DL-1: One Year On

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It has been around a year since I took delivery of my Raleigh Tourist De Luxe. Of course by, “Took delivery,” I mean cycled to Didsbury on the Yuba Mundo to meet the old gentleman from whom I was purchasing this fine steed, and towed it back to home. At first I wasn’t sure if it would be for me, having had no opportunity to test ride it. What I did know however, was that if I didn’t like it, I could sell the bike (or its component parts) for a fair bit more than I paid for it that day.
When I got the bike home, I adjusted the saddle and took it for a spin. Whilst I liked the ride, it wasn’t quite right; the gearing was far, far too high, with first gear being what I imagine a reasonable third gear should feel like on a three speed. The rod-brake handlebar was limited in its range of height adjustment and the angle of the bar was fixed. Luckily, a few replacement parts allowed me to fix these minor gripes and turn the bike into the perfect everyday transport solution for me. Over the past year I have made numerous additions and upgrades to the bike.
Additions and upgrades:
I have also been forced to replace a few parts due to failure.

Replacements due to failure:
However, I should mention that the X-RD3 hub was at least somewhat faulty from the start, and that my own experience shouldn’t detract from the consensus that this hub, and internal hub gears in general, are the best choice for a practical, low maintenance utilitarian bike.
After a year riding this bicycle, I can sincerely declare it to be one of the smartest purchases I have ever made. Since getting this bike I certainly cycle a lot more. My odometer is currently displaying a total distance cycled of 13,029 km, up from 8,000 km at about this time last year, most of that distance has been for transportation (as opposed to leisure), covered on the DL-1 because it is such an easy bike to ride.
When I say the DL-1 is easy to ride, I am not just referring to its ride quality (which is excellent). As an upright bike with mudguards, a chain-case, comfortable Brooks saddle and (since the addition of the saddlebag) permanent luggage, puncture-resistant tyres, automatic & permanently affixed dynamo lighting and low maintenance brakes and gears, all I ever have to do if I want to go out is unlock the bike, hop on and go. It is my hope that all of these features represent part of a bigger future for cycling in the UK, even if a lot of them come from its past.

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 The Tourist De Luxe as it is kitted out today
Whilst not quite the same as my Tourist De Luxe, Raleigh has recently started to sell the Raleigh Superbe again in the UK, after courting the, “Sporting goods,” and “Bicycle-shaped object,” markets almost exclusively here for the past few decades:
The 2011 Raleigh Superbe, is specced and priced similarly to the Pashley Roadster Sovereign (although not made here in the UK). It is available from numerous cycle outlets, including Evans Cycles.

Pashley Picador Plus

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.

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The tricycle had an Italian brand leather saddle which had a texture like suede. It was quite pleasant to ride on.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Pashley logo on the headtube

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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:

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Ten bike parts & accessories due for a comeback

Progress is generally accepted as a good thing, but sometimes new trends, materials and components come along which don’t have all the advantages of the things they replace. This is especially true in the world of bicycles. I present here my top ten bicycle technologies and accessories which I feel are due for a comeback (some of which are already enjoying a bit of a resurgence).

Hub Gears

The innards of a Sturmey Archer AW hub I am currently working on. Even in this state, the hub is still working.
My first experience of hub gears was in Belgium, on a hire bike used for a bicycle tour of Brussels. The bike was equipped with a Nexus 8-speed hub which offered a similar range to my 24-speed derailleur-geared bike of the time. I instantly appreciated being able to shift gear when stationary, the possibilities for enclosing the chain and the increased durability from sealing away the gears inside the hub.
Two of the Three bikes I now own have hub gears.

Drum/Roller/Coaster Brakes

Image courtesy of Ecovelo
The same bike in Brussels had the most basic model Shimano Roller brakes. These were weaker than the disc brakes I was used to at the time, but once I had gotten used to the reversed brake levers (left-hand front, as is common in countries with right-hand traffic) I came to like the idea of trading a little stopping power over discs for a great deal more durability. Being sealed away in the hub means that their performance is independent of weather conditions, unlike rim brakes. For a bike you depend on to get around, drum brakes are a great option.
The Raleigh DL-1 has similar front and rear Sturmey Archer drum brakes.

Briefcase Clips

Briefcase clips were a common feature of rat-trap pannier racks here in the UK in the days of mass cycling. Naturally in The Netherlands and Denmark they are still relatively commonplace. A small loop protrudes from the side of the rack into which a briefcase handle is placed. The spring-loaded rat trap is then lowered, and a small protruding rod from it holds the briefcase in place.
Whilst briefcases are not as common as they were, I regularly use the clip on the DL-1 for plastic carrier bags when I have been a bit over-zealous with the grocery shopping, or for my U-lock when I have no space in my regular pannier.

Saddlebags

A Carradice saddlebag on a Raleigh Wayfarer. Image courtesy of Urban Adventure League
I am hoping to join the saddlebag club soon. Saddlebags were once commonplace, but declined in popularity with the decline in transportation cycling in the UK. Like panniers, they place the load on the bike rather than the rider, reducing the amount of effort required for carrying and preventing the risk of a sweaty back which comes with backpacks. They also offer advantages over panniers; the load is more central and less likely to affect balance and they do not require a rear rack, only a saddle with bag loops such as a Brooks.

Wool

Wool is great. I’m not a big fan of having special clothing just for cycling, I’d rather wear something which is practical both on and off the bike. In the colder months wool is ideal for this, it is warm, it breathes and it absorbs a decent amount of moisture without feeling wet and it doesn’t readily hold odours.

Chain Cases

A completely enclosed chain on a Pashley bicycle. Image courtesy of Let’s Go Ride A Bike
When dérailleur gears are no-longer used, the possibility of completely enclosing the chain is opened up. A chain guard has the advantage of protecting the rider from the chain, meaning no more trouser clips or rolling up your trouser leg. A chain case offers this advantage whilst also protecting the chain from road filth and rain, leading to a longer life and reduced maintenance.

North Road Handlebars

Most of the bikes on sale in the UK come with either riser or straight bars, as seen on mountain bikes, or drops (resembling ram’s horns), as seen on racing bikes. These bars offer a moderately aggressive (straight) or aggressive (drops) riding posture suited to sport cycling. For everyday transportation, they are not the best choice for everyone. North road handlebars (and similar variants) offer an upright riding position. The advantages of this include; comfort for the rider, increased head height (ideal when negotiating traffic) and rider weight is shifted back (reducing the possibility of going over the handlebar under heavy braking).

Steel

A lugged joint between a top-tube and head-tube on a steel frame. Image courtesy of Rivendell
Aluminium has become a very popular frame material in recent years, due to the pursuit of ever lighter bicycles. It is light and stiff, making it an appropriate material for frames. The different properties of aluminium mean that it is desirable to use oversized tubing, which makes the frame particularly light and stiff. Despite this, many feel that steel produces a better quality of ride, the reduced stiffness of the narrower tubing used in forks seems to allow more of the vibration from the road to be absorbed and dissipated before it reaches the rider. This perception is of course completely subjective, but is something worth considering. Other advantages of steel include the possibility of lugged construction, which I find to be aesthetically pleasing, and the relative ease with which a steel frame can be repaired in comparison to an aluminium one.

Relaxed Geometry

I read somewhere that most of the bikes which have ever been manufactured are of the same basic design as the English Roadster or the Dutch Bike. In the UK however, this design in geometry have fallen out of favour. Whilst the roadster is enjoying a bit of a resurgence due to the popularity various models of Pashley Cycles, the relaxed roadster geometry is mainly only seen on bikes marketed as “traditional” or “heritage” bikes. The geometry of these bikes makes them ideal for everyday transport for the average person’s needs. In addition to the models make by Pashley, I’d like to see some more designs based on this geometry available in UK bike shops.

Dynamo Lighting

A topic I have written about extensively, dynamo lights are a great option for an everyday transport bike, where an “always available” lighting solution is very desirable. Most people are put off by memories of cheap bottle dynamos driving terrible filament lamps, but modern hub and bottle dynamos are much better. Combine these with modern LED lighting technologies and you have the perfect dependable lighting solution for an everyday transport bike. No batteries, no fuss.
What bicycle components and accessories which have fallen out of favour would you like to see coming back?

Britain Bike

This is an idea which has been forming for a while, hopefully by putting it on here it might find its way to someone with the power and resources to implement it (in one form or another).

In Britain most people never cycle, cycling isn’t treated as a viable means of transport, the law doesn’t take the maiming and killing of cyclists by motorists seriously, cycling infrastructure is either absent or dangerously badly designed and the car is king. Naturally this situation needs to change and there are countless other articles describing how mass cycling could be achieved in the UK (the answer is Dutch-style segregated infrastructure), this is an idea for a scheme which could form part of a wider cultural shift away from the car.

The Scheme:

Standardise the bicycle. Personally I like tinkering with my bikes, buying specific parts and installing them myself. Some people even feel the same way about their cars. The overwhelming majority couldn’t care less about this kind of thing. They just want something which works, when it doesn’t work they want to be able to take it somewhere nearby to be fixed and they want a replacement one to use whilst it is being repaired. This is the experience a car provides its user in the UK. You don’t get that experience with a bike in this country, most people who own bikes know how to do a reasonable amount of the mechanical work themselves (or have a close friend/partner to do it for them).

The government should subsidise the cost of the bicycles, the money they spend will be returned many times over by the reduced cost of healthcare, congestion and air quality fines from the EU. To make this easier politically, these bicycles should be made by a British company, for example Pashley. Having a British manufacturer would increase public support, seeing as it is supporting British manufacturing (not to mention the good quality). The bike could be sold by any number of retailers, but at least one would need to be a major national chain, such as Tesco.

The bike could be purchased at Tesco (or another similarly prolific national chain) and any other suppliers who signed up. Because the bike would be standardised, any problems with flat tyres, brakes, wheel bearings or gearing could be solved with a simple wheel-swap. This could be done in-store by someone with minimal training. The defective wheel could be sent to a central repair facility using the supplier’s distribution network, refurbished and sent to where it is needed next. This would cover the majority of common mechanical issues on bikes, anything else could be covered by replacing the whole bike and sending the defective unit back to the repair centre for refurbishment. A courtesy bike would be provided whilst the repairs were being conducted. The cost of these repairs could be covered by a simple monthly subscription (tack on third party insurance too). This would mean that for a small monthly fee you would always have a bike ready to use. A higher rate tariff could be included to cover theft too.

The Bike:

The bike itself would be a practical utilitarian machine, suitable for men and women and available in a few frame sizes. Thing along the lines of the Pashley Princess Sovereign and make it red (like other British icons such as the old phone boxes, London buses and post boxes). This would help give it a chance to become a British style icon, helping the popularity of the scheme. In terms of specification the bike would have standard utilitarian components; drum brakes, dynamo hub powered lights, 5 or 8 speed internal hub gearing, full mudguards, full chaincase, puncture-resistant tyres, a rear rack with a briefcase clip, an adjustable bottle holder, a frame lock, a quality U-lock and a kickstand. As much as I love my Brooks saddle, they do require some looking after which would make them unsuitable for this kind of machine. Ideally when purchasing the bike, it would be possible to select a saddle from a standard range of widths and padding.

All this would require the bike to be kept roughly in its stock configuration. This doesn’t mean the more adventurous couldn’t do their own maintenance and modifications, just that they would not be able to use the maintenance subscription. The subsidy would make these bikes attractively cheap, the standardisation and subscription model would remove any concerns about theft, maintenance and the offer of a courtesy bike would alleviate any concerns about being able to depend on a bike as a serious means of transport.

Opening cycling up to more people this way would make it politically easier to get all the other stuff we current cyclists want to see, such as infrastructure which doesn’t suck, better enforcement of laws protecting cyclists and acceptance of the EU fifth motoring directive.

What do you think? If you have any suggestions for refinement, different component choices or pitfalls, please leave a comment below.

This is actually the ladies’ version of the Raleigh Tourist De Luxe, but is a good starting point.

The Guv’nor

I noticed a Pashley Gun’nor in the parking shed at work earlier this week and decided to snap some pictures:

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Plenty has been written about the Guv’nor elsewhere online, but upon seeing one in real life a few things stuck me:

The Guv’nor is a very pretty bike, cream Delta Cruisers, leather grips, Championship B17 saddle and the lugged frame all come together to make a very attractive bicycle.

The Guv’nor however, is basically an ornament. It is a three-speed bicycle sold for £800 without any of the practical accessories you would get with other Pashley models such as even the basic £500 models of the Roadster and Princess. £600 would get you basically the same bicycle (with the handlebars flipped) including dynamo front light, battery rear light, mudguards, chainguards, a rack, a frame-fitting lock, a basket (on the ladies’ model), a stand and an extra two gears, in the form of the Roadster Sovereign or the Princess Sovereign.

The Guv’nor was likely aimed at collectors rather than as a bike to ride to work on, and I can see its appeal as an ornament, almost a museum piece. It does seem odd however, that someone would choose this over the Roadster Sovereign as a bike for general transportation. It seems to be a case of style over substance, much like the time an Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative salesperson suggested a rackless, lightless, chainguardless, mudguardless, kickstandless and possibly brakeless fixed gear bicycle would be better for “pottering around town,” than the Pashley Roadster Sovereign, despite the prices of the two bikes being nearly the same. Seems like a case of style over substance.

Spotted in Manchester

One of the things I have noticed since starting this blog is how many interesting bikes I see parked up around Manchester.  I have recently been noticing a lot of vintage bicycles around, in addition to a few interesting new bikes.  When I can do so without looking too abnormal, I take pictures of the bikes I see around town.

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A Raleigh “Conniosseur,” spotted at Sainsbury’s in Fallowfield.  By the look of things the bike seems to be very similar to the Raleigh Sports.  I think it goes together well with the Tourist in the middle picture.

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A very similar Raleigh to the one above, this time branded as the “Transit.”  I doubt modern Raleigh would name any of their bikes the “Transit.”

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A Batavus BUB parked outside Piccadilly station.  One of the few bikes I have ever read about at the prototype stage and seen come to market, it looks like quite a comfortable ride.  One was given away as the grand prize in the LGRAB summer games.  The frame design was inspired by a paperclip.

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A well looked-after rod-brake roadster, a Humber according to Sheldon Brown, identifiable by the unusual fork:

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Curiously, I think I may have once bid on this very bike on eBay, before it got a bit too expensive for me.

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A huge double top-tube Pashley Roadster, with my Tourist to the right for scale, and a Pashley Princess to the right of that.

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I’m guessing whoever owns this bike is incredibly tall.

There are some very nice old and new bicycles around Manchester.  There are plenty of crap-heaps too, but they are less photogenic.

Cambridge Trip

As many of you may have noticed from an earlier post of mine, I have recently been to visit a friend in Cambridge. Whilst I was there I was shocked at how prevalent the bicycle was as a means of transport. Based on what I saw I’d guess a modal share of 10-12% which is unprecedented in the UK of the 21st century. This is despite a lack of any real pro-cycling intervention, sure there are painted cycle lanes and ASLs as in Manchester, but there is no proper infrastructure. The main differences are that everyone cycles, so motorists expect to see cyclists more and there is more cycle parking around because of the demand. The popularity of cycling in Cambridge could be due to the affluent university culture, or perhaps due to the number of historical buildings which have prevented the spread of car-centric traffic planning such as the wide, fast modern roads you see in Manchester.

Pairs of bicycles locked together in gardens and outside terraced houses are a common sight in Cambridge.

Traditional English roadsters from the era of rod-brakes are a very common sight.


Every available object is covered with locked bikes. Bikes left leaning against walls and locked through their frame were also a very common sight.

Pashley bicycles are very popular in Cambridge, although the Princess outnumbers the Roadster by around ten-to-one.

The Raleigh Twenty is also very popular here. Cambridge definitely has the highest usage of internal hub hears and mudguards I have seen in the UK, which is odd considering the reputation the UK has for its lack of rainfall.



Obligatory touristy photographs.

Re-assuringly, Cambridge isn’t all picturesque.

What I have learned from looking around Cambridge is that you don’t necessarily need to invest in cycle infrastructure to get people cycling. It can also be done by not increasing the capacity of motorised traffic the roads can accommodate, making it a pain to drive. people will see that there are better options and take them. People always say that cycling could be a lot bigger if there was the political will to build things such as segregated Dutch-style infrastructure. The political will to do this is always absent. Cycling can also be encouraged by doing nothing to increase road capacity or traffic flow, letting motorists create gridlock and subsequently finding a better way to get around. There isn’t the political will to do a lot of things which would make life better, but I genuinely believe that there might just be the political will out there to do nothing to make it better.