a bit of tinkering. When I heard about the trike I was hoping it might have one of Sturmey Archer’s tricycle hubs with the reverse gear. After riding it I feel that a reverse gear would have been a welcome addition.
Pashley logo on the headtube
A bit more logo on the seat tube
Unlike the Nihola Cigar trike I had ridden previously, this trike had two rear wheels rather than two front wheels. This meant that the need to slow down on the corners with the Pashley was even more pressing than on the other trike. Until I got used to that I was going around most corners on two wheels. I also found the camber of the road to present a challenge on the trike, whereas it is barely noticeable on a bicycle. Overall I’m pretty convinced that tricycles aren’t for me, but I can see the benefits they offer to some who may find riding a bicycle difficult or even impossible for various reasons.
I was pleased to see that the Picador Plus does have an impressive load hauling capacity though:
North Road Handlebars
I have written previously about the effects of risk compensation on road safety. A good example of this effect is the Munich Taxi experiment, where a fleet of taxis, half with ABS and half without were secretly monitored and the differences examined. It was found:
“Drivers of cabs with ABS made sharper turns in curves, were less accurate in their lane-holding behaviour, proceeded at a shorter forward sight distance, made more poorly adjusted merging manoeuvres and created more "traffic conflicts". This is a technical term for a situation in which one or more traffic participants have to take swift action to avoid a collision with another road user. Finally, as compared with the non-ABS cabs, the ABS cabs were driven faster at one of the four measuring points along the route. All these differences were significant.”
In brief, the increased safety offered to the vehicle operators/occupants by the improved brakes was compensated for by an increase in risk-taking behaviour by the vehicle operators.
I currently operate a “fleet” of three bikes, all of which have different types and combinations of brakes:
The DL-1 has 70 mm Sturmey Archer drum brakes in both the front and rear wheels. These offer reasonable stopping power and supreme durability, requiring almost zero maintenance. Sturmey Archer drums offer good modulation, with light braking being easily controllable and hard braking available if you need it when you really squeeze the levers.
The Sturmey Archer drum brakes; front (top) and rear (bottom)
The Brompton has calliper brakes front and rear. These were presumably chosen because they offer reasonable stopping power and reasonable durability whilst minimising weight (which is an important consideration for a folding bike, unlike a full-sized transport bike). A peculiarity of the Brompton is that the rear brake seems to offer more stopping power than expected, whilst the front feels weaker than expected. The callipers offer similar stopping power and modulation to the Sturmey Archer drum brakes, but are exposed and thus require more maintenance.
The Brompton calliper brakes; front (left) and rear (right)
The Yuba Mundo has a more exotic brake configuration; a rear V-brake and a front 185 mm Avid Juicy hydraulic disc brake. This combination was chosen because the original front V-brake did not offer what I felt was appropriate stopping power or modulation for a loaded Yuba Mundo. The rear V-brake is adequate; offering a lot of stopping power but poor modulation, with a small amount of brake lever travel the brakes make the transition from doing hardly anything to slow the bike to locking up the rear wheel. The front disc brake offers an extreme level of stopping power, which is ideal when the bike is loaded. It also offers good modulation for when a small amount of braking is required. When the bike is unloaded/lightly loaded, it is able to stop incredibly quickly.
The Yuba Mundo front hydraulic disc brake (top) and rear V-brake (bottom)
Whilst I use all three bikes regularly, I rarely use different bikes in quick succession. A few weeks ago, I returned from a 30 km ride on the Yuba Mundo to pick up some wheel building parts which I dropped off at home. I had to pop back to work immediately afterwards and took the DL-1. When I approached the first set of traffic lights I experienced risk compensation first hand; after riding the lightly-loaded Yuba Mundo over a few hours I had become accustomed to riding faster and braking later for a given set of road conditions, and I had to brake very hard on the DL-1 to stop in a space which the Yuba Mundo would have been able to stop in easily. This is why I worry when I hear about engineering-based safety enhancements such as ABS in cars, they improve the safety of the vehicle’s occupants but this is often at the expense of everyone outside of the vehicle.
Another round up of some of the more interesting bikes I have spotted recently around Manchester
A lovely old step-through bike. The manufacturer appears to be “Torino,” but the lettering has faded with age.
3-speed hub gears made by Sachs, which was bought out by SRAM quite a while back.
A bottle dynamo and Union lamp to round it off. There is a tail-light on the rear mudguard too. It looks like this bike has been in service for a long time. Thanks to the component choices, it appears it has a good few years left in it too.
A Thorn tourer, especially notable for its Rohloff Speedhub, an impressive piece of engineering containing 14 evenly spaced gears. It is not everyday I park next to a bike with a rear hub which is worth more than any of the bikes I own.
I saw this Brompton parked up one lunchtime, completely unsecured. This seemed off for a bike designed to be folded so it can be taken inside easily. My faith in humanity was boosted when I came back a fair few hours later to see it was still there.
I saw this fully loaded randonneur bike outside EBC, complete with a Brooks saddle and the seldom-seen (in the wild) Euro-style trekking bars.
A basic but practical unknown transportation bike, lacking a front brake but otherwise conforming to many of the things I feel a good transport bike should have.
LC’s Pashley Princess Sovereign, Vita.
A roadster with a personalised coat-guard.
A rather beat-up but lovely Crescent roadster-like bicycle, with brown tyres and an elaborate chain-guard design.
As always I’ll keep my eyes peeled for any other nice and interesting bikes around town.
I have read a number of guides containing tips for new cyclists over the years. Most of the guides are the same as this, and contain advice which centres around buying a sports bicycle and modifying it and your attire to make up for the shortcomings of using this type of bike for everyday transportation purposes.
Myth: You have three choices of bike; road, mountain or hybrid.
The bicycle retail industry in the UK is focussed mainly around the sporting end of the market. Cycling for sport is fine, but it does mean that many bike shops advise their customers to get sports bikes which are inappropriate for their needs.
The bike needs of most people boil down to a desire to get from A to B, in relative comfort on a reliable bike. This type of bike is a roadster, or “Dutch bike.” Some examples of useful, everyday transportation bicycles include:
There are many more bikes which are fit for everyday transportation. All of these bikes contain all or most of the characteristics described in a previous post, mudguards, chain-guard/case, upright riding position, low-maintenance and reliable mechanical parts (internal hub gears, drum brakes, hub dynamo), durable tyres, lights and a frame-fitting lock. With a bike like these, you can simply hop on the bike in whatever clothes you are wearing and go.
Most bicycles for sale used to fall into this category, but as they were replaced by cars in the 1950s and 60s, the bicycle industry in the UK (and most of the English-speaking world) responded by marketing cycling as sport instead, in the hope that people would spend money on cars and bikes. This approach worked to a degree, most people own a bike, they simply don’t really use it. The reason for this is the reason for the typical guide written for new cyclists focuses on how to endure using a sports bike for everyday transportation, with bicycles marketed as sporting goods, the average person buys a sporting bicycle.
Myth: You need a toolkit/pump etc.
If you use a sporting bicycle for general transportation, the limitations of doing so will make themselves known, either through frequent punctures or components such as brakes and gears needing frequent adjustments. Roadsters also suffer from punctures, but much less frequently. This is because they come with much more durable tyres (sports bikes come with lightweight, puncture-prone tyres). Gears and brakes on a roadster will need much less attention and maintenance because their gears and brakes are internal and more durable.
Chain cleaning and maintenance are mentioned in a lot of articles, but riding a bike with a full chain-case means that chain cleaning and lubricating needs to be done much, much less frequently.
Being prepared for these situations isn’t a bad idea, but it will not feel as important if you have the right kind of bike.
Myth: You need cycle-specific clothes, and a shower when you get to work.
A sport bicycle will come without mudguards, or a chain-guard/case. This leads to filthy water from the road being sprayed up your back during and after rainfall, and oily filth from the chain ending up on your trousers.
The sporty feel of the bike encourages you to travel at a greater speed, which will make you hot and sweaty. A marginal drop in speed reduces aerodynamic drag by a more-than-proportional amount, so that whilst travelling more slowly will get you to your destination a few minutes later, you will not be sweaty and in need of a shower and/or change of clothes.
Myth: You need a helmet,and a high-visibility tabard.
Helmets and high-visibility gear are heavily promoted by various levels of government and the cycle industry as necessities for cyclists. The dubious benefits of helmets have been discussed here previously. High visibility gear is not a legal requirement before or after dark (unlike lights), but it can have benefits for those concerned about not being seen by negligent motorists. The promotion of both of these types of gear by government makes cycling look more dangerous than it actually is, and contributes to the stagnation and decline of cycling as a mode of transport.
Both helmets and high-visibility are a reaction to the poor conditions and lack of provisions for cyclists on the roads. I would not judge an individual negatively for choosing to use either of them, but it is the job of government to tackle the root cause of the problem rather than promoting things like helmets and high-visibility, designed to treat the symptoms of a problem.
Hopefully the work of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain will help to reverse this sad trend
Myth: Weight is important
If you want to race your bike, or ride up mountains, weight becomes more important, but for everyday transportation it is largely irrelevant. Even an extra few kilograms is very little in comparison to the weight of a rider, and once the bike is moving even a large amount of extra weight simple melts away.
Many of the drawbacks of sport bicycles come from an obsession with weight; lightweight tyres puncture more easily, lighter derailleur gears are less durable than internal hub gears and essential items such as racks, lights and locks are omitted from sport bicycles to save weight and create an accessories market containing essential items which should really be included with, or built into a practical transportation bike.
Now, that isn’t to say that some things won’t make riding a bike more pleasant. If you want to carry things, a backpack will be less pleasant than panniers. Panniers which convert into backpacks are available (although considering how obviously good this idea is, there are very few of them around). Alternatively, permanently-attached Dutch-style panniers are also a good option, just throw your backpack or bag-for-life full of stuff in there whilst you ride the bike.
A frame-fitting lock is useful, but a D-lock is a worthwhile investment (If you want even more peace-of-mind, try this lock). I will write about good locking technique in a future post. The wind-chill effect you get whilst riding means that you may feel the need for gloves whilst cycling for more of the the year than you do when walking. For transportation purposes, cycle-specific gloves are a bit of a con, just find something comfortable which keeps the wind out too.
A bit of adjustment to basic bike fit, understanding why bikes have gears and keeping your tyres at the right pressure will also help make the experience easier and nicer in the long run.
I was initially taken in by the pitch of “Cycling is sport,” that most British cycle shops sell their customers. My first adult bike was a god-awful sub-£100 “Full-suspension” (Y-frame) mountain bike from Halfords. I wanted it so I could avoid spending £35 a month on bus fares getting to my crappy part-time job and for general transportation. Despite the fact that I wanted a bike for transportation, my own perception of cycling as being either mountain bikes or racing bikes combined with the fact that the bike shops generally seemed to only sell mountain bikes and racing bikes meant that I decided to buy a ridiculously inappropriate bike for my needs. Surprisingly, despite its best efforts, I rode the thing for nearly two years. As crappy as that bike was, I learned a lot about the mechanical side of bikes from it (unsurprisingly).
When the spindle inside the bottom bracket snapped I had no idea how to do that kind of repair and I was painfully aware of how low-end my bike was. I was slightly better off by that point and decided to spend a bit more on a new bike. This time, I went to the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative and took a look around. What I saw were almost exclusively either mountain bikes, racing bikes or “hybrid bikes.” Once again, with the help of the sport-focussed sales people, I left with a hard-tail mountain bike, a rear rack and a crud-catcher mudguard. I had made a marginally more practical choice; a rack and less suspension, but still an impractical choice for my needs. Despite its limitations, this bike was a revelation about spending a bit more but getting value for money.
I rode this bike for 18 months and slowly made modifications to make it less of a mountain bike and more of a road bike. When I started reading about cycling in other countries (where it isn’t actively supressed by transport policy) and got the Yuba Mundo, I saw the limitations of the mountain bike for practical everyday cycling. By then I was aware of immensely practical bikes such as the Pashley Roadster, but I had just bought a Yuba Mundo and another bike seemed excessive. I started using the Yuba for almost all of my riding; it was much more comfortable, it had proper mudguards to keep me clean and dry and the upright posture made riding much more enjoyable.
Eventually I sold the mountain bike to someone who uses it as it was intended and I bought the Kona Africa Bike. I saw it as a “Yuba Mundo without the Mundo” and enjoyed riding it immensely. Longer trips were uncomfortable, but for the vast majority of my riding it was fine. The hub gears, coaster brake, basket and chain-guard were a revelation, and adding a front drum-brake made it even more practical as a transport bike. I wanted a roadster, but the price was off-putting and having not test-ridden one, I didn’t know what I was missing.
I was lucky enough to find my Raleigh DL-1 on eBay, being sold by a retired Raleigh employee. I was happy enough with the Kona and Yuba, but the price was irresistible. I put in my bid and was very happy to win. The bike had almost all of the utilitarian features I had wanted (or would have wanted had I known of them) since I bought that crappy Halfords mountain bike. Adding the remaining features hasn’t required too much effort:
This was the main draw of the bike for me, the geometry of the English Roadster, now commonly referred to as a Dutch-bike, (because they copied the same design and really made it their own whilst we lost our way, which as an Englishman I find quite sad), is a perfect trade off between the efficiency of the racing bike posture and the basic human desire to be comfortable.
I cannot oversell mudguards. Once you have ridden with them you won’t go back. Getting rained on isn’t usually fun, but getting filthy water sprayed up from the road by your wheels is much worse. Groundwater is still there after the rain and mudguards will keep you dry. It is insane how few people I see with mudguards in Manchester, where it rains on more than 1/2 of the days of the year.
Not really a big ask, obviously needed if you want to carry anything on your bike. It is surprising how few bikes come with racks, and how many bikes I see used as transport but lacking a rack. A backpack will do in a pinch, but is less than ideal. The weight in a backpack moves with your body, wasting more of your energy than if it is on a rack and moving with the bike. Sweaty back is never nice either.
A chain-guard will keep the oil and crap from your chain off your clothes. A chaincase will keep the water and crap off your chain and keep your clothes clean. Seems fairly logical to me.
Permanent Dynamo Lights:
Quick-release lights are a the norm when using batteries because the lights will work away from the bicycle, making them attractive to thieves. Dynamo lights are less useful to thieves because they require a dynamo. Permanently attached dynamo lights are hard to steal, of low value to thieves, always available and never need fresh batteries or re-charging. The combination of B&M lights I have fitted to my bike use a capacitor circuit (referred to as a standlight) to provide a few minutes of light when stationary, and a light-sensor so that they switch on automatically when it is dark. As a bonus, this feature also works when going through tunnels. The dynamo is conveniently sealed away in the front wheel hub. The dynamo rear light is a new addition, ordered from Dutch Bike Bits.
Internal Hub Gears:
1-Setting off and climbing hills
3-Long flats and down-hills
All sealed inside the rear hub. Clean, sealed away from the elements, durable and low-maintenance. One day I might swap it out for a 5-speed hub with a bigger range, for those big up- and down-hill stretches.
Effective, sealed away from the elements, durable and low-maintenance. Drum brakes are long-lasting and unaffected by the weather. I find their lack of popularity slightly odd.
The original tyres which came with the bike were fine, but I decided to replace them with more durable, puncture-resistant and grippy Schwalbe Delta Cruisers. As a nice bonus they are also cream-coloured giving the bike that extra touch of class.
Ping bells don’t produce a particularly loud sound. The ding-dong bell common in the Netherlands and Denmark is both loud and polite-sounding.
A Leather Saddle:
Brooks make the best saddles I have ever used. Whilst they do require a bit of upkeep, they are well worth it. I have enjoyed cycling on mine (after my arse got used to it) and would heartily recommend.
All of these features add up to a bike which is easy to just hop on and go, no special clothing and no need for showering facilities at the other end. It is the ultimate in cheap, fast and enjoyable end-to-end personal transport.