North Road Handlebars
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.
Before I found the Raleigh Tourist, I came across the Batavus Old Dutch online. I have recently had the chance to have a proper look at one up close, parked up outside work. The bike is priced around the £350 mark, which is quite reasonable considering some of the components on the bike. On closer inspection however, some of the component choices of the Batavus are quite baffling.
The bike has the usual mudguards, chain case, skirt guard, rack and dynamo lights you would expect from this kind of bike. The saddle appears to be a pretty basic affair, the frame is nicely lugged, although I think that the seat tube angle is a bit steep for this kind of bike.
The Old Dutch comes with a SRAM 3 speed internal hub gear with coaster brake. It is odd to see SRAM internal hub gears on a bike in this price range because of the three main manufacturers of internal hub gears (Sturmey Archer and Shimano being the other two), SRAM are by far and away the most expensive.
Presumably because of the expensive rear hub, Batavus decided to cut corners on the front-end of the bike:
The front end of the bike has a rather uncharacteristic calliper brake instead of a drum brake, and the dynamo is a bottle dynamo rather than a hub dynamo. I am curious as to why Batavus would choose such an expensive rear hub only to pair it with such low-end components on the front. For the same money as this set up they could have used a Sturmey-Archer or Shimano 3-speed coaster brake hub on the rear wheel and a Sturmey drum brake and dynamo hub on the front (or a Shimano roller brake and dynamo hub if they wanted to go down the Shimano route).
Having seen one of these bikes up close, I am quite glad I ended up finding the Raleigh Tourist instead.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I have replaced my Kona Africa Bike with a Raleigh Tourist De Luxe. The Kona is currently awaiting a bit of maintenance and a clean-up before eventually going onto eBay. I used the bike every day for about 3 months and was generally happy with it, but decided that a Tourist De Luxe at the price I saw mine at was too good to pass up. I have decided that the Africa Bike deserved a second review covering its use over a longer period of time than my first review.
1) The original single-speed gearing was very pleasant to use and didn’t give me any trouble, although it made riding longer distances and climbing hills more tiring.
2) The replacement Nexus 3-speed gearing was excellent, with enough range to increase the distance the bike could comfortable cover. I particularly enjoyed the ability to gear down when stationary, along with the general smoothness and reliability of the transmission.
3) The coaster brake. Both gearing systems came with a coaster brake, the first one I had used since being on holiday in Germany a few years ago. Coaster brakes prevent you from back-pedalling which can be annoying when setting off, however the advantages of the coaster brake is in its simplicity, essentially being a chain-actuated drum brake. It was quite liberating to be able to slow down gently when approaching traffic lights or to modulate my speed without the need for a brake lever. I feel there is something quite intuitive about coaster brakes and may put on on the Tourist if I ever convert it to a 5 speed.
1) The basket. The folding basket was brilliant, it made me appreciate baskets in general and I liked being able to carry a few things within easy reach and sight. The problem with the basket was that it squeaks, a lot. The squeaking got worse when two of the metal wires which make up the basket snapped. This happened within 3 months of use.
2) The rear rack. Whilst it was sturdy and I agree with the rationale of integrating it into the frame, the tubing was thicker than that on my Yuba, at around 20 mm it made carrying most panniers impossible.
3) The frame geometry. The bike was comfortable to ride for distances less than about 25 km, after which it became uncomfortable, mainly due to the difficulty of putting power down onto the pedals. This was a result of the hybrid frame geometry; mountain bike like seat and head-tube angles but with higher and closer handlebars. This means that your quads do all of the work, all of the time. For me this meant riding more than 25 km started to get uncomfortable, although I did manage over 50 km on it a few times.
The Kona Africa Bikes (One or Three) are ideal bikes for people who want to make journeys of about 15 km each way at the most. This probably covers a great deal of what most people want from a bike, and probably all of it for some people. As I found myself wanting to travel further by bike, whilst remaining upright, I decided that this wasn’t the bike to do that on. The bike has many good qualities and hopefully it will end up with a new owner who it is fully suitable for.