The Brompton completely filled and exceeded my Twenty’s niche, and with space at a premium, I could no-longer justify keeping it. Thankfully, my father was in need of a bike. His modern Raleigh P1000 hybrid was a little bit too big for him to really feel safe when riding it. The 18 gears were more than he needed. I decided that the Twenty would be better off with him, and that it would be a better fit for his needs.
If I had spent the past five years using a bicycle for transport, but without the same enthusiasm I have for bikes, I probably could say that cycling has saved me a lot of money on public transport. However, as an enthusiast, I have probably spent about as much money on bicycle-related things as I have saved on bus, train, tram and taxi fares. The key differences are that I have something to show for the money spent on bicycles and paraphernalia. Firstly, I am significantly more healthy than I was before I started cycling just over five years ago, despite rarely venturing out on a bicycle with the intention of doing so for the benefit of my health. As someone who was particularly unfit for much of my life, I truly appreciate this side-effect. Secondly, unlike money spent on public transport, I still have something to show for the money spent on bicycles and paraphernalia; the actual bicycles and paraphernalia which continue to be useful to me to this day.
I hope this account of my experiences of cycling as an adult can help novices to avoid making some of the same mistakes I did:
- If you are cycling to get from A-to-B, don’t buy a ‘full-suspension’ mountain bike, especially if it is in the same price-range as mine was. Spending more money on a quality bike will always be a better idea. Most of the bikes made by Pashley, Velorbis or Gazelle for instance will include many of the accessories needed to make cycling more pleasant & lower maintenance. Whilst it may seem like a lot of money, quality bikes hold their value quite well; if a year passes and you feel that the bike isn’t quite right for you, you can sell it and recoup much of what you spent. The same cannot be said for a low end bike, despite it being more likely you will feel this way.
- Mudguards are better than waterproof over-trousers.
- If you can only ever own one bike, get a Brompton. The folding solves the storage problems which can afflict flat-dwellers, concerns about leaving it locked up outside and concerns about your own fitness as a new cyclist; it is easy to be ambitious with longer distance journeys when you know you can give up and hop on a bus, tram, train or taxi with your bike if something goes wrong along the way.
- For purposes where reliability is an important factor, hub gears are a better choice than dérailleur gears, especially if coupled with puncture-resistant tyres.
- If you find you are using your bike as a main means of transport, make the investment in dynamo lighting as soon as you can. The sooner you make the change, the more money you will save on replacement battery lights and batteries in the long term. Most of the equipment can be ported from one bike to the next relatively easily if you decide to change your bike in the future.
- If you are carrying stuff on your bike, sweaty-back problems can be avoided by carrying the load on a front or rear rack, handlebar bag or saddlebag. It may surprise you how much this improves comfort if you have become accustomed to cycling with a backpack.
- Although requiring a discomfort period, a tensioned leather saddle, such as a Brooks or Velo Orange will be more comfortable than a plastic saddle.
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.
It has been a while since my last post, mainly due to all of my free time being used up with doing bike-related things, leaving me without the time to write about them.
I noticed that in addition to the noise from my folding pedal (which I can live with based on the cost of a replacement), There was some noise coming from the bottom bracket. The Brompton uses a FAG-type cartridge bottom bracket, and the replacement part is relatively expensive. I decided to opt for a cheaper generic bottom bracket cartridge with Shimano-style splined cups.
The standard Brompton bottom bracket, with soft plastic cups
I initially expected that I’d be able to remove the old bottom bracket with a hammer and punch because I didn’t have to worry about damaging it. However, I discovered that the cups on the original bottom bracket are made of a fairly soft resin which simply splits when approached this way. I eventually bought the proper tool and the bottom bracket co-operated with the removal process after that. The bike is quieter now, but there is still a fair bit of noise from the (non user-serviceable) folding pedal.
The new bottom bracket cartridge, sitting in the bike.
In other Brompton news, lovely girlfriend has managed to get hold of a 2000 model L5 (equivalent to an “M5L” in the modern nomenclature). This model comes with the Sturmey Archer 5 speed Sprinter hub, which offers a good gear range with a price, it requires particularly perfect indicator rod adjustment to get all of the gears to work at the same time. I believe that the right-hand cone needs adjusting slightly, as I am only able to consistently get gears 1,3,4,5 or gears 2,3,4,5 to work at the same time.
The L5 also needed a new front brake cable, indicator rod and rear mudflap, which have all since been fitted and the bike is currently working very well. The Marathon Plus tyres it has make the bike feel noticeably smoother and faster than my Brompton, and the wider gears range is pleasant too. Hopefully Brompton will see sense and start speccing the X-RF8 hub as an option in the near future. It also came with the special Brompton version of the Brooks B17 saddle, a luggage block and an older version of the Touring Pannier (now T-bag) from back when they were made by Carradice.
After fitting the anti-rotation washers to the back wheel last week, I rotated the reaction arm slightly to compensate for the re-positioning of the axle in the frame. In the process of doing this, I inadvertently over-tightened the left-hand cone making the ride feel “draggy.” Thankfully this was an easy fix once the wheel was out thanks to the two grooves on the “washer” which locks into the cone on the other side of the drum brake. This allowed me to adjust the brake position and re-tighten the locknut without it tightening the cone at the same time.
Taken from the X-RD3 manual, the special washer (31) which sits between the cone (not shown) and locknut (29) is highlighted in red.
because this job was non-urgent, I put it off for quite a while. Now the bike is back to normal I really appreciate just how wonderful it is to ride.
Kona Africa Bike:
After giving this bike to lovely girlfriend, she never really felt safe in start-stop traffic because of the coaster brake preventing her being able to rotate the pedals into an ideal position to set off. In the end, we decided that replacing the 3 speed Nexus hub with a roller-brake version would be best. I disassembled the wheel and intended to use the old spokes with the new hub, only to find out the flange diameter of the new hub was slightly bigger and the old spokes were too long. After ordering some new spokes which were a few mm shorter, I built the wheel up without too much trouble (no severe dishing required as with derailleur gears).
The new wheel, before the cable had been installed. Note the brake arm with the hold for the cable clamp to sit in.
The roller brake idea is particularly good, unlike Sturmey’s drum brakes, the roller brake is a completely separate module which sits on some splines on the left hand side of the hub. If the brake fails, or you want to fit a better version, it can simply be replaced without re-building the wheel. The brake slots onto the splines and is held in with a simple locknut. Other than that, the mechanism is similar to Sturmey Archer drum brakes, except they don’t need a special brake cable, the barrel adjuster and cable clamp come with the brake, all you need to use is a standard brake cable. Upon testing the bike, the roller brake provided an impressive amount of stopping power for a low-maintenance, non-performance-oriented component. This is one of the most basic model roller brake Shimano makes
I recently acquired a pair of Raleigh Twentys which I am reconditioning on behalf of a few friends. One is a 1974 “Shopper,” the other is a 1980 model with a rear Dynohub. I tested the Dynohub with my Brompton lights and it was perfectly able to power the front and rear LED lights despite its lower official power rating than modern dynamo hubs.
The Dynohub AWG on from the 1980 Twenty
A previous owner has attempted to fit road bike caliper brakes and drop bar brake levers to the 1980 Twenty, which will have to be swapped out for the appropriate brakes. The rear wheel had a broken spoke, but I happened to have some spokes of the right length already due to a mistake made when ordering spokes for a Twenty wheel last year. Other than that, both bikes only need a bit of de-rusting, new chains and new tyres and they will be ready for their new owners. So far I have only serviced the rear wheels of each bike.
The 1974 AW hub, after disassembly, cleaning and re-assembly.
Universal Folding Bike:
This is another bike I am servicing for a friend, a Universal folding bike with a Shimano “333” 3-speed hub and 20 inch (406 mm) wheels. The riding position is quite comfortable and upright, making the bike an ideal runaround machine. The 333 hub is in good condition, although the cable has rusted seized. 333 hubs were a lot less popular than Sturmey Archer hubs, meaning a replacement cable was not forthcoming. Thankfully, I should be able to come up with a suitable bodge using a cable clamp nut/bolt and a Sturmey Archer gear cable. Other than that it just needs a bit of rust removal, new tyres and a new chain.
The 333 hub shifts via a bell-crank and push-rod mechanism in a similar way to modern Nexus 3-speed hubs.
On Sunday I went to the Fallowfield Loop (Thanks to Twitter henceforth known as the Floop), to help a couple of friends who are currently learning to ride for the first time. Having exhausted the possibilities open to them close to home, the Floop seemed like the perfect place to practice. Because the Floop exists, there is no train service to Fallowfield, so their bikes had to be taken there and back, courtesy of the Yuba Mundo:
The Twenty is attached to a rail made from old building supplies. I decided to turn the Twenty around after I had travelled for a few km, so that the heavier end would be better supported.
And here is the contraption being re-made in Chorlton, with a little help from Jonathan from the GMCC. Riding with two bikes on the back of the Yuba is a bit more challenging than one, but still easier than you might expect. I was able to ride this lot back into the city centre via Fallowfield with relative ease. Of course I had to use the road rather than the Floop because of the barriers which are presumably designed to stop wheelchair/scooter users from enjoying the Floop
Last year, after I got my Twenty a friend of mine, AC also decided she would like to invest in a Twenty too. She named it Beatrix and now blogs about her experiences with the bike. The bike was re-painted at the time, but the result did not stand the test of time well, I believe due to the lack of a final clear coat. She asked me to do the re-spray.
Instead of all-over blue, AC asked me to paint the mudguards and chain-guard white, and re-paint the frame and fork in the same blue. When I applied the first coat of blue, the old paint bubbled off on the main tube to reveal the old Raleigh decal. I decided to take the initiative and leave this old decal exposed in a Time Team kind of way, a trench in the paintwork showing the history of the bike. To preserve the decal, I masked over it and cut around the decal.
To get the paint to adhere to the frame well, I gave the whole thing a sanding with fine grit sand paper and applied several thin coats of blue, with light sanding in-between coats. The white on the mudguards was not covering the blue appropriately, and I decided to get a can of cream paint to go over the white. After painting the frame, I used a combination of masking tape and bin bags to cover all but a small section of the main tube near the decal, which was then painted cream to frame the original decal.
The frame, fork, mudguards and chain-guard were all sanded lightly and coated with several layers of clear enamel spray, and the bike was re-assembled.
Beatrix as she was, on the back of the Yuba with my old Twenty
Beatrix after the re-spray
The Raleigh head-badge has been stripped and returned to prominence
The “rustic” original Raleigh decal, framed in cream
The blue, white and clear spray used were from Halfords’ enamel range, the cream paint used was made by Plasti-kote.
In June of 2010 I was fortunate enough to spot an Raleigh Twenty, marketed by Raleigh as a Triumph Traffic Master, on eBay for just over £20. Having long been interested in these bikes thanks in large part to the late Sheldon Brown I decided to splash out and give it a try.
I even made a carrier so that the Twenty could ride on the back of the Yuba Mundo. Shortly afterward, I was able to acquire a drum brake hub and decided to incorporate this into a new front wheel. The results were so impressive that I never got around to re-installing the original back brake at the time.
Already owning 2 other bikes, I used the Raleigh Twenty as a loaner bike, or for when I didn’t feel great about leaving the DL-1 locked up for long periods of time in certain areas. Having said that, the Twenty was a joy to ride, fast to accelerate, comfortable and quick to stop once I had upgraded the front brake. The Twenty is a good all-rounder and I would recommend it to anyone.
However, times change and I found myself wanting a compact folding bike which I could take on rush hour trains and/or without the need to book in advance, in short a Brompton. The new bike was able to replace all of the existing roles which had originally been filled by the Twenty. I did not really have the money to spare for the Brompton without doing a bit of wheeling-and-dealing, which included selling the Twenty to replace the money spent on the Brompton (although I expect it would have paid for itself within 5-6 months anyway).
The front wheel was promptly flogged to Jim of CycleA2B and the original brakes were restored. I kept the V-brake levers in place and found the ancient calipers seemed to work better than with their original levers. For the first time in over 6 months the bike had a rear brake. On Thursday I took the bike to my dad and swapped the Twenty for the Raleigh P1000 I gave him for a birthday a few years back. He had always found the P1000 a bit too big and seemed very pleased with his new Raleigh Twenty. As a fair-weather cyclist, the original brakes shouldn’t pose much of a problem.
The last ride on the Twenty was actually quite enjoyable, despite having cycled from Macclesfield to Manchester on the Brompton that very morning (very tiring due to the speed of the other traffic). The P1000 is currently being restored and will also be flogged soon, with the proceeds covering the last of the money spent on the Brompton.
I am glad the Twenty is staying in the family and I hope my dad gets a lot of enjoyment from it. As for the P1000, despite the ride home on it being almost exclusively downhill it was still a harrowing reminder of the limitations of the “hybrid” geometry, the P1000 felt simultaneously slower and much less comfortable than my DL-1, a bike whose design is nearly 100 years old.
Madsen bucket bike
Type M Brompton. Brompton, like Pashley and Moulton are one of the few companies to still make their bikes in the UK
If you work office hours you may have noticed that it is dark during almost all of your free time. If you want to cycle during your free time this means you need some lights. This year I am fortunate enough to own more bikes than this time last year (when I only owned a single bike, a hybridised mountain bike at that). This has the added advantage of giving me more experience with different kinds of lights, experience I am happy to share.
Battery lighting I have used falls roughly into two categories; lighting for you to see with, and lighting to ensure you are seen by others.
Lighting to be seen by is sufficient to discharge your legal obligation, in well lit urban areas it will also be enough for you to get by. A popular example of lighting to be seen by are Knogs, also known as “Hipster Cysts.”
The Knog lights are basically only as effective as the £2 blinkies you can get from Tesco, but do not require you to attach a mount to your bike.
Unlike lighting to be seen, lighting to see with used to mean halogen lamps. Halogen lamps are bright and produce a lovely warm light but because batteries run out, ideally it is best to use a more efficient method to produce light with batteries. At present this takes the form of LEDs. Halogen lamps powered by batteries are still available and may even seem like a good deal, but any money you save will be paid for with batteries and often shoddier build quality. Currently I am using Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative’s Revolution Vision set:
The front lamp is a 1 watt LED with a re-assuring aluminium exterior. The beam is relatively wide for an LED, although the light it produces is a cold blueish-white which is harder to see by than the yellow of a halogen bulb. The lamp also has a flash mode for when you are more concerned with being seen than with illuminating the path ahead. Replacement mounts are available for the front lamp making it easy to share one between several bikes (as I do with my Yuba Mundo and Raleigh Twenty). The rear light comes with 4 flash patterns in addition to the steady state flash. Sadly replacement mounts are not available for the rear lamp, although the EBC catalogue currently residing in my bathroom suggests the rear light has recently undergone a redesign which may filter through to the shop stock soon.
I also have a permanent rack-fitted light/reflector on the Yuba Mundo which is useful if I am caught out after dark:
Dynamo lighting is generally powerful enough to fall into the “to see by” category (apart from the rear lights for which being seen is the only purpose). Back in July I purchased my first ever dynamo lamp thanks to some advice from LC. I had owned a dynamo hub for a while before that, but I was initially more interested in the drum brake and the possibility of using the dynamo to charge my phone. The lamp I ended up with is a Busch and Muller Lumotec Retro (with standlight and switch):
Shown here on the bike before I installed the new tyres, also conveniently doubles as a reflector to make the bike street-legal.
Because the dynamo provides an effectively inexhaustible source of power, halogen lamps become feasible once more. Whilst they are less durable than LEDs, they do produce a warmer, yellowish light which I find easier to see by, and the brightness is generally greater than that of my LED battery lamp and the beam is cast wider which enhances my visibility to others. The lamp includes an LED standlight, which on its own is about half as powerful as my battery-powered LED lamp. This is designed to ensure you remain visible even when stationary or at very low speeds.
This dynamo lamp is couples with a battery-powered permanent rear light which I originally considered replacing with a dynamo equivalent. In the end I decided to keep the existing light due to its low power consumption compared to a front light. So far I’ve had a few hundred hours out of the pair of AA batteries which came with the bike.
At present I do not have any experience with bottle dynamos, although Ian at Lazy Bicycle Blog has one on his new bicycle and seems positive about it. I am currently considering adding a bottle dynamo and lamp to the Yuba Mundo. I have become accustomed to the superior light level produced by the lamp on the DL-1 when riding in total darkness and after spending £4 on batteries a few days ago, the initial outlay doesn’t seem too bad anymore. It will also free up the battery lights for exclusive use on the Twenty. Whilst I am happy with my hub dynamo I favour the bottle dynamo approach on the Yuba Mundo because of the disk brakes. The only disk-brake compatible dynamo hubs are Shimano’s, and they use Centerlock mounts for the rotors. This would mean replacing my rotor with a Centerlock version (at an extortionate price for a piece of metal) or buying an adapter which may cause further problems.
Depending on the type of riding you do I would advise using dynamo lighting over battery lighting, at least for the front of the bike. A dynamo front lamp will be bright enough to illuminate the way when riding in total darkness. Whilst the initial outlay may seem high, the level of illumination provided is significantly higher than a £25 pair of LED lights, the battery won’t run out at an inopportune moment and you won’t have to continuously spend money on batteries. If most of your riding is on well lit streets and you are happy to have lights merely to be seen, cheap LED blinkies should suffice.
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.